The final issue of Dark Horse Comics Survival Street has arrived, and it really does feel like this series has been something of a dark horse. After hearing the blurb for this series, I was expecting something a bit silly, a bit violent, and whilst that is a good description for the book, it’s not as light as I was expecting, as the book deals with some heavy, relevant themes in brilliant ways. I’m honestly disappointed that it’s coming to an end here.
Over the first three issue we’ve seen the Salutation Street gang getting into fights with child traffickers, gun nuts who want to arm children, and freeing child prisoners from the slavery of being sent in to fight massive forest fires and die. Their actions haven’t gone unnoticed by those corrupt individuals in power, and this issue brings together all of the enemies that the gang have made on the way here. Using information from Gurgle, who defected at the end of the last issue, this coalition of villains mount an attack on our puppet heroes in their old amusement park. Who comes out alive? And can the good guys even win against such a corrupt system? This issue absolutely gives answers to those questions and does some shockingly great stuff.
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As per usual with Survival Street there are nods to very real issues scattered throughout the book, and it’s more than just a gang of violent billionaires trying to kill some puppets. The issue makes a point of showing how the media have changed the narrative, and how they’re provided information to the public in a very curated way, outright lying at times. Instead of saving children from a forest fire they were trying to groom the children into their cult. Instead of being former child entertainers, ‘news’ comes out about how they were using their positions to gain access to kids in order to harm them, and that they had secret tunnels under their studios and theme parks – bringing back the conspiracy theories that were used to destroy countless people’s lives during the height of the Satanic Panic.
We see what this kind of narrative does too, how demonising a certain group of people constantly in the media can lead to very real, tangible consequences. There are people who are dating puppets who get abuse for having a partner that’s different to them. A puppet family is denied a home they were just about to buy, because they’re the ‘wrong kind’ of people for the neighbourhood. People petition to get puppets removed from working with children, showing monstrous images of puppets and asking if that’s ‘who you want shaping our children’. Puppet owned businesses have their windows smashed and threats of violence painted on the walls. And puppets get attacked in the streets just for existing.
What makes this comic hit so hard, and work so well, is that everything here so far is real. If you take out the mega-corporations that have human rights abuses, and just focus on the above-mentioned issues it could be a story lifted from the world as it is today. We’ve seen it countless times. We saw it done against the Jewish community, against Black people, against gay people. It’s happening now to trans people. The media gets used by those with wealth and power to push regular people to give in to their hate and their need to hurt those different from them, and the world becomes a darker place.
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But, whilst we’re stuck fighting this kind of thing on our own, the world of Survival Street has its heroes to step up, and they do. This issue sees them not just fighting back, taking down those trying to do wrong, but they actually get the chance to inspire others. Regular people get shown how they’re being used. They get shown how they’re being lied to. They get the chance to see that they system is wrong, and that those in power need to be held to account.
The book contains a good message, once you get through the hopelessness what came before. Regular people say enough is enough and try to make the world better. And under all of the ultra-violence and the humour that’s the message that this series seems to have been trying to put across: that no matter how grim it looks, how awful the world is, how much we’re made to suffer, we have to keep trying to do better. Even if it never seems to get better for us, we have to try. And that’s a message worth hearing, and this a book worth reading.
Survival Street #4 is out now from Dark Horse.