Written by Gail Simone
Drawn by Jim Calafiore
Colored by Jason Wright
Lettered by Dave Sharpe
Published by Painfully Normal Productions LLC
This original graphic novel began as a Kickstarter project back in fall 2012 which I backed at the time, and received a gorgeous hardcover edition for my efforts when completed. Last month it finally became available to the general public, so I can now recommend it to you (yes, YOU).
First, let me be very clear, this is NOT a book for children (well, at least not normal children), this is strictly for adults. I tried to think of a one-line description for this book. It’s Marvel Comics Gone Mental. No, it’s Kurt Busiek’s Astro City on Acid. No, it’s American Psycho…but with superheroes. Hmmm, well, it’s one twisted tale to be sure.
The premise of the story is that it’s set in a fictional major city called Megalopolis that exists in a traditional mainstream superhero universe. Many superheroes were based in Megalopolis and therefor it was considered one of the safest cities in the world, as the heroes were always there to protect the civilians. But then one day some unexplained event happens and all of the superheroes went totally bat-s**t insane. They started destroying the city and randomly slaughtering civilians. The book picks up an undetermined amount of time since the beginning of the tragedy. The city is in ruins and we meet a police-officer named Mina, who is our main POV character. She’s trying to find a way out of the city while hiding from the superheroes who are at this point basically hunting the remaining civilians like it’s a game. Along the way she picks up various other survivors who join her as they all try to stay alive and get to safety.
Gail Simone infuses just the right amount of human character moments and action sequences throughout this story. Through recurring flashbacks to her childhood we learn more about Mina’s background and why she is the brave soul she is today. There are moments where Mina shows genuine concern for others, such as comforting an apparent rape victim, and then others where we see that she’s not afraid to make the hard choices necessary, including cutting some people loose for the greater good of the group, to survive. There’s also some sad commentary on the human race as we meet some survivors who aren’t so selfless and allow their greed, hate, and bigotry to overcome them in their attempts to survive.
What I really enjoy is the way there is this palpable feeling of terror on every page, even in the quiet moments. The sense of doom is always around the corner as the characters struggle to maintain hope while knowing that death can come for any of them at any minute. How do you hide from psychotic maniacs who can fly, or run at super-speed, or shoot fire from their hands? I also enjoy the way that even though the various superheroes that we see are brand-new characters, it feels like we are in the middle of a traditional superhero universe (albeit one that’s gone mad), giving the story a sense of gravitas that other creator-owned superhero books often lack.
And as much as I praise Simone’s writing I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the artwork of Jim Calafiore, who does an amazing job illustrating the action. Whether it’s a scene of Mina as a little girl protecting her pet dog, or watching a Human Torch-like superhero burn a man alive, Calafiore rises to the occasion with his beautiful illustrations. Califiore also writes and draws a 12-page bonus story in the back of the book, focusing on another survivor in the city who, while running from some murderous superheroes, stumbles upon the hidden headquarters of a non-powered teen sidekick (ala Robin) who is also in hiding. But when one of his super-powered teammates returns to finish them off, we learn that you don’t need super-powers to be a “hero.”
The main story ends with a couple of major twists and a cliffhanger. I am satisfied with the way this story unfolds but would also love to see a sequel someday.