4 Kids Walk Into a Bank: A Torrid Tale of Child Crime
Matthew Rosenberg (Writer), Tyler Boss (Artist), Clare Dezutti (Flats), Thomas Mauer (Letterer)
Black Mask Studios
November 8, 2017
The title makes my job a little easier. I wish I were a fly on the wall when the team pitched this to Matt Pizzolo and Black Mask Studios because I’d imagine it went something like ‘okay so picture this … four kids walk into a bank …’. But it’s so much more than where our imaginations instantly gravitate to. This coming of age story centers around Paige and her wonderfully geeky friends that are forced to aid some shit-bag bigots and their half-baked plan to rob a bank. She’s only doing this to keep her father from getting involved with the skinheads again. The leader of the bigots is Vernon, and it’s really easy to despise this character. Vernon is like Keanu Reeves’ forgotten brother with a neck beard.
Tyler Boss gets credit for art and design. Clare Dezutti on flatting duties. Thomas Mauer carried out the letter art and Courtney Menard designed the wallpaper (we’ll come back to that). Last but not least, Matthew Rosenberg wrote this instant cult classic. This was originally printed as a five-issue miniseries but it has been recollected as a 192-page trade paperback as a more satisfying read.
Rosenberg’s snappy, witty dialogue drives your eye from every corner of the page. He does such an excellent job at giving each persona their individual voice and mannerisms that make them truly unique. I found myself surprised to see the characters mature mentally and physically right in front of my eyes. The time that passes from each issue is seamless. It’s hard to believe this is his “early work.”
The panel layout is borderline brilliant. We go from six to 19-panel grid almost acting as double-page spreads. The experience translates well both digitally and the good old-fashion paperback way. Scene transitions from the gang’s juvenile yet high concept dungeons and dragon type role-playing scenarios to what’s happening in real life are jarring in the best possible way. For every delusional cut scene, Boss and Dezutti transform their art styles to match the vibe, and Mauer switches up the font style to distinguish some voices which help. Boss and DeZutti work well together. Boss’ exceptional storytelling makes up his characters’ stiff postures.
One of my favorite scenes is when Paige is using an old Macintosh in a police station to look up previous convictions of her father and his dirty dozen. The pages become screenshots force feeding you information about the characters without dialogue. The lettering matches the old Apple text, the black-and-white mugshots make the characters more dangerous, and the panels are laid out perfectly for someone scanning as much information as she can possibly absorb before she has to act like she wasn’t hacking an officer’s computer. All of it done without a single piece of dialogue.
I also feel like I can’t end this review without giving an extra gold star to the comic’s wallpaper designer, Courtney Maynard, for giving us a lot of wallpaper eye porn. As one who appreciates the tiny details, the interiors in the first issue caught my eye. Maynard is truly an unsung hero in all of this. (Hey, Courtney. If you’re reading this, fancy popping by my L.A. one bedroom apartment and spicing up the place? Do you do home makeovers? Askin’ for a friend.)
This book stands out from anything else on the shelves. It’s hard not to think of Stranger Things meets Paper Girls when reading this comic. The ensemble of foul-mouthed adolescent grade school students and high school dropouts will remind you of someone you knew or grew up with but never actually associated yourself with. You can see all the 1980s films, television shows, and video games that helped influenced the team to generate this work of art in the cover gallery at the end of the book.
This collection really made me appreciate the team’s valiant effort to tell a hilariously, darkly heartbreaking story. It’s certainly not an easy task, and it’s one which will give you the most unexpected ending accompanied by tears. When it’s all said and done, 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank is indeed a work of art. Huge round of applause for Black Mask Studios and its willingness to give something like this a shot. It’s a damn shame this was a mini-series. I hope to see more of these characters again soon.