I can’t help but wonder if James Asmus and Jim Festante have a list of topics on their office wall that they’re slowly ticking off. Things about this awful, modern world that make them angry that they want to feature it in their comic to shine a light on how horrifically ridiculous a lot of stuff is. In previous issues we’ve had corporations being given more rights and powers, out of control gun laws, and rich people being able to do whatever they want. This time we get inmate firefighters, and evil anti-abortion laws.
This issue opens with the puppets meeting up with an old friend, Milo, who managed to keep his fame and fortune whilst the rest of the Salutation Street gang went down the path of vigilante justice. The group use their time with Milo to catch their breath after the massacre that was the second issue; but news of children trapped inside a huge forest fire spurs them on to head back out into the fight.
Inside the fire, a group of child prisoners are being made to try and put out the flames with faulty, substandard equipment. Realising that they’ve been left to die by those in power, they embrace their oncoming death, but get rescued by the puppets, who come crashing in on homemade buggies. But when the buggies fall to pieces, the puppets and the children have to try to find a way to survive the out-of-control inferno.
This issue is definitely less action packed than the last one, and doesn’t really contain as many jokes, but it feels like it’s tackling some heavy subjects throughout. There are two main things that this issue shines a light on: the use of prisoners in fighting fires, and anti-abortion laws.
In the US, prisoners are offered the chance to earn money by fighting fires when there are large disasters and wildfires raging out of control, necessitating the need for more help. More often than not, these prisoners are sent into some of the worst places and made to fight the fire in extreme situations. And they often make less than $6 a day doing it. It’s a frankly inhumane practice, getting people to risk their lives for next to nothing, and thinking that it’s okay because they’re ‘only prisoners’. The US has a lot of problems with treating inmates as little more than slaves, and this issue illustrates how inhuman and evil that is by making the prisoners people you’d care about: children.
But why are children prisoners? Well, this issue tackles another growing issue facing the US: anti-abortion laws. One of the kids explains it thus: their parents couldn’t afford contraception with the rising prices, and couldn’t afford a child, so tried to have an abortion. The clinic they went to was a police sting operation, and they were arrested by an ‘alt-right to life’ group. Their mother gave birth to them in prison, and because she was a prisoner was deemed unfit to be a parent, and had her child taken away from her. The child was then deemed property of the prison service. This isn’t too far beyond what’s believable. More and more states are trying to remove people’s bodily autonomy, to make abortions illegal. It’s something that should make everyone angry.
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Survival Street is a series that takes very real situations and pushes them to an extreme, but it doesn’t do much to make them that extreme. You can look at the way the world is and see the things that this series is poking fun at, and you realise that it isn’t too unrealistic. I’m sad to say that I can see a lot of these things happening one day, and I don’t think we’re going to have a bunch of puppets come save us in real life.
There’s only one issue left in the series, and we get some hints as to where it might be heading in the closing pages, as a member of the team makes a decision that’s going to have huge consequences for them all. Whether or not this story ends with issue four, or if this mini-series is just the start, it’s feels like the final issue is going to be an explosive conclusion.
Survival Street #3 is out now from Dark Horse.