Bandette #1

Written by Paul Tobin
Illustrated by Colleen Coover
Monkeybrain Comics

She’s cute, funny, and out to rob the worst kind of people—with a little help from her friends!  The lady’s name is Bandette, and she’s the star of this excellent caper comic from the husband-wife team of Paul Tobin and Colleen Cover that is part of the debut of the Monkeybrain Comics line.

Sometimes a comic will grow on me over time.  Sometimes a comic will hook me as soon as I finish reading the first issue.  And sometimes, there’s that special comic that grabs me from the preview page and seems to have been written just for me.

Bandette is that special comic.

While I am sure that Coover and Tobin wrote the comic for a larger audience (hard to sustain a living on one person who isn’t an art patron from the days of old), Bandette is exactly what I want from a comic book done in this style.  The pace is breezy, the dialogue is snappy, and the art snaps right off the page.  This comic and everyone in it are having a ton of fun, and it shows.  I picture Coover smiling as she works on what I suspect are digital drawings placed over watercolored backgrounds while Tobin reads the script aloud in the studio, grinning all the way.  Maybe I’m totally off base in my imagined scenario, but I just cannot imagine not having fun working on a book like Bandette.

The story itself is textbook caper comic/book/movie.  A young woman has a mission—liberating art from people who don’t deserve it.  (Just what happens to that art is still undetermined.)  Ironically, she’s also a friend to the police.  Her banter while engaging in thievery is pitch perfect, from the opening lines of “keep sleeping doggies, or else I will weep” to complaining about the fact that she’s being chased by hired thugs for trying to steal something.  Tobin keeps the plot going so fast, there’s barely any time to think things through and creates awesome set pieces for Coover to illustrate.

There are just so many neat little touches here, from the idea of how Bandette disguises herself to the idea that she’s not the only thief about town to the almost Rube Goldbergian way in which she escapes trouble in this issue.  Despite being a bit smaller than a typical single issue comic (13 pages of story, once you take out the cover and credits), so much is set up for future issues.  Best of all, while the action is packed, it never once feels dense.  I certainly wanted more as soon as I finished issue one, but that was because the story is so good, not because I felt like there wasn’t enough given to me in this first dose.

I’ve been a fan of Coover’s art going back to when I first started getting into indie comics, and I read her art blog regularly, so I’ve been able to watch her practice little stylistic touches that I can see playing out in Bandette.  The digital work might scare some readers at the idea, but it works very well here, I think.  Coover can have her characters jump out of backgrounds by working in this way, and given that we are in a caper comic, the sensation of constant flow and movement meshes well with the plot.  Only occasionally does it feel like maybe Bandette is being placed on top of the background instead of being an organic part of the drawing.  The watercolored backgrounds are drawn in some detail, so we can see the riches of the house she’s robbing, for instance, even as they are muted to make the red detailing of Bandette’s hair and costume stand out.

I know I’m gushing a bit about Bandette, but that’s because I think it’s a great comic, showing everything that a monthly, digital-only book, can do.  It doesn’t hurt that this one is lighthearted in a way we don’t see nearly as often as we should in comics.  Tobin, Coover, and Monkeybrain have a winner with Bandette, and I give it my highest possible recommendation.