I remember when MonkeyBrain Comics first started up over a year ago; they put out a few digital only titles like Edison Rex and Amelia Cole. None of them necessarily grabbed my attention, except for one: Bandette. I’m not sure exactly what won me over: the premise alone or the artwork I saw in the preview, but I was certainly interested. However, for one reason or another, I never ended up buying a copy or reading any of the series (well until the first issue came out for free on Comixology).
Enter Dark Horse, a company that took to releasing the first five (well at the time of this review, only five) issues of Bandette into hardcover format. Now I get the chance to correct my mistake and check out this comic and see it in action. Is it good?
Bandette Vol. 1: Presto! Hardcover (Dark Horse/MonkeyBrain)
There are many things going on with this volume, such as the main story, side stories and other extras. I feel it is best that we take it slow and go over each and every part of this book.
The Main Story:
The main story is about the cunning, upbeat and free-spirited young thief known as Bandette. She is a girl who steals from the evil and the corrupt, doling out her own sense of justice (or larceny. She can’t quite decide what her thievery counts as). She’s not alone in her life of crime, though — she has her own posse made up of young people like herself who wish to aid in her brand of “justice”.
Bandette also features a cast of colorful supporting characters their own motivations and goals. We have Inspector B.D. Belgique, an overworked member of the police who has Bandette’s number on speed-dial; Monsieur, an old school thief and her biggest rival; an assassin named Matadori, who also wears a fashionable cape and holds a grudge against Bandette. So many interesting characters and fun times await you inside the book.
I’ll start by saying this: I have never read or seen anything by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover (our story’s creators) before this book. After reading Bandette Volume 1: Presto!, I really want to check out some of their previous works. This is a very fun, well-written, wonderfully drawn and engaging comic and I am glad to have read it. It’s always a wonderful thing to find that one’s high expectations for a book are met and you are still given more than what you could have asked for.
The nerve of that man! Being home while you are robbing the place! Rude much?
Let’s begin with the story itself: Bandette is a well-crafted tale where everything works. It has great pacing and flow, leading the audience along at the right speed so they can fully absorb and take in what is being presented. Not one bit of the story feels padded or stretched out, giving every single bit of character and storyline ample time to get its point across and be effective. Nothing is wasted and every bit has a purpose, whether for characterization, story, tone, or even humor.
The characters are absolutely delightful and it has been a while where I have been this enchanted by a cast of characters. The characters are all fully realized and feel really different from one another — right dow to their speech patterns, movements, and personality. Bandette is extremely likeable and a great main character with her quips, upbeat demeanor, and ability to fully grasp and take a situation seriously without losing her charm. The people that interact with her are just as great with their own stories and goal, one particular highlight being the scene between Bandette and Matadori as they try to one up each other and explain how.
The dialogue deserves a special mention here in that it is so damn good. To me, dialogue is always something that many comic book writers have difficulty with; either from trying too hard to make it sound natural or realistic or conversely, conveying tone and emotion. Most often, dialogue seems be average in comics, to where it is neither very bad nor very good. It’s serviceable and gets the job done, but you don’t notice it all that much. This is one of the few cases where I’ve seen characters talk and it felt just right for an entire book. The way each character talks here has emotion, personality, and tone to it. The way they interact where it can be serious or silly; it never feels off for one second, even when Bandette is joking around. It works because the way each person talks matches and feels right for each character to say something like that. Also, the comic takes place in France and the way everything is written, with the phrasing and careful word placing, it does sound like these people are speaking French run through an English filter (and not just talking about the bits of French sprinkled into the book). It’s very hard to explain, but if you read the book and dialogue, you could hear the accents on each of the characters.
The artwork of Bandette Volume 1: Presto! is just as impressive as the rest of it. Collen Coover’s art has a water color painted approach, one which I enjoyed immensely (though I’m not sure how others would feel about this). Like the story itself, there is a great sense of movement and flow to the art, especially in the character movement. The story moves naturally from panel to panel as well. Two great highlights in the first chapter would be Bandette on a moped getting chased down by some bad guys or the aforementioned scene with Bandette and Matadori. The art really brings everything together quite well.
The color palette in Bandette’s little world is clear and bright and the look of the locales and overall ambience definitely scream France. However, I was most impressed by the range of facial expressions exhibited by the characters. I will admit that some of the characters tend to have similar looking faces due to a minimalist/purposely simplistic style in that area — but the range in expressions is nonetheless quite impressive. You can definitely always tell what a person is feeling or trying to convey, even with Bandette wearing her mask. These expressions often help sell the humor and characterization for a lot of these characters and scenes, so it’s great that they are so versatile.
Sorry, no one is into charming wit like they were.
I have only a few nitpicks with the story: One, I really wish the story would come out more often. We’ve only had five issues spread out over a year, so it can be a little troublesome for the readers to remember everything that happens in the story. (I don’t hold it against this book, just something I felt the need to comment on). The second bit is that we don’t know the backstories for a lot of these characters; not to say that a character can’t be great without extensive backstory, but I wouldn’t mind knowing more about how Bandette got her start or how she also works with the police. These are very small nitpicks and do not hurt the story at all in the tiniest bit, but I can’t let my enjoyment for the work conceal the small problems with it.
Along with the main story of Bandette we get something called the Urchin Stories, written by Paul Tobin and drawn by an array of different artists. They are basically a small collection of eight 2-3 page short stories involving various different characters in the Bandette, like the inspector and Matadori. There is not much to them but they are enjoyable little romps. The artwork varies in quality, which an occasional off looking story. Still it’s enjoyable and a nice little inclusion for the collection.
Note: At the time of this review, a ninth story has been released and is available to read for free on MonkeyBrain’s website. If you liked these stories, make sure to check that one out as well.
Move out of the way! We got a date with a bunch of guys way older than us!
This is a short little story from the viewpoint of the one of the characters in the series called Daniel, who is sort of Bandette’s love interest (as one of the characters best puts it, she sends a lot of mixed messages on whether or not she is truly interested), and written by Paul Tobin again with some occasional drawings from Colleen again.
The short story is about the two of them stealing something and about how Daniel first met Bandette. It’s a nice little tale and it does at least fill in a little background for how Bandette met the guy (helping out with that little backstory nitpick I had). I’m not the best person to judge whether or not a prose story worked, but I had no complaints with it and I’m sure fans will enjoy it as well.
The book also has a few other extras for people who are interested in getting it. There is a little section on what Bandette had “liberated” from different people, including some history around the objects and their creators. We have script excerpts from the comic and some art techniques on how the artist draws the book, which is very neat and shows just how difficult it can be when it comes to drawing comics (especially for a person who does the drawing, inking, and coloring!). There is also a foreword by Paul Cornell (he wrote Saucer Country, Demon Knights, and had a stint on Action Comics), some special thanks from the creative team, and a bit biological information.
There are some decent extras here overall, especially with the section on background information for the objects stolen. However, if you are a person who isn’t interested in the extras or anything like that, I don’t see anything here that’ll make you want to check them. Nice bonus, but that’s pretty much it.
The final statement I can have about the book is the price point for it. It currently retails at $14.99 American. There are five issues in this comic in total and each issue a buck (one may still be for free), while those Urchin tales are free to read on Monkeybrain. Despite the immense quality of the comic itself, if you don’t want to check out any of the extras or the short story in it, I don’t see any reason to buy the hardcover. You’ll definitely want to check out the comic, but maybe not the hardcover.
- All of the stories are very enjoyable and well told.
- The artwork is beautiful and really adds a lot.
- The characters and dialogue are delightful in every way.
- The price point may or may not stop you.
Is it Good?
Bandette Vol. 1: Presto! was a very enjoyable and great comic overall. It’s very rare that I get to read a comic that is near perfect in almost any way I can think of. For the fans who have enjoyed the series and want to double dip or the people who want to check this out and money is of no concern, get this book right now. Heck, get a copy for a friend or relative! Head over to Amazon to order your copy of Bandette Volume 1: Presto!. Tell ’em AiPT sent you.