Don Handfield’s and James Haick III’s take on what if John Hughes made a crime drama continues in The Mall #2. The stories of the three teenagers intertwine now that they know that they are related through their gangster father. But despite their familial bond, it will take more than blood to get them to band together.
Frantic Pacing Keeps The Readers Attention
The opening few pages of The Mall #2 are frantic, intense, and ends in such a fun way. The enforcer sent by the Tessitore crime family fell to his death after a scuffle with the kids at the end of the last issue. Before they even have time to react to the craziness that just entered their lives, the cops show up. What we are treated to is several pages of them trying desperately to hide the body, while Leonard distracts the cops.
To add to the desperate feel Rafael Loureiro’s art structures panels erratically, having them overlap each other, and even having characters or objects bleeding into the gutter. This makes the reader sit at the edge of their seat in excitement. The cops aren’t buying the distraction, so the kids have to think on their feet. Well, what are three teenagers going to think of when in the middle of a mall during the Fall with a dead body? Make it look like Halloween!
This is exactly what I wanted from this comic after reading the first issue. The balance of tones between serious crime drama and more light-hearted coming of age stories. The Mall is doing to the coming of age genre what Stranger Things did to the horror genre, 80s aesthetic and all.
Character Dynamics Are Fascinating
What is fascinating about this issue is how it continues to analyze both 80s character clichés and social status divides amongst its characters. For instance, the kids each have a different reaction to the death of the aforementioned enforcer. Diego has the biggest reaction to it. He is the shy, innocent, geek. Killing someone is something he never expected to do, nor wanted to do.
Dallas says it was in self-defense and doesn’t understand why Diego is crying about it. He comes from a poor family and lives in a bad neighborhood. We saw in the last issue that he gets beaten up just trying to go home. While he may have not killed anyone personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if he has seen a dead body before.
Lena’s reaction is that it was an accident and that if they get caught, she was innocent in the entire affair. She’s the stuck-up rich girl that comes from a life of privilege. If these kinds of things happen, you just sweep it under the rug by waving your money around. There is even a hint later in the issue that she may potentially be considering killing someone else.
Playing With The Clichés To Keep Them Interesting
In most fiction like this, you have the group of unlikely heroes that quickly become best friends. That is clearly what Diego wants due to how he acts around Dallas now. However, The Mall #2 is clever enough not to do this, but instead makes it a gradual journey that earns that friendship.
Despite their blood ties, all three of the kids are very different people. Lena lampshades the cliché by saying that none of them should try to talk to her during lunch. So by the end of the issue, Lena is clearly disgusted with Dallas, Diego is desperately trying to make friends, and Dallas is just trying to fit in with a clique full of people he hates.
One thing I have noticed is that Dallas seems to get more screen time than the other kids, and the story seems primarily focused on him at the moment. The others still get a good chunk of screen time, they just feel like they have less narrative focus than Dallas.
While this is not a bad thing, as Dallas’ story is inherently the more tragic one, I would like this series to be a full ensemble. Or at least to zero in on each of the three core characters which each passing arc. Hopefully, soon there will be a bit more focus on Diego, as he is my favorite due to me also being a shy geek. For right now anyway, it works.
Taking A Trip To The Mall #2 Is Fun And Rewarding
The Mall #2 continues the 80’s nostalgia trip with more character analysis and genius writing. This is pure fun to read and I can’t wait for the next issue. If you are looking for something to tide you over until the next season of Stranger Things that is also an 80’s period piece, then look no further than The Mall.