By Matthew Rosenberg, Tyler Boss, Thomas Mauer, Clare DeZutti, and Courtney Menard
Right, here’s the plan: come back from hiatus so delightfully acerbic and meticulously paced, it’ll be like no time has passed at all. Rosenberg? Keep writing those kids so convincingly real and refreshingly awkward. Don’t forget to inject some real assholes in there too. And wear that Sidney Lumet influence on your sleeve like it’s your union card ticket to payday. Boss? Bring the funny. Bring the funny so brilliantly subtly and craft the aesthetic to match that it’ll be impossible not to buy what you’re selling on every damn page. Oh, bring some Ben-Day dots and sparkle eyes too. 4 Kids Walk into a Bank is back and instantly reminds you why it’s one of the most unique, bold, and charming reads in the comics landscape right now. Okay, let’s do this.
4 Kids Walk into a Bank #3 blithely blends irreverence and insight, confidence and querulousness. Only tangentially a crime book, it is unequivocally a comedy book that’s bolstered by Rosenberg’s cutting quips and patient delivery. It is, above all, brazenly genuine as it explores the ever-relatable perils of being young with the less relatable thrill of planning to literally rob a bank to keep your father from going to jail for robbing the same aforementioned bank. Rosenberg’s script here is dialogue-heavy to be sure, but every word is in harmonious service to the depth of the characters and commitment to the humor. There’s a two-page sequence in a library that seamlessly blends straight plotting with a response punchline that delivers on a setup from nine panels earlier. This issue is rife with that type of all-in approach to selling a gag while still propelling the reader through a narrative that has tension, stakes, and smarts. Paige’s undercover stakeout alone is worth the cover price as is Berger’s litany of confessions in the lab later on.
As has become the opening staple of this series, Rosenberg has our rambunctious would-be robbers presented in fantastical avatars that aptly reflect their characteristics. Here, it’s in the form of remote control vehicles speeding through the wilds of suburban backyards where gung-ho Paige is a rip-roaring hot rod, brilliant klutz Walter a high-flying maladroit helicopter, insecure steady as he goes Stretch a reliable muscle car, and audacious Berger a big ass truck. It’s so on the nose, it almost doesn’t work yet absolutely does. Right from the start of issue #1, Rosenberg introduced us to these nearly fully formed characters and here now in issue #3 we’re intimately familiar with them because it’s nigh impossible not to recognize some facet of yourself in each of them.
All of that swear filled natural and infectious dialogue would be moot if it weren’t for the punctilious work of Tyler Boss. Deceptively minimalist but aesthetically rich, Boss instills a rakish swagger through a wilted mauve lens (shout out to flatter DeZutti for setting that particular stage). Stylistically, Boss’ work is compelling, but structurally? It’s straight fire. Flat settings and figures, like some sort of endlessly hip Ikea instruction manual, belie the multitude of storytelling dimensions. Save for Steve Lieber, few others execute comedy beats as cogently as Boss does. The sheer amount of page real estate that’s devoted to ensuring a joke hits with maximum effect is hilarious in and of itself. The use of repeated static panels, the sparkly eye motif, the mirroring stacked panels, the double page walkthrough spread? It’s all great and it’s all reflective of the deft sense of pacing that plays with time in the way that only comic books can do.
In issue #3, Boss continues to play with layouts that smoothly direct the eye while jumping from multiple subjects and utilizing multiple angles. Nowhere is this more interestingly done than the stepped structure of the diversion/distraction scene wherein Boss blends negative space with Mondrian and puke. The zooms and pans and the overall structure of the page, with its literal boxed step panels guiding you down diagonally from left to right only to reset at a framing rectangular panel on the left, injects palpable anxiety while still delivering a truly hilarious sequence of events. That’s what Boss brings in spades throughout and when packed into a Wes Anderson meets David Rees stylistic concoction, it’s almost irresistible. Extra props this go around are deserved in regards to the many hand drawn special effects such as “DRUGS!” and “OHSHIT!”
Continuing to impress is Thomas Mauer’s wrangling and orchestration of the dialogue to match the requisite comedic timing. His use of lower case font fits really well the mundane everyday aspects and the shrinking size for Walter’s soft-spoken frailty continues to delight. Rosenberg may be the joke designer, but Mauer’s the technical director who actually has to build the darn things and he does so with equal aplomb.
Yet again, Courtney Menard’s killer inner cover wallpaper design welcomes you into this world in a style that provides all the warmth of a Little Golden Book that’s always thematically attuned.
So that’s plan. Everyone got it? Sincerity and flippancy melded together into a debonair design that has genuine guile and indefatigable sense of familiarity at its heart. Hit ‘em with humor, hit ‘em with sass, and hit ‘em like few other things can hit. When you’re a kid, it feels like the world is out to get you a lot of the time and sometimes thinking you can outsmart the world is the best course of action. Because when you’ve got your best buds with you, sometimes you just can. And really, a lot of adults are pretty dumb when you get right down to it. Rosenberg, Boss, and crew know it and show it with refreshing confidence. 4 Kids Walk into a Bank #3 is more than just a welcomed return, it’s a triumphant embrace from an old friend.