Review: The Mall #1
To put things simply, Scout Comics’ The Mall #1 is The Breakfast Club meets Goodfellas complete with three very different teenagers going not to Saturday detention, but meeting with Lenny, the brother of dead crime boss, Gino Cardini and each of their fathers. Except with some shared characters and the concept of the children of a dead crime boss running his mall mob fronts, The Mall #1 doesn’t line up plotwise with the Free Comic Book Day issue. However, writers Don Handfield and James Haick III, artist Rafael Loureiro, and colorist Dijjo Lima make a solid effort at combining the worlds of the crime saga and coming of age story with more than a little darkness along the way.
In the three protagonists Diego, Lena, and Dallas, Handfield and Haick riff off the archetypes of Brain, Rich Girl, and Jock, but The Mall #1 doesn’t fall into the lily white John Hughes movie trap and features a diverse cast of characters. Handfield and Haick also use the archetypes as a foundation to build on instead of leaning into stereotypes. For example, Lena might live in a huge mansion, but wants to have a job (Even if it’s selling hot dogs at the mall food court.) so she can build a life for her and her mother apart from her stepfather, who sexually abuses her. She is fiercely independent and has a soft spot for animals, which is why Lenny gives her the pet store to manage. The panels of her holding cute puppies are a nice relief from the violence, bullying, and racism and homophobia that pervade The Mall #1 because, hey, people are pretty terrible.
Diego is the “geek” of the unlikely trio, but has poor grades because he works at his dad’s window washing business to help ends meet, which cuts into his studying time and also causes his peers to bully him. He daydreams about a better life where kids don’t make fun of him and hurl racist slurs at him, and this causes him to lash out at his hardworking father. With a talent for music, Diego has potential, but his family doesn’t have money to send him to a more advanced school for more opportunities. This whole idea of class and opportunity is at the core of Dallas’ character, who is a football playing “jock”, but he is a backup for now and can’t afford expensive cleats without shoplifting them. He is transferring to another school to have a bigger shot at getting a college scholarship, but the kids in his neighborhood resent this and beat him up giving him bruises in a punishing sequence from Rafael Loureiro.
Don Handfield and James Haick imbue these pretty one dimensional high school movie stereotype with an awareness of class and race in The Mall #1 and then add the mob elements. Unlike the Free Comic Book Day issue, Handfield and Haick almost immediately throw Diego, Lena, and Dallas into a world of guns and rivalries as Lenny is threatened by a homophobic member of another rival gang. In some of Handfield and Haick’s harshest writing, he basically uses Reagan era AIDS rhetoric against his opponent, but before the teens can settle into setting up their mall stores, they are drawn into a fire fight. Loureiro’s panels tilt, his art is more stylized, and Dijjo Lima’s color palette is more intense to show the brave new world that these teens are in. This isn’t an after school job or scholarship program; this is war.
In The Mall #1, Handfield, Haick, and Loureiro do a good job introducing its three main characters, its high concept coming of age meets mob movie premise, and then throws everyone into the deep end after taking its time getting to the gangster stuff. It will be interesting to see each protagonist’s reaction to the violent world that they have been thrown into, and the best part of this book is the three distinct viewpoints on the world given to Diego, Lena, and Dallas. They certainly have plenty of problems, and even before the crime family angle is introduced, The Mall #1 has an ugly, harsh take on the world with cheerleaders forced to give oral sex in return for shopping sprees, friends beating up friends because they are betraying the neighborhood, and Lena getting sexually assaulted by her stepfather.
Story: Don Handfield and James Haick III Art: Rafael Loureiro
Colors: Dijjo Lima Letters: DC Hopkins
Story: 7.5 Art: 8 Overall: 7.7 Recommendation: Read
Scout Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review