MALL, ISSUE #2
Writer: Michael Moreci & Gary Dauberman Art: Zak Hartong Publisher: Vault Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A post-apocalyptic story that all takes place inside a great big mall.
It's a little funny, a little dramatic, and a bit over-the-top, with factions and battles between them. I've never seen Warriors, but I hear it's a lot like that.
To me, it's a bit like Mad Max or the Fallout games if they took place inside a mall. It also has a Running Man vibe to it – that dark camp, and "everyone out to kill our hero" theme is strangely captivating. John Carpenter feels like a major influence on the comic, too, and you can almost imagine a synthy soundtrack to accompany the comic.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Andre's family plans to find him, though there might be some shadiness involved in that plan that we aren’t privy to. They’ve got a definite godfathery vibe.
Tess, our antagonist, knows Andre's family is distracted and calls it the perfect time to strike. But first, she has to gather her clan allies.
Meanwhile, Andre’s led by his mysterious savior through the underground in search of...something. But what? And why?
MALL is like playing jump rope with barbwire – it's fun, it looks cool as hell, and it'll cut you if you're not careful. We're only two issues in, and already, it touches on basic human truths that work as well for real life as they do for the world of MALL. For example, people fighting over land and junk they don’t even need, squabbling over nothing between each other so they don’t target their leaders.
Moreci & Dauberman catch us up on the events of the first issue well, without us even realizing they're doing it.
You also get the feeling that there's a tight plan for MALL, like hell's about to break loose and the creators can't wait for you to see all the crazy stuff they have planned. You feel like you're investing your time well in MALL because of that, and that's not something I can say for every comic.
A large part of what I love about MALL is the sound effects. From the tiiiiiiiniest handwritten "stab stab stab" to the massive THUD built into the art, they're varied, atmospheric and capture the darkly humorous tone of the book. Other times, they build tension, like the sound effects of the crazed people, so thin yet so numerous, you just imagine a hundred maddening sounds creeping closer. The way Zak Hartong draws the lights glinting off the eyes in the dark make it all the creepier. You definitely get the sense they're Chekhov’s feral underground dwellers. Another great example is the "reh reh reh" drawn loud and clear through every panel for the alarm sound effects. It feels mechanical in its regularity, ragged and sharp in the font chosen, and obnoxiously unignorable being so large and often centered in each panel.
Have I talked about the typeface Jim Campbell uses in MALL? It has such an old school, pulpy feel to it, which works perfectly for the comic's aesthetic.
Zak Hartong is a gem, and these next few bullets will tell you why. First, the page below is a fantastic example of pacing and working well with Jim Campbell's lettering. The ladder panel starts with the lettering at the bottom, and your eyes follow that ladder up to the panel on the top right. It also acts as a nice break from the events before and the conversation on the right side of the page, working like an establishing shot in a film.
Hartong's art also works well with Addison Duke's colors. There's a fantastic fight scene that feels pulled right out of brawler movies, well-choreographed and exciting. There's so much red and danger and action juxtaposed against clinical white or the dark of a security monitor room. It shows Duke's color work is thoughtful beyond the near-sepia-tone and grit used to give MALL its pulpy personality.
Positioning the speakers' faces next to the changing monitors in one scene is such a smart and innovative use of the medium to convey a lot of information in a small amount of space, and it feels natural for the scene's location.
Hartong varies his "shots" between close-up and further away and, because of this, you get to take in every aspect of his character design. We see how Powell is drawn very unhinged, for example, and between his design and his odd way of speaking, you get it. In the close-ups, we also see how skilled Hartong is at drawing eyes. He's able to capture and convey so much character in those eyes. Those are probably my favorite eyes in the business.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
Cursing & violence make this maybe not the best read for kids.
I honestly don't have a lot of complaints to air. MALL feels like it's still getting the ball rolling, but it's captured my interest with style and dark humor, and that's enough for me.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
MALL is action-packed, unhinged fun with all the right hooks in all the right places.
Gleefully dark, it'll easily become one of your new favorite titles.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Wasted Space, Vol. 1 by Michael Moreci & Hayden Sherman
Bitch Planet, Vol. 1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro & Robert Wilson IV
Coffin Bound by Dan Watters & Dani
If you like the art:
Clovis by Miles Greb & Zak Hartong
Red Winter by Michael Gordon & Francisco Munoz
Curse Words by Charles Soule & Ryan Browne
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Michael Moreci – Co-writer
Inspired by space operas like Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy, and often writes epic sci-fi stories
Many of his other works are currently in production for film or TV
Multitalented: Also recently published his novel follow-up to Black Star Renegades, We Are Mayhem
Gary Dauberman – Co-writer
Multitalented: Known for writing The Conjuring and its spin-offs, co-writing the film adaptation of It, and other movies
Also sounds like he worked with Emile Gladstone in some capacity on MALL
Zak Hartong – Illustrator
His past line work seems to be brought out well by limited color palettes (or well-curated ones, like in MALL)
He doesn't have a huge online presence, so I couldn't stalk him for fun facts to list here
Addison Duke – Colorist
Multitalented: Also does illustration work and work in both digital and traditional media
Jim Campbell – Letterer
Outlander: Hails from the United Kingdom
Multitalented: Also enjoys the art side of the creative world
Prolific: Has done lettering for a large number of hit titles
Adrian F. Wassel – Editor
Name Recognition: Is the CCO & Editor In Chief of Vault Comics, and plays the role of editor on most, if not all, of Vault's titles
Also runs Vault with his brother and father
Has personally helped other comics creators, like Eric Palicki, in their endeavors
Tim Daniel – Designer
Multitalented: Also was the writer on Fissure
Inspired by others in the business: Sonia Harris, Sean Phillips, and Fonographics
Dream Team: Co-wrote Curse and Burning Fields with Michael Moreci
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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