30 in 30 - Day 5: 4 Kids Walk into a Bank / by Frank Gogol

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After the last few days of strong female protagonists and horror, I needed something a bit lighter. Don't get me wrong, I love the excellent Promethea or any of the other books. I did. I just wanted to switch up the kinds of books I’m reading for 30 in 30. Simply put, 4 Kids Walk into a Bank delivers a strong, emotional character story with loads of humor. So, the book hit all the right notes after four dark, dense days of reading.

Synopsis

Title: 4 Kids Walk into a Bank
Storytellers: Matthew Rosenberg & Tyler Boss
Publisher: Black Mask Comics
Year of Publication: 2017
Page Count: 192

4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK is the darkly comedic story of four burgeoning child criminals and their elaborate plans. When a group of bumbling criminals shows up in her father's life looking to pull one last job, young Paige has two choices - let her father get caught up in their criminal hijinks or enlist her three best friends to do the job first. Paige picks the bad one.

SPOILERS FOR 4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK BELOW

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Writing

The humor in 4 Kids Walk into a Bank comes from many places. Repeat panels that include a small change from the previous version subvert expectations. More times than not, it’s hysterical.

This falls into a grey area of the creative process, though. It’s hard to tell if these beats were written in or drawn in for effect.

At any rate, an example: In the first issue the four titular kids are rushing toward the front door. In the next panel one of the kids, Berger, is straggling behind while the other 3 kids have stopped dead in their tracks and have surprised looks on their faces. The next panel is a repeat of the previous panel, but Berger has caught up and is now having the realization the other kids were having just a second before. It’s funny because the late arrival characterizes Berger, who says, “Holy tits!,” which on its own is kind of funny coming from a kid. It’s also funny because the setup from the previous panel would have a reader think that Berger might stop dead in his tracks too, and though he does, it's not quite in the expected way, subverting expectations.

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Art

The art in 4 Kids Walk into a Bank elevates the humor in this book. Like with the repeating panels that subvert expectations, though, it’s hard to know whether these things came from the script, or were added during the drawing phase of the book. Since Rosenberg and Boss are such close friends, it’s likely a combination of the two.

That said, some of the best elements of the book are the sound effects. Often times, visual aspects, such as a chemical concoction of “truth serum” being tossed in a character’s face, will have the sound effect hand-lettered into the visual. In the case of the truth serum, lettered into the visual of the airborne liquid is the sound effect “TRUTH!.”

There’s a meta aspect to this, but also a comical one too. Rosenberg and Boss create an almost literal translation of the action as a sound effect, as if the character is literally throwing “truth” into the other character’s face. There’s humor in highlighting irony and in self-referencing, if done right, and Boss and Rosenberg do it right.  

Recommendation: B (Entertaining, worth a read)

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