By Matthew Rosenberg, Tyler Boss, Thomas Mauer, Clare Dezuttie, and Courtney Menard
4 Kids Walk Into a Bank is hands down one of the best uses of the comic book medium in a long, long time. There are rules and standards for constructing a well-made comic, but writer Matthew Rosenberg (Twelve Reasons to Die) and artist Tyler Boss (Lazarus) are blowing the doors off those standards and creating something unique, which could only be done in a comic book.
The story is perfectly self-contained and original. Even though it would probably work as a TV show or movie, 4KWIB’s use of panel layouts, word balloons, captions and emanata bring the story to life in a way only a comic could. The amount of information provided in the first two installments could take half a dozen issues to convey if not done right, but this team works their magic in the most efficient and effective way possible. Nothing is taken for granted and every piece of the story matters equally. Characters who bicker over a quarter, borrowed for an arcade game, seems as crucial to the overall plot as the rest of the dialogue happening simultaneously in a separate conversation. You’ve got to hand it to Rosenberg for writing such a masterpiece while also applauding Boss’ ability to make it as legible as it is entertaining.
The first issue jumped right into the story and laid sufficient groundwork for the series, whereas the second issue could have focused on other matters within the 4KWIB universe, we instead get to know the characters even better as their dilemma develops. Each issue is named as a “chapter” and that’s a highly appropriate manner in which to tell this particular story. With such rich and believable characters a novelization would be a welcomed expansion over a film or television adaptation. The story deserves more, not less. While 4KWIB is clearly a modern tale – about kids but written for adults – it will stir up a true sense nostalgia for the reader’s own youth. If comparisons had to be made then think of Steven Spielberg being inspired by a summer reading list comprised of Edward Eager’s Half Magic and David Lapham’s Stray Bullets as a means of correcting everything Norman Rockwell may have got wrong about the American youth.
Stories falling under the genre of Crime deserve an original angle or twist, although they shouldn’t necessarily be original overall. Procedural dramas are best when based on real world, factual elements. They are sometimes told from the criminal’s point of view, sometimes told from the Police point of view and sometimes from the victims’. 4KWIB tells the story from an outside perspective. A group of childhood friends, who may be too bold for their own good, seem willing to play the hand they are dealt in life as opposed to running for cover, which makes for the comic’s twist. This is different from other stories about children accidentally wrapped up in adult plots and schemes that decide to rise to challenge for lack of a better escape plan. It’s an enjoyable story and, so far, realistically told as nothing seems otherworldly or implausible.
Publisher Black Mask Studios does a good job of giving credit where it is due going to such lengths as listing Clare Dezutti for color Flattening and Courtney Menard for “Wallpaper Design”. On a book like this the flats, design and the Lettering, the latter by Thomas Mauer (Rasputin), are no small feat and do as much to tell the story as the writing and art. The content is dense and a single misstep would crumble what might as well be a house of cards in the wrong hands. On the other hand, these folks should have license to reinvent the rules as they see fit, because within two issues – chapters, that is – they’ve proven more than apt at making an extraordinary comic book reading experience. Besides, actually making a comic is only half of the experience, the rest of which occurs between the page and the reader and that’s where 4KWIB does not fall short.