Some of us have fond memories of childhood, running around with our best friends and getting into trouble. That’s not the case for Tank, Amanda, Ben, and Murphy. They’re screwed up kids from screwed up homes and their world is about to get a whole lot more complicated when one of them turns up dead. Since they can’t trust their parents or adults in general, these kids take matters into their own hands to find justice for their friend.
Despite their broken homes, these kids have found something special with each other. You get an immediate sense of the bond they share and how strong that is. They would do anything for each other. You know that silly question about who you’d call to hide a body? There is no doubt who these kids would call. Based on how this story is shaping up, they might need to do that sooner rather than later.
Writer Frank Gogol quickly introduces us to each character in such a way that we instantly understand their personality and where they’re coming from. Each one gets a page showing what their home life looks like on a fateful morning. Some are arguing with parents. Others don’t even have someone to argue with. This immediately ties us to these kids, getting us invested in their lives.
Much of this comes through in artist Nenad Cviticanin’s designs for the characters. For example, Tank is big, yet quiet. You don’t need to hear him speak to understand that. This is shown by how he carries himself and seems to slouch, as if to make himself appear smaller and possibly escape notice. Murphy is like a coiled spring. He’s been dealt a bum hand in life and he’s ready to lash out at anyone that’s going to give him a hard time about it. This paints a permanent scowl on his face, like he’s itching for a fight.
My only issue with these designs is that Ben and Murphy look very similar so it’s often hard to tell them apart. They’re both young white kids with brown hair. Yes, Ben has freckles and Murphy doesn’t, but it would have helped if they had a bit more of a distinguishing feature, like different hair color or something like that.
Letterer Sean Rinehart keeps the word balloons varied and dynamic. The color is adjusted based on the setting to better stand out. For example, when the kids are out at a frozen lake with snow all around, the balloons are shown in blue instead of the traditional white so they are easier to read. There are also these nice small touches peppered in, such as Tank’s quiet speech shown in a much smaller font to further show his mousy tone.
Dead End Kids is set in 1999 and it’s full of elements that bring me right back to that year, from the posters on the wall to the clothing styles. It doesn’t rely too much on nostalgia though. It’s not like everyone is preparing for Y2K. Instead, it gives you an idea of the attitude of these kids and what the world they’re living in is like.
Dead End Kids has a definite Stephen King vibe and that’s not a bad thing at all. It speaks to anyone that ever felt like an outsider. When you finally figure out where you fit in and that space is threatened, you’d do anything to protect it. That’s exactly where these kids are right now and they’re ready to fight anyone and everyone if it means getting justice for one of their own.
Dead End Kids #1 from Source Point Press is set for release on July 31st, 2019.