The New York Four (DC/Minx)

ny4-header.jpgThe latest offering from DC’s Minx line follows a terminally shy college freshman, offering real plots and, even better, real characters.



152 pgs. B&W; $9.99 softcover

(W: Brian Wood; A: Ryan Kelly)


I have to take my hat off to DC’s new Minx imprint. Now that I’ve read Ross Campbell’s Waterbaby and Brian Wood’s The New York Four, I get it. It would have been easy to dismiss these books if they pandered to the girls and young women in their target demographic, but the thing is, they don’t. The writing was intriguing in the former and truly resonant in the latter.

So, I may have been expecting the saccharine of unrequited high-school crushes that keeps the world of teenage manga rolling in yen, but instead, I got real plots, and better, what female readers seem to appreciate with extra keenness: real characters.

Wood, acclaimed for scripting the Demo, Local, DMZ, and Northlanders series, introduces Riley, an NYU freshman with a terminal shyness problem. She can’t look people in the eye, and talks more on the textpad of her Blackberry than with her mouth.

The cover to The New York Four by Ryan Kelly. Click for a larger image.College throws her into a social scene she can barely comprehend, but she’s trying gamely to keep up. She gravitates toward three friends (together they’re the "New York Four," don’cha know), and it’s to Wood’s credit that he imagines distinct personalities that (mostly) go beyond stereotypes for each of them. One woman, Lo, turns out to be a voyeur and a stalker of the prof she has a crush on. I hope the uncertain ending of the book implies a sequel that offers more on her.

As if Riley didn’t have enough troubles just trying to be less antisocial, her uptight parents are giving her shit, her black-sheep sister drags her back into a dark family drama, and a secret admirer starts texting her. It’s enough to make any 18-year-old teeter on the brink of a freak-out.

Wood peppers NY4 with little moments that work. Riley is so excited about her mysterious suitor that when he texts her, she doesn’t even notice that her friends are talking to her. Yep—that’s first-boyfriend and -girlfriend stuff. Riley is so shy, though, that she doesn’t want to entertain the idea of meeting the guy in real life—it would mess up their perfect text flirtation. Self-defeat? Shyness? Fear? Yes, yes, yes. All too true. (The romantic subplot goes down a dark alley, and it’s quite a stunt. I loved it.)

The tale is a love letter to New York City, too, with its warm evocations of Washington Square Park, the Guggenheim Museum, Lower East Side rock clubs, and so on.

Ryan Kelly’s art is serviceable. Kelly, who previously teamed with Wood on the Oni Press title Local, has a gift for depicting facial expressions and he seems to be having fun drawing cute chicks.

The freshman year of college is a heady time for everyone, with lots more booze, drugs, friends, responsibility, and sexual possibilities to reckon with. Riley’s blossoming independence from a sheltered world feels honest, and you want to read more about her and her complex dynamic with family and friends.

It’s worth noting once again that Minx is trying something revolutionary here—a whole line of graphic novels aimed at young women that refuse to wallow in sticky emotional gobbledygook and that actually offer real writers and idiosyncratic artists. I’m sure not every book they kick out will prove as worthwhile as The New York Four, or at least, as adult and uncompromising as Waterbaby, but I am looking forward to tackling Alisa Kwitney and Joelle Jones’ Token, with its juicy art and Miami flavor, as well as Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg’s Plain Janes books. But most of all I hope a new NY4 book comes out soon, and that it’s as thick and well-paced as this one. I imagine a growing club of teenage girls feels the same way. | Byron Kerman


Learn more at

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply