Following up their self-published "Leaving Megalopolis" graphic novel, Gail Simone and Jim Calafiore kick off their new six-issue miniseries "Leaving Megalopolis: Surviving Megalopolis" #1 at Dark Horse Comics. In the original graphic novel, a mysterious occurrence made all of the heroes of Megalopolis turn evil, forcing its other inhabitants to leave if they could, or simply survive if they could not. Here, while the "heroes" continue to be up to no good, others take up the mantle of hero in an attempt to stop them, and others still look to enter Megalopolis for a rescue mission.
For those who missed out on the previous story, both the basic premise and Simone's concise summary of what came before clue readers in immediately, and -- with that out of the way -- she immediately launches into the story. Wasting no time, she makes it brutally clear just how bad these one-time heroes have gone, especially Southern Belle, who she portrays as wickedly evil and sadistic. There's no doubt as to the moral persuasion of Belle's teammates, either, although Simone is careful not to portray all of them with the same extreme impulses; Ribbon, in fact, seems more cowardly than villainous, but it's a difference that helps Simone lay out each character's personality in relatively few pages.
Calafiore puts an evil spin on these characters as well, using simple but efficient methods like expressions and mannerisms that combine with Simone's characterizations to make new readers wonder how these characters could ever have been good guys. Other touches -- like Amphibonaut's creepy "Creature of the Black Lagoon" look and the battle-damaged uniforms on some of the others -- add to that overall vibe of moral corruption. Jason Wright's colors are varied but lean toward the darker side, also playing a part in communicating the pervasive sense of maliciousness and despair across the ruined city.
Calafiore's extraordinary attention to detail also heightens the sense of foreboding throughout; broken concrete on a destroyed bridge is rendered with exquisite precision, nearly every pebble of rubble in the city's ruined confines convey the scope of destruction and the costumes of the heroes and villains alike are carefully and impressively rendered. Although some of the character's expressions look a little stiff at times, all of the cast members are clearly identifiable. There are a dozen or so important characters introduced in this first issue, so identification is important and both Simone and Calafiore make sure each are unique.
A flashback sequence telegraphs the identity of a character that Simone saves for the cliffhanger, so the big reveal is anything but and the issue doesn't quite end with the bang that was intended. Still, it doesn't really harm the issue any way, because both creators establish a compelling story long before the issue is over, and each of the story threads all carry enough weight to stand up on their own, making for a strongly compiled introductory issue. "Leaving Megalopolis: Surviving Megalopolis" #1 is worthwhile take on the superheroes-gone-bad motif, and Simone and Calafiore sell the idea both to new readers and those anxious for this sequel.