In a World... much like our own, there exists a comic. Only kids know it exists, and even amongst them it is mostly rumors. It is a comic called Malice, a macabre, twisted thing, showing teenagers in various desperate situations in a nightmare world populated by monsters. The rumor goes that if you perform a certain ritual, Tall Jake, the narrator of the comic, will come and take you away from this world.
Most don't believe it. But there are still those who perform the ritual. And one day a boy named Luke calls Tall Jake, and disappears a few days later. Two of his friends, Seth and Kady, investigate his disappearance. Until they happen across a new copy of Malice and see Luke inside of it...
Eventually they discover that Malice isn't so much a comic as a documentary, showing events that happen in another world. Tall Jake is real, and he uses the comic to trick kids into performing the ritual that allows him to kidnap them and force them into the city in his world. Seth and Kady eventually decide to cross over into Malice, and plan to fight Tall Jake and put an end to his nightmare.
Malice and its sequel, Havoc, are an odd combination of literature and graphic novel, composed primarily of text but including narrative in comic form when the in-universe comic focuses on the main characters. It is written by British author Chris Wooding, who continues his trademark style of fashioning Death Worlds where Anyone Can Die.
- Adult Fear: Any child, at any time, could simply vanish without warning due to Tall Jake. Those that come back can't remember what happened to them, but tend to suffer horrible nightmares. And most don't come back
- Anyone Can Die
- Big Bad: Tall Jake. Havoc introduces the Illustrator.
- Cats Are Mean: Subverted. At worst they're disdainful and haughty but still helpful. And Tatyana, the sabertoothed tiger automaton is a helpful member of the party .
- Cool Train: Armored gothic nightmares run by masked conductors, which can take you anywhere in Malice or back to the real world, with a suitable ticket. They're not actually that exceptional in Malice itself, but they certainly look cool.
- Clock Punk/Steampunk/Diesel Punk: Heavily present in the world of Malice (more Clock Punk than the others, though).
- Deadpan Snarker: Justin certainly counts. Even in Havoc when he's slowly dying as he gets turned to stone he manages to make a few smart comments.
- Death World: Malice itself.
- Did Not Get the Girl: Not that they didn't like each other, but Seth doesn't want to leave Malice, while Kady very much wants to go home.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Justin.
- Humanoid Abomination: Tall Jake and the Lack both qualify, for different reasons.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: Anyone who gets out of Malice alive suffers this.
- Medium Awareness: The Lack knows the true nature of Malice, and can sense when events are shown in the comic. Tall Jake also directly addresses the comic's readers at times, and even talks to you directly in the stinger of the first book
- Painting the Medium: Tall Jake's voice is described as sounding like rusty metal and being just wrong. The comics use a different, more jagged text for his speech bubbles, and when a character hears him talk in the 'real world,' the same text style is used. The books themselves also do weird things sometimes, like having entirely blank or black pages to draw emphasis to a particular moment.
- Sacrificial Lamb: Luke is killed almost immediately after entering Malice, and provides the first real clue to Seth that it is real. Later on Colm gets killed by the gorilla automaton in the Menagerie.
- Statuesque Stunner: Tatyana, at least according to Colm; the only time we get to see her (in a human body, at least), she's getting her life force/time sucked out of her by a Chitter. And since this particular episode happens in the comic, we get to see it. And it isn't pretty.
- Tomato in the Mirror: The main group are trying to locate Havoc for help. Kady turns out to have been the leader.