4 Kids Walk into a Bank is a bitingly sarcastic, darkly humorous tale that introduces us to Paige Turner. Paige leads a ragtag pack of tween nerds like a hero. She is the den mother and protector of Stretch, Berger and Walter. After a Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) session at Paige’s house, as the kids head out the door for ice cream, they are confronted by a quartet of thuggish, violent men, one of whom promptly punches Paige in the face. Paige’s father drives them off, but the men have unfinished business with Edward Turner, and they intent to collect on the debt.

Turns out, the four men are former associates of Paige’s dad—and he owes them a big favor.

When Paige spies her father meeting with men in a diner, she starts digging for more information about her dad’s past and his association with convicted criminals, all while trying to protect her own crew from bullies, plan a bank robbery, and save her dad from prison.

The plot is a battle between super smart kids, who lack experience and violent, not-very-intelligent criminals, who have a much more realistic view of the world. Paige’s descent into crime isn’t based on sociopathy, but rather too much empathy. She knows she is smarter than the criminals, and although she is more mature than her nebbish cohorts, she naively thinks she can outsmart any adult.

This graphic novel is boldly drawn and starkly funny, with hilarious dialog and a brilliantly paced story that is part D&D campaign, part Kiddie Tarantino standoff. The book balances the action and comedy with gut-wrenchingly real, emotional moments. Artist Tyler Boss uses strong lines and garish dashes of color—a bloody nose, spilled orange Fanta—to make a statement. Some interesting uses of overhead views in frames, or long, horizontal shots are varied and visually appealing.

The gritty, kiddie kaper features enough D&D references (Paige, +6 Charisma), Star Wars quotes, and action figures to warm any nerd’s heart and leaves the reader laughing one minute and shocked the next.
The casual violence makes this graphic novel a better choice for either a YA/Older Teen or an adult collection. Although the idea of children robbing a bank seems a little outlandish, author Matt Rosenberg doesn’t shy away from realistic consequences of poor decisions.

I think Rosenberg relies a little heavily on stereotypes for the kids, but not to the point of ruining the plot. I appreciate Paige being written without any heavy-handed gender tropes. She is smart and strong, brave and idealistic, but also naïve and in over her head.

This graphic novel practically screams for a film or television adaptation.

The original comic run was published in 2016-17 by Black Mask Comics. The graphic novel was published in November of 2017 and, although I work in a comic shop and a library, slipped under my radar last year. But 4 Kids Walk into a Bank appeared on YALSA’s Best of 2018 list and it certainly earned its spot. You can view the book trailer on YouTube.

4 Kids Walk into a Bank
By Matthew Rosenberg
Art by Tyler Boss
ISBN: 9781628751888
Black Mask Comics, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: Older Teen (16+)

  • Lisa P.

    | She/Her Library Associate in Youth Services


    Lisa is a library professional and part-time comic shop employee in Central Wisconsin.

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