From time to time a comic just slips me by. Try as I might, I can’t read them all right when they come out. The idea behind this column, ICYMI, is that I’d bubble up books I missed, highlighting forgotten gems. Kicking this off is The Mall from Scout Comics.
The mall isn’t the bustling center of commerce it once was, but it’s still a setting rife with story possibilities. This mini-series takes us back to 1984 at the Royal Palm Mall in Florida. On the surface, it’s your basic collection of stores with a food court and the like. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll find out that it’s the battleground between two rival mob families.
Three high school students, Diego, Lena, and Dallas, are about to get stuck in the middle of this after learning a mob boss was actually their biological father. He left them each a store where they can make some extra cash. Each one is a front for an illegal operation where the real money is made.
Writers Don Handfield & James Haick III present a great premise that is only strengthened by some dynamite character work. They could have coasted on references to ’80s stuff and gotten by, but The Mall is so much more than that. It explores racism, sexism, and homophobia in meaningful ways that really resonate. This is done through the characters as they get used to the startling revelations about their lineage and their newfound status quo.
Although Diego, Lena, and Dallas never met their biological father, they each receive a note from him that provides some additional context. Letterer DC Hopkins presents these as segments from a notebook, differentiating these caption boxes from the rest of the dialogue in the book.
There are some stereotypes at play in The Mall. Diego is the nerd. Lena is the cheerleader. Dallas is the football player. If you get a weirdo and an outcast you have the kids in The Breakfast Club. These archetypes serve as the foundation for these characters, but Handfield and Haick III quickly add a lot more depth to them. This isn’t what defines them.
Artist Rafael Loureiro perfectly captures the look and feel of the ’80s without taking away from the story. Again, this could have just been a book full of references, but Loureiro works to establish more of an ’80s tone without getting into specific nods to musical acts and TV shows of the era. There are so many mullets in this book. This is amplified by colorist Dijjo Lima’s work. There is a vibrant palette at work, full of bright colors that scream ’80s.
What really shines through is the heartbreak and anguish each character is experiencing. Much is said with a single glance. For example, Lena tries to fit the mold of the happy cheerleader, but she’s dealing with abuse at home and struggling to keep it together. There are moments where she looks ready to fall apart. Dallas and Diego have similar scenes where we instantly know what’s going through their heads without it having to be explained outright.
It’s fascinating to see how this secret changes each character over the course of the series. They grow, learn, make mistakes, and more. All the while, they’re forming a unique bond, across social hierarchies. The story definitely kept me guessing until the very end too. It’s filled with some great twists and turns. The Mall scratches a unique itch, hitting with ’80s nostalgia, mob crime, and coming-of-age all in a gorgeous package.
The Mall from Scout Comics is currently available in single issues at your local comic shop and directly through the Scout Comics site. I could not find specific information about a trade paperback collection, but will definitely be picking one up when it’s released.
From time to time a comic just slips me by. Try as I might, I can’t read them all rightCOMICONRead More