Monkeybrain Comics publishes a lot of great comics in their lineup of digital books, and one of their initial offerings remains one of their best. Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover’s “Bandette” is always a joy to read, and “Bandette” #6 is no exception. With a hardcover edition from Dark Horse recently published that collected “Bandette” #1-5 (and quite a few short stories too), this is a perfect time to jump on board and see what you’ve been missing.
If you’ve never read “Bandette” before, don’t worry; not only is there a “Previously…” page explaining the basic set-up, it’s also fairly easy to follow. Bandette’s a cat burglar, one who more often than not drives the villainous organization Finis crazy as she thwarts their schemes throughout Paris even as she makes off with all sorts of valuable artifacts. But now, Bandette’s in more trouble than normal; Finis has hired the dreaded assassin Il Tredici to kill Bandette, even as Bandette and fellow thief Monsieur are in a race to see who can steal the most priceless objects from a secret list. But most importantly… there are pastries to be bought and eaten!
One of the things that makes “Bandette” #6 (and the series in general) work so well is the overall tone in Tobin’s script. I love the little dashes of whimsy peppered throughout it, even as Bandette goes about her business. If you removed all of those, we’d have a very standard caper comic; it would be entertaining, certainly, as Bandette went up against Finis and Monsieur. But there’s so much more thanks to the little winks and nods in its very stylish level of fun. The opening three-page sequence with Bandette buying pastries, explaining to the pastry chef who Hestia was, and then trading a priceless Greek urn in exchange for more pastries is a riot. It wouldn’t work if it wasn’t for the way that Tobin writes Bandette’s train-of-thought style of dialogue, like when she gives four different answers on where the urn came from. It’s funny and it’s sweet, and it can’t help but make you on Bandette’s side instantly.
For all of the whimsy, though, Tobin doesn’t lose sight of the fact that Bandette is also competent and smart. Her comments about petting the cat making it stay… or perhaps not… are surprisingly sharp once you pull apart the goofy veneer on top of them. And when she identifies Il Tredici simply by the sound of his footsteps (and her instantly shift from frivolity to panic), it’s a reminder on why Bandette’s lived to steal another treasure for so long.
I don’t want to make you think that all of the charm is just Tobin’s writing, though, because Coover does her fair share of the lifting too. Her art is just amazing here (there’s a great step-by-step explanation of how she does it all in the first “Bandette” collection), with soft beautiful colors over a delicate ink wash. I can’t be the only person who started salivating as soon as I saw those opening three panels of delicious-looking pastries, for instance. Coover draws them all carefully and makes them feel real; each panel is full of a different variety, and the gentle colors make each one feel unique.
Of course, Coover’s drawing more than just pastries. When Bandette hangs from a balcony one-handed, I love how you get that strong feeling of motion from the moment. Her legs are poised in such a way that you can see how she’s pushing herself up, and the angle of her cape helps indicate that up-and-over movement. At the same time, with her other hand clutching a mobile phone and a big grin on her face, you get a sense of the overall glee that infects every issue of “Bandette.” Compare that to two pages later, when Daniel is hanging from a windowsill by one hand as he’s preparing to drop. All of that energy and acrobatic skill is gone; his body has gone limp, there’s a look of apprehension on his face, and instead of fun it feels slightly dizzying. Coover’s attention to detail and how every character would react to a situation is part of what makes her such an amazing artist. Even a shadow is menacing thanks to Coover; the silhouette of Il Tredici strangling one of Absinthe’s former henchmen is chilling, and in the one panel where we see his face, his eyes are cold and dead.
“Bandette” #6 is a treasure. Quite frankly, Tobin and Coover make the world of “Bandette” one that you’d want to live in. When the girls in Gaspard’s pool let Monsieur steal a painting thanks to a jaunty wave, for instance, it feels like a lighter, more entertaining place to be. In the end, “Bandette” is a joy from start to finish, time and time again. And at just 99 cents an issue? This is a steal that Bandette would approve of, whole-heartedly.