“The world ended. It just up and f*cking ended.”
Yep. You heard it right. The apocalypse happened. To paraphrase the great R.E.M., “It’s the end of the world as we know it,” and we’re… in a mall? That’s exactly the vibe you get from Mall #1, as Vault continues to put out the most consistently solid line of books in recent memory. Spanning a wide range of genres from fantasy, to sci-fi, to horror, to everything in between, we can now add “post-apocalyptic thriller” to the list. It’s not only that these titles have all shown a level of care, quality, and intention you don’t always see with other publishers, but it’s also that the Vault world and the world of each of these title, including Mall #1, feels lived in. It is a level of diversity and inclusion we don’t see often applied to every genre under the moon, and it deserves recognition.
Back to Mall #1, however — the entire book feel just like that R.E.M. lyric. The world has ended, things really suck, people are fighting to survive, but there’s still a really dark, cynical sense of humor permeating through out the whole issue that says, “eh, you’re fine.” Maybe it’s the sheer ridiculousness and glory of the concept — post-apocalyptic gangs based on brands and stores, how crazy is that? Either way, the book looks, reads, and feels like the scariest roller coaster you’ve ever been on. You have a man on the run from literally everyone from disrupting the natural order of this society and killing one of the faction heads. He can’t run very far, however, because he’s trapped inside a mall. It’s a big mall, but it’s still a mall. It’s a unique twist on a classic thriller scenario, and it’s a lot of fun from Moreci, Dauberman, Hartong, Duke, and Campbell.
First and foremost, the book looks great. This seems to be Hartong’s first relatively major work and he knocks it out of the park. He seems to incorporate a lot of manga influences in really cool ways, namely when it comes to some of the more dramatic and intense facial and body expressions or the more dynamic movements. It’s definitely a very unique blend that is sure to become instantly recognizable as he gets more work. It’s also a style that perfectly complements the high-octane atmosphere of Moreci and Dauberman’s vision. Duke’s coloring is also phenomenal. This doesn’t just feel like a mall, it feels like an entire world. The dampened, saturated palette of tans, grays, olive greens, and oranges adds a sense of wear and degradation to the book and location.
This is definitely a repurposed mall. It’s not bright and shiny like the apocalypse happened yesterday; rather, it looks like how you’d imagine your mall might look if people had been living in it for a least a few years with no contact from the outside world. Jim Campbell’s lettering is masterful as always. He’s been doing quite a few Vault books lately and they’ve been a joy to read. Even the pale blue captions that directly address the reader are able to nicely blend the art with the text, though the explanation isn’t always effective. It’s Campbell that completes the bridge to this familiar yet brand new world.
It’s also necessary to point out that Gary Dauberman is co-writing this book with Moreci, which may be the coolest thing ever. The guy who wrote both It movies, The Conjuring universe, and Swamp Thing writing a horror comic. If anyone’s going to get it right, it’s this guy. This is a world that feels real and lived in, with a cast and protagonist filled with people of color to show it. Moreci, Dauberman, Hartong, Duke, and Campbell have crafted a world of ruthless factions, threats, turf wars, and other harsh realities. They perfectly capture the feeling of being hunted. Andre is being chased the entire issue and you can feel that exhilaration. You never really get the chance to catch your breath.