Advance Review: Playing In The Ball Pit From Hell In `Dead Mall’ #3

by Tom Smithyman

Kids playlands are staples of any mall from the last several decades. These kiddie wonderlands allow the brats to let off some steam while mom and dad blow their hard-earned cash at Macy’s and Orange Julius. One of the staples of these playland is the ball pit – where kids can bury themselves in a sea of multicolored plastic balls of questionable hygiene.

But in the supernatural world of Dead Mall – where a group of teenagers have broken into an abandoned and haunted shopping center – the ball pit becomes a summoning station for children the mall itself abducted. The kids’ emergence from the pit is legitimately disturbing, as one seems to have eaten their fair share of Legos, which now make up the majority of his teeth.

But the truly frightening part is one when of the teens, sick of the constant fighting with the mall’s haunted inhabitants, starts killing the kids. The death of kids – even the haunted variety – is pretty much a taboo in horror. That doesn’t stop jock Max though. He dispatches them back to the ball pit from Hell with no remorse.

In the script, written by Adam Cesare, Max pays the price for this ultimate transgression – though perhaps not in the way you might think. He’s transformed into a monster. But the conversion is not handled well visually and is likely to confuse readers initially. Artist David Stoll first shows Max in shadows, and when he emerges changed, it’s not clear at first sight that it is the same character.

The sheer number of characters is another issue. While some have been killed or transformed, it can be hard to keep track of who’s who, despite the clearly differentiated characteristics that Stoll gives them. Add in a ghostly narrator who knows a lot more than the reader does, and the whole issue is just more confusing than it needs to be.

The creative team has a lot going on and only one more issue to bring things to a head. It’s hard to imagine this story ends well for the kids. And the same seems true for the readers as well.

Dead Mall #3 will be available for purchase on February 8, 2023.


There’s a lot going on in this issue. A bit too much between a haunted ball pit, a mall that seems to skip through time and a group of teenagers who don’t mind killing little kids. Making things more complicated are some visuals that don’t always align closely enough with the story.

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