Preview: This Ain’t The Mega-City One You Know: ‘Megatropolis Book 1’

by Richard Bruton

An art deco crime drama with a host of familiar faces and names, Mega-City One style, as Kenneth Niemand and Dave Taylor take us on a trip to Megatropolis

When this one appeared in the Judge Dredd Megazine, it was one of those moments when you went, ‘Yes, of course, an alt-future, alt-history Mega-City tale – why wasn’t this done before?’ Because, of course, it’s a bloody obvious thing. There’s such a rich history in Mega-City One to be plundered.

But it had to be done well. And thankfully, with Kenneth Niemand and Dave Taylor at the helm of Megatropolis, this was one that was done just perfectly.

So, welcome to the Megatropolis, the alternate timeline MC-1, an art deco retro-future variation of what we’ve come to know, with some very familiar names cropping up in rather unfamiliar guises.

As the 2000 AD PR goes:

“Experience the iconic city of Mega-City One as never before, in this visionary comic from Kenneth Niemand and Dave Taylor. In this radical reimagining of the world of Judge Dredd, join disgraced Officer Amy Jarra and Detective Joe ‘Choirboy’ Rico as they navigate the crime-ridden underbelly of the glamourous Megatropolis, attempting to solve a string of murders and brutal executions.

Transforming Mega-City One into an art deco cityscape, Niemand and Taylor spin a tale of futuristic noir with luscious art and jaw-dropping set pieces.”

It’s as though James Elroy wrote speculative art-deco infused sci-fi, with a vast city riddled with corruption, a Justice Department where possibly the only good cop in town is “the choirboy”, Megatropolis’ Detective Joe Rico – not a popular man with his fellow cops…

He’s about to get his new partner… Amy Jarra. Yes, another familiar name from a different timeline. She’s got a rocky past though, something disturbing connecting her to the killing of one PJ Maybre.

There’s appearances from Hershey as a journalist, Mayor Booth has his criminal hands on the city, DA McGruder, Captain Caleb Calhoun and his new special judicial squad, and Eustace Fargo, father of the city. All of them with their own plans and agendas. But, at least for the majority of this opening series, it’s a case of Rico and Jarra versus the city, as they uncover more and more dark layers to the corruption in the city. ANd then the vigilante appears… a very familiar looking vigilante…

According to Niemand in the introduction, it all came about from seeing a gorgeous 1930 Henderson Streamliner, a gorgeous art deco, jazz-age motorbike. That was what it took to spin out the idea of taking this alt-retro look at MC-1.

And Niemand has taken the idea and really run with it, obviously relishing throwing all those familiar names and faces into the melting pot of something very different. It’s written with a knowing nod and a wink to the reader, as well as a healthy dash of classic Chandler-esque noir crime, giving it all a very pleasurable vibe.

However, as good as the writer might be, and yes, this is decidedly great stuff, up there with Dreadnaughts as one of the strips of the year in the Megazine, it had to have someone pretty special handling the artwork to get the vision of the idea onto the page.

Cue Dave Taylor. And it’s Taylor’s work that really elevates Megatropolis to something wonderful. Every page, every panel has something to draw the eye, right from that absolutely gorgeous looking first double page spread. He nails every moment here, packing the art with those delicious art deco touches, whether it’s the vast cityscapes, the beautiful bikes, right down to the little touches of the comms devices and the look of the police department desks, the retro futurist vibe is there all the way through this and it never looks anything less than wonderful.

Megatropolis Book 1

Written by Kenneth Niemand, at by Dave Taylor, letters by Jim Campbell.

Published by 2000 AD on 14th October

Originally serialised in Judge Dredd Megazine 424-431

Now… preview time…

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