Bandette vol. 1: Presto! – Paul Tobin

4 out of 5

It’s nigh undeniable how delightful a slab of comic is Tobin and Coover’s first ‘Bandette’ collection, not only due to the comic itself, but Dark Horse’s classy mini hardcover presentation and the fun extras stuffed into the back.  The thief-for-the-people shtick obviously extends back to Robin Hood (and however many versions prior to that), and the cheeky approach that informs much of Bandette’s characters’ dialogue and Coover’s delightfully perky art style is a blend of all things Archie and 70s cartoon glee.  Bandette has a penchant for stealing arty things and loves candy bars; she has a loving retinue of friends around the city who can help run distractions when needed; Inspector Belgique of the police has a love/hate relationship with her, half chasing her, have calling her for help when a little extra-legal assistance is in order.  And Bandette smiles and winks through it all, shrugging off bullets and trading cape-shopping gab with an opponent whilst in the middle of a swordfight.  We’ve seen these types of rogues before.  Thankfully, they’re generally fun to read.

But Tobin and Coover manage to take the formula a couple of steps forward by riddling their series with just the right amount of self-awareness.  Bandette seems to know she’s in a comic, but not to the extent to break the fourth wall.  Our villains seem to know they’re mustache-twirling villains, but remember to actually commit crimes and remain threatening.  Belgique is a comedic foil but still police; Monsieur a friendly rival but still, definitely, a thief.  Coover’s art percolates with light-handed charm and blissful colors, but physics still apply and the palette is mindfully consistent.  Our characters may be pastiches of classic figures but they’re far from stereotypes, personality coming through fir everyone, whether a featured or bit player.

All this seamlessness costs us a tad of urgency, though.  A prose story in the extras displays the flowery phrasing certainly jumping through Tobin’s mind when he pictures / writes Bandette; this playfulness is of course evident on the page, but it’s so much whimsy that the whispery plot of a gang targeting Bandette and her teaming of with Monsieur feels like a hazy memory whilst all the grinning acrobatics are going on.  A series of shorts, drawn by guests artists, also in the extras, suggests how the book could be that much zippier when whittled down to one-off gags, while still giving us little details of the Bandette world.

Must I pick on something so clearly intent on being fun?  Of course.  But any criticisms I could possibly point this collection’s way can’t diminish how well Tobin and Coover meet this intention, supported by some wonderful binding and presentation by Dark Horse.

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