Review - Mall #1 (@thevaultcomics)

"Guess it's no surprise that if anything was gonna last, this would be it. Everything else is probably a wasteland--but the mall endures."

Malls have always been seen as centers of commerce, conversation and community. In Mall #1 from Vault Comics, those three traits converge in a much different. The issue is written by Michael Moreci and Gary Dauberman, illustrated by Zak Hartong, colored by Addison Duke and lettered by Jim Campbell.

Here in the heartland of the U.S. of A., the world has ended! But worry not, because the mall still stands. And within the walls of this consumeristic mecca lies a new world order: box store tribes and name brand gangs, all vying for limited space and resources. So, can worry! Especially for poor Andre Reed, who after the assassination of a tribal leader has to navigate the mad haven to prove his innocence, and prevent the end of world, again!

Moreci and Dauberman were very wise to ground the "mall as a microcosm of society" scenario in a very real (and terrifying likely) apocalypse scenario of our own doing in climate change. In fact, the very first page does a fantastic job of concisely setting up the world the characters are going to be playing in as the writing duo cram a lot of backstory in that one page. Moreci and Dauberman take things up a notch by imbuing the scenario with something of a caste system that's transformed by gang warfare in an effort to harness what limited resources there are. The dialogue exchanges between the characters further explain this dynamic and there are quite a few factions who show up in the first issue to give readers a glimpse of how intense things are in the mall. Morecei and Dauberman use Andre as a narrative vehicle to tour the mall so to speak, providing both the underlying plot as well as introducing some of the other players.

Hartong's artwork excels at insinuating an atmosphere of danger and evil. A lot is left to the imagination as Hartong really just presents the reader with vague outlines of characters, paying no particular attention to the nuances of facial expressions. The detached approach works really well here, giving the reader enough visually to get a good sense of what's happening without inundating them with detail. The panels are laid out to be mostly organized, but there are a few instances where panel positioning affords Hartong the chance to express the simmering tensions on the verge of bubbling over. Duke's earthy colors provide both a sepia-like filter as well as cast a sort of fallout pall over the work.

The underlying conceit of Mall #1 is actually subtly brilliant--gangs establish a hierarchy in a place that (before the apocalypse) was known for doing just that and whose presence as a monument to capitalism is the reason why the world fell apart in the first place. Andre is hurried from one near-miss to the next, all the while struggling to find a way to prove to everyone in the mall that something else is afoot. Moreci and Dauberman do a bang-up job on the script, offering a refreshing take on the post-apocalyptic scenario. Hartong's artwork is a great match for the plot, setting a dire atmosphere for all the characters to work their way through. Mall #1 offers a lot of promise in its first issue and things stand to just continually devolve further.

Mall #1 is available August 28.