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The New York Four

Posted by David Goodman On April - 21 - 2011

Unlike most comic book readers, I’m a sucker for a slice of life comic. Give me page after page of great characterization and nobody in tights, and I’m a very happy guy. Books like Death: The High Cost of Living and Strangers in Paradise are all-time favorites of mine, and when I heard about the buzz Vertigo’s The New York Five was generating, my interest was piqued almost immediately. Then I found out it was a sequel to The New York Four, a book I had never heard of from the late Minx imprint. Luckily, my comic shop had a copy or two and I was able to experience the lives of Riley and her friends. And I’m better for it.

The New York Four
Story by Brian Wood
Art by Ryan Kelly
Cover by Ryan Kelly

The New York Four is the story of four girls, their friendship and New York City. It really is that simple. As the story begins, we meet Riley Wilder as she is beginning college at NYU. She is a shy girl who seems to only have time for her cell phone and the “friends” she has met through it. She begins to open up, and meets three other female students thanks to reconnecting with the older sister her family shunned when she left home after a fight. The rest you really need to read to fully appreciate what has been accomplished in this book.

I already knew Brian Wood was a talented writer. DMZ, Northlanders and Demo are just a few of his critical successes. You would think after writing something like Local, the story of a decade in the life of a young woman on the road, I would just expect a great character study from the man. But what makes The New York Four unique is that he has managed to make New York City itself a character in the story. This book just would not work if it was set anywhere else. He has even included little notes so that if you have never been to the city you can still understand the meaning of the locations. It is no easy task, but Wood has made it look like child’s play. The rest of the cast has also been fleshed out to the point where you think you might already know them. After I finished the book, I really felt like I had made four new friends and couldn’t wait to see them again.

For the art, Wood worked with his Local collaborator Ryan Kelly. There are few artists who would have been a better choice, especially when it comes to drawing young women. Kelly gives each character a singular trait that makes them an individual and none of them look like a watered down Wonder Woman; they all look like real young women. It is a breath of fresh air after seeing years of comics where every woman looks like a Swedish bikini model (Not that there is anything wrong with Swedish bikini models). With the extensive use of tones and grays, you really don’t miss the color, and I really think the book looks better in black and white anyway. It gives it a gritty, realistic feeling, kind of like New York City itself.

After reading The New York Four, it seems like a real shame the Minx imprint died such a quick death. Stories like these deserve a much larger audience than they currently have. I’m just thankful Vertigo had the good sense to publish the sequel; otherwise I might have never met up with Riley and her crew again. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: support small press and indie books! Put down that Avengers or Batman, and try something new. More times than not you will be a better comic book reader for it.

Since the Minx imprint and all its titles are gone, it might take a bit of looking to find a copy of The New York Four. It will be worth the effort, I promise you. These are characters you should get to know. I am anxiously waiting for the trade of The New York Five, and might just have to go back and give the original a third reading. Yes, it’s that good.

2 Responses so far
  1. Lady Stardust Said,

    I read this a few years ago and remember loving it. Luckily I still have my copy, I think it’s time for a re-read.

    Posted on April 22nd, 2011 at 11:09 AM

  2. Mr Nobody Said,

    While this book was another Brian Wood gem to his already impressive writing crown, sadly it was also by far, the best of the Minx line. Most of the line was decent to a “good attempt” to go into a different genre. However, where Wood has a great handle on dialoguing, most of the others needed a bit more practice, especially when launching a whole line around something as tricky as non-action, non-tights comics. I am glad that the New York Four(Five) live on, and can’t wait to hang with them again.

    Posted on April 23rd, 2011 at 5:46 PM

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