Underrated: 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank
This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank
At some point in the last two years you’ve probably heard somebody talking about the comic 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank. The first of the five issues in the series was released April 2016, but due to a series of delays the fifth issue only hit the physical and digital shelves in September 2017, which unfortunately left some readers less than enthused about the story – not because the quality was lacking, but because the inconsistent release schedule caused momentum and interest in the series to wane.
Personally, after the second delay I had almost forgotten to keep checking for the next issue, so it came as quite a welcome surprise to notice the trade. Finally, I could read the entire story in one sitting (or several but at least I had the full story in hand).
But first, before we talk about 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank, what’s the story about?
Well the book’s synopsis reads: “A fun(ish) crime caper about children! Eleven-year-old Paige and her weirdo friends have a problem: a gang of ex-cons need her dad’s help on a heist… the problem is those ex-cons are morons. If Paige wants to keep her dad out of trouble, she’s going to have to pull off the heist herself. Like Wes Anderson remaking Reservoir Dogs, 4KWIABis a very dark & moderately humorous story about friendship, growing up, D & D, puking, skinheads, grand larceny, and family.“
Before we get to talking a little about the story, when you open the trade and see the comic’s credits you’ll notice that they’re done in alphabetical order; art and design by Tyler Boss, Flatting by Clare Dezutti, Lettering by Thomas Mauer, Wallpaper by Courtney Menard and written by Matthew Rosenberg. Rosenberg was a guest on Graphic Policy Radio last year where he said that he felt it important that each artist who contributes to a comic is recognized (I could be wrong in the exact wording, but I believe the essence of the quote is there), and it was on that episode of the radio show that I first heard the term “flatter.” I hadn’t really come across it before, and consequently had no knowledge of what a flatter did. Thankfully, the ever reliable Wikipedia was there to help;
“A flatter is a colouring specialist within the comic book industry that prepares the inked or sketched comic book page for the colorist with digital art software such as Adobe Photoshop. The specialist does so by selecting the objects on the page and filling them in with a solid color called a “flat”, so that the “flats” can be used by the colorist by way of the “magic wand” tool. In this way, the colorist may select each object during the rendering process-to the exclusion of the other objects on the page-so that the object’s base color may be changed, or to render the colors.”
They sound like a pretty important part of the comic industry, eh?
That’s a subject for another day, however, as today we’re looking at 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank in it’s totality.
Perhaps best likened to somebody throwing the Goonies, a supernatural-less Stranger Things and Reservoir Dogs into a blender and then poured it out over a nice crust of fantastic and baked for several minutes. Served with a side of wry humour and a glass of childhood innocence that may have started to sour a little, if you had started 4 Kids when it first came out but, like me, you’d let the series fall off your radar then you’ll be pleased to know that with the release of the trade you won’t need to put the story down.
I didn’t (well, not intentionally – I did fall asleep while reading but that’s because it was 3 am and I’d been awake more than twenty hours and thus should not be taken as an indication of quality).
4 Kids is one of those stories that really couldn’t work as well in any other medium; this is a story that exemplifies what it means to be a comic book. In an age of endless crossovers and reboots it is beyond refreshing to read a complete story that will take you along by the scruff of the neck as the characters end up going further and further down a rabbit hole – not only do the elements of humour in the comic play off the visuals, but they allow the deeper messages of the story to permeate your brain. Before you know it you’ve noticed that this story is so much more than just four kids walking into a bank (keep an eye out for some great narration bubbles there, too) – this is a story about family, societal debt and the folly of youth.
Rosenberg’s script is witty, the pacing of the story beats are utterly perfect; his writing so sharp I nearly lost a finger. When it comes to Boss’, his art may not be your cup of tea at first, but his command of the page and the characters upon that page couldn’t be better suited to this script. If this was a review rather than an entreaty to pick the trade up (I have despite having a review copy) then I would be giving this top marks across the board. 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank is a comic you must read.
That’s all for this week folks. Join us next week when we talk about something else that falls under the Underrated banner in the comic book world.