"Leaving Megalopolis" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Gail Simone
Illustrated by Jim Calafiore
2014, 120 Pages
Graphic Novel released on September 17th, 2014
There have been a ton of comics about super heroes going "dark" or otherwise turning bad. Hell, Marvel is gearing up to do it again right now with the upcoming Superior Iron Man. These stories often get washed away in the ether of continuity as they have no real bearing on the overall universe. They're a publicity stunt and not much more. Remember when Wonder Woman killed Max Lord on national TV? No one else does either. Then there's a book like Leaving Megalopolis that puts all those to shame.
Leaving Megalopolis is set in what was once the safest city in the world. It was the place that all the super heroes called home. Then something happened and they turned into homicidal maniacs. They now patrol the streets, killing indiscriminately, and preventing anyone from leaving. A small group of survivors attempts to slip past the super-powered monsters and find freedom just outside the city limits. This is easier said than done.
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The beauty with Leaving Megalopolis is that it doesn't waste time with origin stories or exposition. It jumps right into the story. The first few pages don't even have any dialogue. Instead, artist Jim Calafiore's artwork speaks volumes about the situation in this city and the desperation that the survivors are going through. We're given a rough idea as to what happened that turned the super heroes into mass murderers, but that's not the real story here. That's with the humans; this small band of people that are struggling to get just outside of city limits and put this insanity behind them.
This is where Leaving Megalopolis reminds me of Kurt Busiek's Astro City, albeit a very twisted version. Both comics are set in a mythical city housing a large amount of super heroes, but there's an emphasis on the humans living among them. Leaving Megalopolis is the polar opposite of Astro City in terms of tone. There's no hope here. There's no shining beacon of light. There is only darkness.
Central to the story is Mina, a young woman who is not taking any crap from anyone. She makes a beeline for the city limits armed with her shotgun and a whole lot of baggage. Mina has had a hard life, filled with heartbreak and sadness. Now she's in a position where people are looking to her for help. This is the closest she's had to a position of power and she's not sure what to do with it. She rejects it at first, not wanting the responsibility, but she's ultimately forced to step up to the plate.
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Although this is a human story, that's not to say that the heroes aren't interesting. Writer Gail Simone points out in the back matter of the book that she didn't want to create characters that would be reminiscent of existing trademarks from the Big Two. You're not going to look at this and think "Hey! There's Superman!" Instead, the characters are all unique with different powers and are far more disturbing than anything either publisher is capable of producing. The first hero that appears on the scene is the speedster, Fleet. His helmet is broken, cracked open to reveal an emaciated face and a horrific grin. It's like he's wasting away as he runs through the city, tearing people apart and generally scaring the shit out of everyone.
That's just the beginning. There are a horde of other characters within these pages. Although some only appear for a few panels, there's enough in here to make you want to read a whole comic about them from before they went crazy. Granted, the demented versions of them are probably a helluva lot cooler. Calafiore packed this book with some amazing character designs, some of which he didn't even name. There's a plethora of material that could be explored.
These heroes are downright gruesome too. The book opens with a two-page spread showing the devastation that has been left in their wake. There's a tank wedged into the side of a building. Statues have crumbled. A man is thrown from the sky, plummeting to his death on the pavement below. That's before any of them are even seen. Then the violence really starts. There's a beheading. There's a row of corpses. One guy is just ripped in half.
Leaving Megalopolis is a lot like a zombie story, but instead of the undead, a small group of survivors is trying to avoid people that can fly, shoot fire from their hands, and run faster than the speed of sound. Like a good zombie tale, the plot hinges on the human element with the unstoppable creatures almost in the background. This is a standalone comic, but there is plenty of room for further books which I would definitely be interested in seeing.