Best Shots Advance Reviews: 4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK #4, STAR TREK - TNG: MIRROR BROKEN #1

IDW Publishing May 2017 cover
Credit: IDW Publishing
Credit: Tyler Boss (Black Mask Studios)

4 Kids Walk Unto a Bank #4
Written by Matthew Rosenberg
Art by Tyler Boss, Clare Dezutti and Courtney Menard
Lettered by Thomas Mauer
Published by Black Mask Studios
Review by Matthew Sibley
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Opening with a fantasy situation constructed in the minds of the core characters, 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank #4 is inherently more serious, as Paige and her friends now plan how to rob the titular bank before a gang of crooks can - a gang that includes her father. The threat and stakes involved hang over the issue, but Matthew Rosenberg, Tyler Boss, and the rest of the team don’t allow this to become the issue’s only sentiment, as it continues to be both heartfelt and deftly funny.

Much of this book’s success rests on its creative team, which continues to dazzle thanks to their collaborative spirit. While Paige may have found herself with more and more of a central role as the series has progressed (which persists as the theme of family runs even deeper here), this issue is so dense with story without feeling cluttered, that it’s never felt as if this quartet has become a solo affair. Here, composition is collaboration. Rosenberg’s not just writing for an artist, as he’s also aware of how Thomas Mauer’s lettering can make every joke land, whether it needs space or not, without the conversations gaining too quick of a pace.

This all coalesces in a splash page which offers a high-up perspective on a house. Tyler Boss’ constructs an isometric design, which not only feels lived in, but demonstrates that everyone involved understands the space in which they’re operating in. It’s a page whose inventiveness would feel appropriate in Fargo, but it also strikes me as something that could come from Sofia Coppola’s 2013 feature The Bling Ring. Like that, this page can operate as a tableau concerned with the interior lives of these kids, as can the series at large. Even in this scene where Boss has pulled way back to frame the scene in the panel, we’re still treated to small cutaways, much like other pages in the book which go to offer extra details without slowing the pace. Pages can have high-panel counts, most notable when this issue returns to the CB radio. These 24-panel pages convey an incredible level of craft, revealing information about the characters and the situation through the elements not found on the page, while also allowing a previous, throwaway joke to become an important plot element.

Many have made comparisons to Quentin Tarantino and Brian Michael Bendis over the course of this series’ release, and while these comparisons are certainly warranted, this reviewer has never been able to shake the feeling that this is the comic book that Sofia Coppola never made. The characters of this series give off an air of precociousness, from the correction about ableism early on in this issue, to a later exchange about anti-capitalist sentiments imbued in Monopoly. The stakes of this series are also interesting to consider. This has demonstrated itself repeatedly to be a funny series and has often seemed more interested in the lives of these kids instead of getting to the bank robbery and going from there, but at the same time, a swastika tattoo adorns the face of an antagonist, one who could easily decide enough’s enough at any time. While this is a very real threat, these kids aren’t as precocious as the book itself. They certainly recognze that they’re in the thick of it, but as the book’s fantasy opening sequence demonstrates, there’s a degree of fun and games that they can’t seem to shake. Like the characters in The Bling Ring, and their real-life analogues, they’re smart enough to know what’s going on and are on the cusp of self-awareness in realizing that they’re into too deep, but for the most part, have been unwilling to push over that threshold.

If Rosenberg’s Kingpin is focusing on how a figure of criminality looks to someone on the outside, 4 Kids Walk into a Bank occupies the inverse notion. This series is lived in and focuses on kids that should be on the outside, but find themselves on the precipice of falling in. The title may sound like the start of a joke, but this book’s subject is no laughing matter. The kids might not have this in mind every step of the way, but that creates an oddball vibe that allows series like this from Black Mask to thrive, occupying a space of its own in the comics landscape. Now we just await the final issue to find out whether the kids are correct in thinking that, even if there’s danger present, that it’s fine to have some laughs along the way.

Credit: IDW Publishing

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Mirror Broken #1
Written by David Tipton and Scott Tipton
Art by J.K. Woodward
Lettering by AndWorld Design
Published by IDW Publishing
Review by David Pepose
‘Review Rating: 6 out of 10

Get your goatee curled and your Starfleet tank tops pressed - because we’re going back to the Star Trek Mirror Universe. With IDW’s Star Trek: The Next Generation - Mirror Broken, we get to see what happened to Captain Picard and his crew in this bleak parallel world, and while newcomers may find the experience a little slow-going, fans of the classic Next Generation series will enjoy getting to see this iconic team start to come back together.

Unlike the main Star Trek universe in which Jean-Luc Picard was a celebrated intellectual amongst the ranks of the Federation, Mirror Broken paints a very different picture for us. Rather than helming the well-oiled machine that is the U.S.S. Enterprise, this Picard is in charge of the Stargazer, a gloomy rathole of a ship that can barely take down a Cardassian warship without problems, as he tries (and often fails) to navigate the dog-eat-dog politics of the beaten Imperial Starfleet. Picard rightly notes there has to be something bigger than this… and while he winds up being right, unfortunately this first issue takes awhile to get there.

While the world of Star Trek is rightly seen as often impenetrable, David Tipton and Scott Tipton take just a little too long to set up this run-down and bureaucratic world, and in so doing, Picard’s restlessness winds up becoming a little bit contagious. It’s only after Picard discovers the development of a secret Imperial warship that things start to heat up - beats like Deanna Troi telepathically spying on her crewmates is a great touch, while Picard’s recruitment of Geordi La Forge feels like the right kind of underhanded. But at the same time, it feels like the writers are overthinking their premise a bit - this is evil Star Trek. Why go through the hassle of an origin story - particularly one that paints Picard as a bit more clueless than his usual master tactician image - when we could simply see the assembled team of baddies already in action?

The artwork by J.K. Woodward, meanwhile, is an acquired taste. Sometimes his painted style evokes Gabriele Dell’Otto or even Alex Ross, as he nails the likenesses of the iconic The Next Generation cast. At the same time, though, the ever-present gloom might feel a little overdramatic, even for a series that was punctuated by actors flopping around the decks of the Enterprise every time they were hit by a photon torpedo. The other challenge Woodward has to face is likely based on dealing with licensed comic books - it’s hard not to chuckle a bit when almost every cast member of the book are sporting identical Star Trek tank tops, or get distracted when the exposition is derailed by even the elderly Picard’s massive guns (or in this case, do I call them “phasers”?).

Ultimately, Broken Mirror will appeal to Star Trek diehards who are eager to explore this strange (and startling) new world, but those who aren’t as well-versed in that lore might find this new #1 to be a little less hard-hitting than expected. That’s not to say that this series might not ramp up - particularly based on the issue #2 cover included in the book - but as a reader, it might have been more exciting to drop readers into the deep end of the action, rather than spend so much time putting the pieces together.

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