Probably has something you’ll consider a spoiler
by Mathew Rosenberg, Lazarus Tyler Boss, Claire Dezutti & Thomas Mauer
Black Mask comics has been most successful when publishing books that take a different view of well worn genre material. Think Space Riders and their Mexican heritage cosmic acid trip, We Can Never Go Home’s using the superhero genre to explore teenage angst or Clandestino‘s b-movie action tropes taking place within modern political instability. After several announcements, tons of hype from the comics community and an early release date for some comic shops, Black Mask’s first new offering of 2016 comes in the form of 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank by Mathew Rosenberg, Lazarus inker Tyler Boss, Claire Dezutti & Thomas Mauer. Not only does it follow the formula from much of Black Mask’s best comics, it’s feels like their most sophisticated and complex new book yet.
4 Kids follows four 7th grade nerds as they slowly discover one of their father’s criminal pasts. The key word their is SLOWLY as the father’s past is only hinted at throughout the book; even the final page reveal doesn’t betray any key details for future issues as much it implies possibility. Instead, the comic book works from it’s excellent character development, imaginative storytelling and visual narration. Writer Mathew Rosenberg has been at his best when he’s zeroed in on the emotional and personal beat’s of his protagonist and that’s a sharp focus here. As the book basically introduces a cast of nine, eight feel fully realized within the first third of the book in Rosenbergs use of dialogue, narrative boxes and storytelling techniques. It’s also done so hilariously, like the most I’ve laughed out loud at a comic in quite some time hilarious. The books opening where we are introduced to the “4 Kids” as their knockoff D&D character’s illustrated with their own real life casual shit talking to one another is especially entertaining while being equal parts revealing. Artist Tyler Boss shines as the main illustrator and designer in places like that cold opening in his style, design sense and narrative structure. Similar to King & Bagenda’s Omega Men
; 4 Kids plays with the comics form in it’s panel placement and page designs and does so in a way that’s unpredictable and exciting. That spontaneous and informal usage of varying styles benefit’s Rosenberg’s writing & Boss’ art greatly by giving the work a looser quality that allows for the creators to interject a unique brand of personality on the final product. Those styalistic florishes extend to the rest of the creative team with Claire Dezutti’s vibrant color pallete and Thomas Mauer’s use of lettering to portray personality traits.
4 Kids Walk Into A Bank succeeds by giving a lot of content without revealing too much. As a story it’s barely started but as a comic, it fully realized in it’s craft. Packed to the brim with entertaining dialouge and engaging style choices, 4 Kids lives up to the hype and points towards a further evolution for Rosenberg, Boss & co.
Disclosure: Publisher Black Mask provided an advance review copy of this comic to Nothing But Comics without any payment between the site and publisher or agreement on the review’s content.