Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover deliver another bubbly delight with “Bandette” #7. This series is one of my favorite worlds to escape to, whatever its publication schedule, and it’s only getting better as Bandette and Monsieur escalate their competitive crime spree against F.I.N.I.S. Winking and sophisticated, every issue goes down like a fizzy sip of champagne. It’s the best 99 cents you could spend.
Though the tone is still light and fun, the stakes from Issue #6 onward are ostensibly higher. Angered at Bandette’s interference, F.I.N.I.S. has sent the deadly assassin Il Tredici to strangle her. However, the sunken-eyed Il Tredici doesn’t yet feel like a match, or even much of a challenge, for his target. Coover compounds this feeling by drawing Il Tredici as if he’s been dropped into “Bandette” from another universe entirely. His scary eyes and self-serious tattoos don’t seem to fit the aesthetic of a light, urchin-playground Paris, and it gives him a counter-intuitive air of ineptitude. Just looking at him, the reader can see that he doesn’t have the right toolkit for this place and its rules.
And the rules of this place are triumphantly topsy-turvy. As Bandette explains her actions to pigeons and cats, Tobin has her speak in doubles that set a tone of well-established absurdity. For example, she’ll say, “This is a codebook for the Voynich Manuscript…and this is a baguette,” or “You will see that my passport is entirely in order. You will also see that I have drawn a mouse.” These constructions put the baguette and the codebook on the same level, as if it is of equal importance for the audience to know about both.
On one level, it’s simply funny to suggest that, but on another, it’s wonderfully true for the world of the book. Bandette’s maxims about the nature of cats are treated with as much earnestness as her treasure thieving. Both her skill and her sayings are unquestioned. In having her speak this way, Tobin admittedly has to stylize the dialogue rather heavily, but the result is so neat and quirky that it doesn’t feel overdone.
A lot of credit for that natural feel also goes to Coover. It’s rare that a series with this much whimsy is also so stylish, but Coover’s art is full of breezy beauty. She’s got a lovely eye for the little details of scene construction, transforming necessary transition panels into charming character shots. As a result, I don’t find myself remembering the obvious showpieces after an issue of “Bandette”; the images that most stick with me are smaller. For instance, in this issue I was most delighted by the scenes where Bandette whistles across a wire with both hands tucked in her dress pockets, and another where she spins a priceless fossil on her left finger while swinging a round blue valise in her right. These could so easily have been throwaway scenes, but Coover draws them with so much thought.
In sum, “Bandette” remains a pretty flawless example of how comics can build unique and fully realized fictional worlds. From its preciously stylized dialogue to its simply stylish artwork, this series is the only reason you need to start reading digital comics.