Between Hydra Cap, Legacy and Generations, the toxic masculinity of Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, DC’s refusal to release timely trades, inadequate marketing for Wonder Woman, and about a million other irritations, I’m in need of a Marvel and DC break. Thankfully, there are plenty of non Big Two options out there, and I’m not just talking about Image and Dark Horse.
I’ve sung the praises of BOOM! Box and Black Mask Studios before, but get ready because I’m about to do it again with 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank and Misfit City. While the former is nearing the end of its miniseries arc, the latter is only just getting started as an ongoing series. Both have one thing in common: The Goonies. Or, more generally, a weirdly funny story about a pack of adventurous kids getting in way over their heads as they take on greedy adults. Either way, best get on the horn with your independent comic book shop or local library and get your orders in.
4 Kids Walk Into a Bank
4 Kids Walk Into a Bank, is one of those series that could only happen at an indie press. The premise is simple: pre-teens Paige, Stretch, Walter, and Berger find out her dad is involved with a bunch of violent, small-time criminals planning to rob a bank. Paige, determined to rescue her dad from his poor life choices, decides to rob the bank first. With the help of her friends and a whole lotta punching, she just might do it. Each issue has not only the main plot of kids versus adults, but also an awesome scene of the kids playing with their toys but with them drawn as those characters. In the third issue, the kids are failing spectacularly at an arcade game, but we see them as their video game characters—bear-pig warrior Bae K’on, skeleton pope Lance Cardinal Death, a Neo-Chernobyl gang leader Franky Barbarian, and man-killing robot M.A.D.A.M. Destructrix 7.
A story like this could easily be taken way too seriously or laughed off as a silly extended joke. Matthew Rosenberg, however, has found the right balance of dark humor, bittersweet emotion, and sparky action. It’s as much a coming-of-age tale as it is an action-adventure heist. The reasons for Paige’s father siding with the bad guys and her going after him are way more complicated than right and wrong.
Tyler Boss is a, well, boss at art. Holy moly. Anyone who can go from a two-page spread to cramming 15 panels on a single page without it feeling jarring or crowded is an artist to watch. Boss’s solid lines and detailed backgrounds are paired with bold, heavy color palates that shifts with every scene. Given the amount of intricate coloring, Clare DeZutti deserves all the praise for her flatting. Speaking of stellar technical work, Thomas Mauer had a helluva job keeping the flood of speech bubbles ordered and sensical as Boss wrecked havoc on traditional paneling, but he nailed it. Especially Walter, the perpetual whisperer whose tiny speech font gives Unbeatable Squirrel Girl’s bottom of the page text a run for its teensy money.
Described as Wes Anderson meets Reservoir Dogs, 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank is a firecracker of a miniseries. It’s going to be real hard letting it go after the next issue. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go re-read issues 1-4 for the third time this week.
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg; art/design: Tyler Boss; flatting: Clare DeZutti; letterer: Thomas Mauer; wallpaper design: Courtney Menard. The first issue was published by Black Mask in April 2016, and issue #4 released May 17, 2017, with the final issue scheduled for July 2017.
Four teen girls—sarcastic Macy, chipper Karma, bored Wilder, and bookworm Dot—live in Cannon Cove, Oregon. The small seaside resort town is famous only for being the shooting location of an 80s cult classic, The Gloomies (i.e., The Goonies). When one of the town eccentrics, Capt. Denby, dies and leaves his pirate chest to the local history museum, much to the chagrin of his wicked niece and nephews. The girls find his secret treasure map, but someone else is after it, too. Adventure awaits!
‘80s adolescent adventure flicks and their modern nostalgic revisits tend to be laden with testosterone. The Goonies, Stand By Me, Super 8, even Stranger Things are all boys all the time, with the few girls allowed frequently defined by their relationships with men. Stranger Things had several cool women characters, but those not forgotten as cannon fodder were ultimately reduced to Mother, Sister, and (potential) Girlfriend. Kiwi Smith, aka “lady screenwriter” of Legally Blonde and the underrated masterpiece that is 10 Things I Hate About You, and Kurt Lustgarten, aka “co-dog-parent,” have inverted those tropes to put girls in the lead. The first issue is mostly set-up and character exposition, but it feels more like the opening scene in a movie rather than a plot-less exercise in slow pacing. Misfit City looks to be a familiar yet fun story. It isn’t satire or parody, but an earnest exploration of a male-dominated sub genre.
Naomi Franquiz is my new favorite discovery. Her art is so energetic and expressive, with a diverse range of faces and body types. Here’s hoping she has a long and successful career as a comic book artist. Between her sketchy yet detailed ink work and Brittany Peer’s eye-popping colors, the art on Misfit City is impressive and playful. Bonus points: Franquiz can actually draw Black hair that looks natural and realistic, a real rarity in the comic book artist trade. Frequent BOOM! Box readers will recognize letterer Jim Campbell through his emotional, technical work. From creative sound effects to his effective use of space and speech balloon placement to easy panel flow, Campbell is always aces.
If you can’t get enough of Hope Larson and Brittney L. Williams’ delightful Goldie Vance and haven’t gotten over the end of Kate Leth and Megan Levens’ enchanting Spell on Wheels miniseries or are seeking next generation Lumberjanes, then you’re going to love Misfit City.
Writers: Kiwi Smith and Kurt Lustgarten; illustrator: Naomi Franquiz; colorist: Brittany Peer; letterer: Jim Campbell. BOOM! Box published the first issue in May 2017.
Alex Brown is a teen librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter and Instagram, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.