New To You Comics: Friendship, Family, and Grand Larceny – Black Mask Studios’ ‘4 Kids Walk Into A Bank’
by Brendan M. Allen
When COVID-19 brought the comics industry to a screeching halt, my colleague Tony Thornley and I decided to dive deep into our longboxes and collections to bring you a new Comicon feature called New To You Comics.
Comics are on their way back, but we had so much fun with this thing, we decided to keep going.
Tony and I have very different tastes in comics. Tony loves his capes, super powers, and sci-fi. I tend to stick to horror, noir, and weird indies. Occasionally, our paths cross, but we, like most readers, tend to stay in our lanes.
The idea here is to break up that pattern a little. Tony’s throwing some of his favorites my way, and I’m sending him some of the books that I really love. Every title we cover is brand new to one of us, and every stinking one of them is available on digital and mail order platforms, in case your local shop is still closed.
This installment, Tony and I will be kicking around Matthew Rosenberg and Tyler Boss’ 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank.
Here’s what Black Mask Studios says about the 4 Kids TP:
4 Kids Walk Into A Bank is the darkly comedic story of four burgeoning child criminals and their elaborate plans. When a group of bumbling criminals show up in her father’s life looking to pull one last job, young Paige has two choices – let her father get caught up in their criminal hijinks, or enlist her three best friends to do the job first. Paige picks the bad one. 180ish pages of full color comic-booking about friendship, family, growing up, and grand larceny from writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Tyler Boss.
Brendan: There’s a little bit of a story behind this one. Way back, when I was a baby comics journalist, I scored an interview with Matthew Rosenberg, by asking for it on Twitter, because I seriously had no idea how these things are supposed to be done. At some point after that, I asked him if he’d mind signing a few books for an auction I was doing for a cystic fibrosis charity. Sure, he said, send them over.
I sent off as many Rosenberg #1’s as I could find at my LCS, and when the box came back, it was stuffed full. Matt had not only signed all the books I sent him, he sent me back a TON of rare books of his, all signed. Among them were the floppies of 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank, including the super secret, virtually nonexistent “1 Kid” variant of chapter four.
That signed 4 Kids set pulled in a couple hundo, if I recall correctly. Had to read the story after that. Had to, right? Blew my mind. If you didn’t love this book, I swear to god, I will fight you.
Tony: Okay, I like most of Rosenberg’s Marvel work. I’m not at all a Punisher fan, no matter the creative team, but otherwise, big fan. I’ve always wanted to check out 4 Kids, but just haven’t gotten there. This was not at all what I expected though.
The titular kids? They are KIDS. Like pre-teen kids. However, they’re incredibly authentic and realistic kids, and that’s what hooked me into the bigger story.
Brendan: Oh, yeah. Matthew Rosenberg gets kids. He pays attention to who they are and how they interact, and not just how they act when the grown-ups are around. Not one word of this dialogue comes off as an out of touch grown person writing how they think kids should sound. It’s all genuine. And hilarious. But incredibly dark and deep. And hilarious.
This book hits me in all the right ways. It’s a little bit Goonies, a little bit Stand By Me. It’s Ferris Bueller and My Girl and Ocean’s 11 and The Outsiders. It’s everything awkward and beautiful and painful and awesome about being a kid.
Tony: Goonies is an apt comparison. It very much has the feel of that classic 80’s “gang of kids” genre that spawned so many classics. And it’s not just from the writing but sort of the “acting” that Boss uses for the characters. They feel like Astin, Feldman and Brolin. But this doesn’t have any of that cliched “kids wise beyond their years” sort of stuff. They’re authentic street-wise kids, but they’re also still very immature and naïve.
Brendan: It’s interesting you place the story in the eighties. This book is sort of timeless for me. Everyone I know that has read it places the story in the time period of their own adolescence.
It honestly could hang out anywhere between the mid 70’s and the early double-aughts. And the only reason I cap it there is D&D didn’t roll out until January ‘74, and by about 2003 or so, cell phones and widespread internet would have made the covert bedtime CB radio calls a little obsolete and weird.
I saw my adolescent self in this book, and I know every person I’ve talked to about it, regardless of age, has as well. It transcends generational barriers.
Tony: I absolutely see that. It’s a little bit vintage, but not so dated that the reader can’t relate. That’s another thing that the art does well. We see it in Boss’s designs and colors. It’s a book that knows what it wants to be, and the entire package contributes to that.
Brendan: That opening sequence is a brilliant way to introduce the kids, their individual personalities, and the group dynamic. Like, you’re reading it, and it seems like a fun little throwaway scene, until you really start to dig into it. Everything that happens throughout the rest of the book builds off of a couple dice and a few painted alloy miniatures.
Tony: I also like that each issue opens with a similar fantasy-ish scene as well. It serves the exposition well and makes the kids more and more relatable. But the best of the bunch is the D&D scene, for sure. We get a dose of personality, exposition, and plot all in there.
Brendan: I mentioned in our NTYC Spider-Men piece last time, I HATE it when kids in comics get drawn like little adults. Drives me crazy. Like, 62% the size of a grown person, but with the exact same proportions as the adults and moving around in exactly the same way. I get it. Kids are hard to draw. But they aren’t just mini adults.
Tyler Boss captures the goofiness and awkwardness of puberty and the individuality of each kid’s experience with it. Seriously, just go back to that opening sequence. Four kids. Four heights, four body types. Four different sets of mannerisms and tics. Four different postures. What Rosenberg does with the script, nailing down the beauty and gawkiness of freaking adolescence, Boss mirrors beautifully with the art.
Tony: Oh and it’s not just “fat, athletic, skinny” body type either. These four are all completely unique but when you think back to your 6th grade classmates, you realize you knew each one of these kids.
Brendan: Oh, and that wallpaper. Have you ever seen a wallpaper artist credited in a comic? 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank has one. Courtney Menard. And she killed it. That wallpaper is badass. I want it in every room in my house. Wife would kill me. Worth it, though.
Tony: There’s so much in these pages. It’s a dense read in a rewarding way. There’s so much here that I think this will require a re-read. Or four. I would recommend this one to pretty much anyone at this point.
Brendan: Word. Now, what’s up next from your queue?
Tony: We’re headed back to the Valiant Universe with probably my FAVORITE Valiant book, Archer & Armstrong Volume 1!
4 Kids Walk Into A Bank TP, Black Mask Studios, 08 November 2017. Art/design by Tyler Boss, flatting by Clare Dezutti, letters by Thomas Mauer, wallpaper design by Courtney Menard, script by Matthew Rosenberg.
Some of your local shops have re-opened. As always, we’d like to ask that you first try to get these books at your local shop. This is a very uncertain time for owners, employees, and their families. Show some love for your community and friends by buying from your regular shop when possible and safe.
If your local comic store is still closed, not offering safe curbside pick up or mail order, or is out of stock on this title, you can find a digital copy of 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank TP at Comixology for $12.49 right here. Mail order for a new copy is a little hard to come by on this one, but I’ve seen several used copies in the wild (on the net) in the $15 range.