By Ben Snyder
There a very few books right now that are just flat out fun and enjoyable; forgoing major political or social commentary and the necessity of setting up an expanded universe. 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank is one of these instances and it is an absolute and total success. While extremely funny, what truly allows this book to work is the heartfelt characters, specifically Paige. Paige is an incredibly well designed and written character, and propels the story to a satisfying if not inevitable conclusion.
While the surrounding cast is a resounding success, Berger is sufficiently annoying and the bad men are sufficiently creepy and scary, the real star of this story is Paige.
4 Kids Walk Into a Bank is above all else, Paige’s coming of age story. It’s reflected beautifully in each chapter’s opening panels as they become increasingly less fantastical. Starting from a typical D&D setup to a childish reimagining of current events, sandwiched in between is a imagining of a bank heist featuring a transformer knock-off. It’s all beautifully written as you can actually see a traumatized and depressed 7th grader doing all of these things in order to save her family and friends.
Paige is a kid and realistically reads like one. She deals with bullies, crushes, and a widowed ex-bank robber father. Watching her spiral downwards as she tries to assert childish control over her surrounding is sad to read, but writer Mathew Rosenberg imbues such humor and character into the script that we simply can’t stop flipping the page. The first noticeable instance of this is in the first chapter, when Paige is trading barbs with the group’s constant bully, the depths of her intellect and maturity are made apparent. While he is calling her a lesbian and other inaccuracies, Paige calls him a misogynist. Of course, all of this maturity flies out the window when Turgel brings up Paige’s mother, to which Paige beats the crap out of him in response. All of this displays a damaged and surprisingly nuanced character many, including myself, did not expect from a 7th grader.
Throughout the story Paige constantly comes up with ingenious plan after plan in order for her to remain on top, and despite all the harm she does the reader can’t help but root for her.
All of the other characters do their best and support her and follow through with her schemes. You truly feel for them when they decide to cut Paige out of the group, they don’t want to betray their friend but they need to in order to benefit their own well-being. Other side characters also feel real enough while also maintaining a level of humor about them such as the gun and drug dealing Captain Gloryhole, the leader of the bank robbers Vernon, and even Paige’s Father. I really can’t say enough about the story, It’s simply a must read.
Tyler Boss’s art only supports the quality of the overall work. It is consistent and expressive throughout. His style really evokes an Americana/80’s aesthetic that genuinely fits well within the story. Boss also does a superb job of depicting the many nerdy qualities of 80’s nerd culture. From the fantastical dragon of the D&D opening to the Double Dragon imitation opening, it all looks beautiful and heartfelt. Boss truly excels however in how he lays out his panels. The way he uses a classic 6 by 4 panel layout while the kids are talking on the radio and then switches to a more exaggerated 80’s computer layout when Paige is hacking the cops database is exceptional. It all feels natural to the story and never forced.
I’m just going to spell this out and make it really simple, 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank is phenomenal and one of the best books that I have read all year. The ending is heartfelt and earned, Paige is one of the best characters in recent memory, and the art is stellar. Pick up this book.
4 Kids Walk Into a Bank
Black Mask Studios