What happens when superheroes turn their back on those they’d sworn to protect? It’s something that’s been asked time and again, with comics like Watchmen and Kingdom Come. Leaving Megalopolis is Gail Simone and Jim Calafiore’s take on this complicated theme, but despite the calibre of the creative team, it lacks the nuance to really drive its message home.
Megalopolis was once famous for being “the safest city on Earth,” due to the presence of numerous superheroes. However, Megalopolis as it stands now is the antithesis of that, a violent warzone where “capes” hunt they people they had previously defended for sport, for reasons unknown.
Trapped in this hellhole is Mina, a no-nonsense cop with fondness for swearing and a past wracked by domestic violence. Being a police officer, Mina quickly finds herself the de facto leader of a ragtag group of regular, non-superhuman folks, trying to find a way out of the city.
All the pieces are there for a “good guys turned bad” tale of epic proportions. The setup is grim and distressing, striking a resemblance to The Walking Dead, but with costumed superhumans in place of zombies. Through Mina, the book gets a chance to explore the tricky subject of domestic violence in a convincing, compelling and – most importantly – human way.
The problem is that, at 100-odd pages long, Leaving Megalopolis is over before any of these themes get a chance to be teased out. Instead, we get a less-than-memorable plot with odd pacing and not much in the way of a resolution, and characters that fall back on tired tropes as a shorthand for character development.
The parallel between domestic violence and superheroes that have given up on the heroics is a fascinating one, with themes of broken trust and vulnerability just waiting to be explored. Leaving Megalopolis never quite gets there. In the book’s defense, it’s still a much better handle on the issue most “gritty” stories, focusing on the victims and consequences rather than using it as a plot device to establish a villain. In this regard, there’s so much potential, but it falls short.
The artwork suffers in the same way, with intense, graphic violence being used to convey the direness of the situation, but without the buildup necessary to give that violence impact. What starts off shocking quickly becomes stale – “look how evil these guys are, ripping off people’s heads!”
That’s probably the biggest disappointment with Leaving Megalopolis – this is a book that screams potential. Had it not been confined to a single volume, had it been given the space to grow in a compelling and meaningful fashion, it could have been something truly remarkable.
REVIEWER: Matthew Codd
Leaving Megalopolis by Gail Simone & Jim Calafiore is published by Dark Horse Comics.