"Dead Mall #1" Comic Review
Written by Joel Harley
Published by Dark Horse
Written by Adam Cesare
Illustrated by David Stoll
Lettered by Justin Birch
2022, 32 pages
Comic released on 26th October 2022
Clown in a Cornfield author Adam Cesare makes his multi-issue comic book debut with this miniseries from Dark Horse. Swapping clowns for demonic entities and cornfields for a dilapidated midwestern shopping mall, it's a change of pace, but one which should resonate with fans of his slasher novel.
Illustrated and coloured by David Stoll, Dead Mall follows a gang of bored youths as they break into a closed-down old shopping mall for a night of illicit partying and canoodling. There they discover that the mall is far from as empty as it appears to be - populated by hideously deformed creatures, lurking in the shadows, inspired by the rundown old stores around them. As the monsters attack (in a scene vaguely reminiscent of The Descent), the kids learn that they may be trapped in an inescapable nightmare. Can they get out of the mall before the mall gets them?
As with his Clown in a Cornfield, Cesare proves adept at capturing the voice and sensibilities of his teenage partygoers. None of them are particularly interesting, but it quickly becomes apparent that this is about the mall, rather than the characters. If the story's Goosebumps vibes seem familiar, then the script's profanities and bursts of gore (a guy does lose his fingers) seem surprising and out of place. Still, if it worked for last year's Fear Street series, on Netflix...
While the gnashing creatures aren't as immediately compelling a creation as Friendo, Stoll frames them well enough - their hairdresser monster (why not) is particularly nightmarish. Unfortunately, he fares less well with the human characters, who are chunky and ungainly, with oddly proportioned faces, and ambitious perspective work which only makes their bodies look even more awkward. But then again, the monsters do look good, and the mall is suitably imposing, so it's not enough to entirely ruin the book's flow.
A lot of ground is covered in this first issue, which wastes refreshingly little time in throwing its heroes into the thick of it. At four issues, that leaves plenty of scope for all the gory shopping mall action (plus social commentary slash nostalgia bating) that the book's concept promises.
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