4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK

Black Mask Studios

2017

 

Sometimes, if you want to stop the bad thing from happening, you have to do the bad thing yourself.

Paige, Walter, Berger, and Stretch are a group of pre-teens who spend their days playing games. Video games, role playing games, you name it. They hang out, they curse, they rag on each other. Paige is the leader, Stretch is her best friend. Walter is super smart and super shy. And Berger is a motor-mouth who is everyone wishes would just shut up.

The beginning of childhood’s end was signaled when a group of criminals show up at Paige’s house, looking for her dad. The thugs barge into the living room, and a tense standoff ensues between them and Paige’s friends. One of the bad guys ends up with a RPG figure slingshot (slingshooted?) into his eye, and Paige gets punched in the face. The entire scene is tense and ugly and played out to perfection by writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Tyler Boss. Rosenberg and Boss are clearly sharing one brain here: the melding of words and pictures is perfectly flawless.

Paige’s dad eventually comes in to the living room with a shot gun and sends the thugs running. It’s here that Paige (and the readers) learn that Paige’s dad used to run with the gang in his younger days, and they want him to join back up with them on an upcoming bank heist. Times are tough, and the old man has a strong sense of loyalty to his old crew. He knows it’s wrong, but he’s in, trapped by loyalty and economics.

With the setup firmly in place, Rosenberg and Boss really let themselves have fun with the premise. As Paige and her crew debate the best way to help Paige’s father, Boss draws the discussions as giant role playing game campaigns with each troll, wizard, and barbarian as an avatar of the kids. In other discussions, they are depicted as different kinds of vehicles racing over wild terrain. It’s an ingenious device that shows huge creativity and an obvious commitment to craft. Aside from the use of the avatars, the story is peppered with brilliant sight gags that incorporate the use of sound effects in comic books. The jokes are hilariously funny, and only serve to enrich the overall storytelling of 4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK. All of the kid’s debates lead to one outcome. One course of action: Paige and her gang are going to rob the bank before her dad and his gang can get to the bank. In her mind, the only way to stop her dad from committing a crime, is to commit the crime first.

While there are many laugh-out-loud moments in the story, 4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK is a crime story. A crime story told with foul-mouthed preteen roleplaying-game children, but a crime story none the less. The events in the story have real emotional weight, and it isn’t long before the reader will feel that very real punch to the gut. Have a box of tissues handy.

With 4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK and the equally wonderful WE CAN NEVER GO HOME, Matthew Rosenberg made his bones with Black Mask Studios. It was no surprise when Marvel Comics swooped in gave him a slew of regular monthly books. 4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK is a great reminder that while an idea may seem like child’s play, your actions have real consequences. And responsibility knows no age restrictions.

 

Dan Malmon