So, 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank… (4 Kids Walk Into a Bank Review)

4 Kids Walk Into a Bank has been gaining some notoriety now that it has been released in trade. Rosenberg has risen to popularity now headlining Marvel titles and quickly becoming one of the biggest names in comics. So how does his coming of age story stand up to his reputation?

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Cover

4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK
Author: Matthew Rosenberg
Artists:  Tyler Boss
Inkers: Tyler Boss
Colors: Tyler Boss
Publisher: Black Mask Studios

What You Need to Know:  

4 Kids Walk Into a Bank is a 5 issue, self-contained story which takes place in a 1980s small town. The book follows four 12-year-old kids named Paige Turner, Pat “Stretch” Schramm, Daniel “Berger” Berger, and Walter Johnson, on their descent from outsiders on the playground to outsiders of the law.

What You’ll Find Out:  

Paige Turner and her friends are spending the night at Paige’s home trying out a game of Dungeons and Dragons when a group of men busts in. The gang of thugs, led by a man named Vernon, has shown themselves in and tries to rough the kids. The group consists of three other members, Hayes, Silk, and Skinhead Mike, all of whom try their best to intimidate the young group. To their surprise, the kids fight back, hitting Silk in the eye with a small troll figurine. Mr. Turner, Paige’s father, busts in with a gun in hand to scare off the intruders, who quickly leave.

Enter the Crooks.jpg

The next day at school, Paige gets into a fight with the school bully and throws her first ever punch. When the bully tries to retaliate, he is met with threats from the group of thugs who have come to make peace with Paige. They offer to take Paige home, and she agrees, curious as to who the men are. Upon asking her dad their identity, he lies and says he doesn’t know who the gang is. The kids agree they need to find out who the thugs are and what they might be up to. Noticing that Skinhead Mike has an affinity for licorice, they decide to stake out the local candy shop, Homer’s. After a brief watch, they see Skinhead Mike enter, buy his candy, and leave again. The children watch as he crosses the street to a diner they are staked out near. When Paige peaks in the window, she notices the entire gang is present and they are meeting with her father.

The following day while at the arcade, Paige avoids conversation about why her dad might be hanging out with the gang of mysterious felons. While plotting their next steps, Berger reveals that he remembers their license plate and that maybe that could lead to an address to track the men down. After being harassed by the school bully again, Paige knocks him out and is arrested and put in a holding cell. Her uncle Bruce, who happens to be a detective, springs her and calls her father. When Bruce walks away to talk with Mr. Turner, Paige gets a chance to search the criminal database, finding an address and known associates to the registered car. One such associate in the criminal database happens to be her father.

The next day at school Paige interrupts Walter’s chemistry class to make plans for an adventure after school. Berger overhears and invites himself along to Paige’s dismay. The four kids find the home where the vehicle is registered and break in, finding floor plans, a lockbox, and evidence leading the kids to believe the men intend to rob a bank. While snooping around they hear the door open and quickly run to hide. Aware that someone has broken into the hideout, Silk searches for the intruder. Paige thinks quickly, and using a lighter and can of aerosol, she bursts from her hiding spot and sets the man on fire as the rest of her friends escape. After getting outside, they see the gang of men with Mr. Turner again and find they have set the entire house aflame.

Burning

The following day the kids are deciding what their next steps should be. Paige suggests they should rob the bank first before her dad and the gang of men get the chance. Her friends reluctantly agree although they don’t know where to start. At school, Paige finds a book on wartime chemistry with a recipe for sleeping gas. She gives it to Walter and asks him to produce it in class, and asks Stretch to try to open the gang’s lockbox in the shop. She slips out to find the woman in a picture the gang had next to the blueprints for the bank.

Disguising herself as a curious student doing a report, Paige tries to learn as much as she can about the bank. Finding that the woman in the picture was a manager, and her bully’s mother, she finds out that each manager carries keys that give them access to everything. She returns to find that Stretch has been beaten up and Walter has accidentally created a truth serum detailed on the opposite page of the sleeping gas. Paige stomps down the hall to the boy’s bathroom to find the bully and demands the lockbox back. They are interrupted by a teacher who finds a switchblade in the bully’s locker plated there, by Paige. However, Paige and Stretch are disappointed to find the bully has not left the lockbox in his locker.

After class, Paige decides the kids need to practice a heist. She decides they need to start off small by having each of them steal from Homer’s Candy Shop. After their drill, they are caught by Silk and Skinhead Mike. Incapacitating the men, Paige and the boys split up to meet later at a diner. Waiting for her friends in a booth, she is met, not by her friends, but by Vernon. He issues an ultimatum to get his supplies back and in return for leaving Paige’s friends unscathed, to which she agrees.

The next day, Paige and her friends are making plans for the heist. After a heated argument, her friends leave, saying they won’t be involved in an actual bank robbery. Paige’s father finds her and confesses that he intends to help the gang of men rob the bank, not only because he owes them for saving him from jail just before Paige was born, but because they are broke and are close to losing their house.

Paige uses a foreign exchange student staying with the Turners to create a distraction for her bully while she breaks into his home and steals back the lockbox. After retrieving it, she returns home and steals her father’s keys, finding one to the lockbox. Upset at what she finds inside, she tracks down her uncle and asks what can be done to stop her father from making a mistake. Her uncle says they are working on investigating the group of criminals, but have no solid evidence to convict them yet. Paige makes a deal with the felons to meet the following day to return their lockbox.

That night, Paige uses her CB radio to try to contact her friends but is unsuccessful. She reaches out to Captain Gloryhole, an eccentric trucker who often interrupts their conversations. She arranges to meet and buy a gun for protection from the gangsters. Paige meets with the men the following day and asks that they leave her father out of the heist plan while trying to record a confession to take to the police. Skinhead Mike finds the homemade wire and while they try to detain Paige the meeting is interrupted by Paige’s uncle. The men use their connection to Mr. Turner to slither their way out of arrest. Mr. Turner takes his daughter home and locks her in her room, but she makes a rope of bedsheets and sneaks out to see Stretch and her friends. She reveals that in the lockbox are new passports and identities, including one for Paige. The four decide that robbing the bank is the only way to keep their world in one piece.

Fuck up some bad guys.jpg

Paige and her friends spend the next few days preparing traps for the police, making disguises, crafting sleeping potions, and acquiring their getaway vehicle. After they have finally culminated everything they have learned over the last few weeks, the big moment has come. They walk into the bank with the intent to get as much money as they can. But everything goes horribly wrong when Paige’s uncle interrupts their plot for fortune.

What Just Happened?  

4 Kids Walk Into a Bank is a coming of age story and a power fantasy with a twist. Combining two of the biggest genres in comics, it sets a new spin that is both refreshing and hysterical. The book has been influenced by some of the best heist movies, 80s movies, and coming of age movies ever made. 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank is so many things you think it would lose sight of its purpose, but never does. The narrative is fun, the characters are diverse, and the book still manages to take twists and turns that are not expected. Getting away from the “dark and gritty” power fantasy that has dominated comics since the 80’s, the book feels lighthearted, while also taking place in a realistic world with rules and consequences. One of the few criticisms of the book would be post-climax, which feels unsatisfying. After spending so much investment in the characters, getting a look into post bank robbing life would have been rewarding, even if just for a few pages.

Design is a huge part of why this book stands out. One facet that stands out in the title is its panel design and high panel count. While this can often be an indication that there is much editing to do, 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank uses these as a narrative technique. Sequences are often built on having as many as 24 panels per page, but the pacing is controlled exactly as the creators desired. If a there is a need in the narrative, the panel count satisfies and never feels bombastic or unnecessary.

Design Example.jpg

Above all things, 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank exudes a love for comics which propels it forward with techniques and applications of form that are exciting to see. The creative team has translated their love into a great understanding of pacing, storytelling, and character development that makes their story hop off the page. Turning tropes from movies and comics into fully realized storytelling devices can be tricky, but the team for 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank nail it in the most entertaining ways.

Rating: 9.3/10.  

Final Thoughts:  4 Kids Walk Into a Bank is a coming of age story, an adventurous heist story, an homage to 80’s movies, a power fantasy, and so many other things. But most of all, 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank is a love letter to comics. The medium is used in such spectacular and fresh ways there’s no way to put it down. A breath of fresh air in a market full of a lot of the same, this book does it all in a unique, well developed, and most of all, fun, way.

You can purchase this book here: Black-Mask-Studios Official Merch


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