Monday, 1 June 2015

Leaving Megalopolis Review (Gail Simone, Jim Calafiore)

A North American city lies in devastation following a massive superhero battle – it’s Metropolis post-Man of Steel!

Mina, a cop with a secret, leads a group of survivors through the ruins of Megalopolis while avoiding the superheroes-gone-bad. They’ve gotta make it to the bridge out of the city to safety – but will they make it? And what’s turned all the heroes into crazed murderers anyway?

Gail Simone and Jim Calafiore’s short but pretty decent superhero-horror comic takes the same approach as The Walking Dead. That is, the evil superheroes are the background – the real focus is on the ordinary people struggling to survive. It’s an approach that works for The Walking Dead – usually the reasons behind the zombie apocalypse stem from some mad science experiment gone wrong – but not for Leaving Megalopolis. The questions are too big to ignore, like:

Why is Megalopolis seemingly the only place the superheroes are contained? Why aren’t they flying about the globe causing havoc everywhere else – why just this city? Why do human sacrifices keep them at bay? Are they like vampires who only need to feed once a night? What are comics in this world – like non-fiction? Because the superheroes in the comics are real, so what are the superhero comics if not chronicles of their lives? Or did the superheroes come from the comics? If not, why was this format adopted for the superheroes?

It’s hinted at that the superheroes all had head injuries when attacking some giant monster so maybe that’s why they underwent complete personality changes, but otherwise the other questions kept me from fully enjoying the comic.

That and the message of hopelessness and misery that’s at the core of this book put me off. There are flashbacks to Mina’s past where we see her mother burned by her psycho father, and then people in the present turning on one another to survive. The superheroes meanwhile are purely hellbent on carnage. So… humans and superheroes are both shitty? The story’s themes are just a little too nihilistic for my taste.

One of the characters makes a reference to the Overlord (Superman) comics being too “grim and gritty” these days which I read to be a commentary on DC’s line post-Moore/Miller – but then I realised Megalopolis is far grimmer and grittier than anything DC ever put out!

Jim Calafiore is a helluva talent. He produces fantastic art from the start with those silent panels showing the destruction wrought by the superheroes, and some good character designs throughout (though it’s easy to tell who the superheroes are based upon: Superman, Wolverine, Fire, The Flash, Firestorm, and Hawkman). I wasn’t aware of his work before this book but I’ll keep an eye out for titles with his name attached from now on.

Simone does create a good character in Mina and on the whole I found Leaving Megalopolis to be a gripping read. Underdeveloped, which partly might be due to the relative shortness of the book (some 80 pages), but still more interesting than a lot of what Marvel and DC publish, and if she and Calafiore returned to this world, I’d definitely join them. Fans of Mark Waid’s Irredeemable (Waid also writes the intro) and Garth Ennis’ The Boys will enjoy Leaving Megalopolis the most.

Leaving Megalopolis

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