Review: Bandette Volume 1: Presto!

BandetteI imagine you’ve seen Roman Holiday (probably more than once). Now imagine if Audrey Hepburn’s Princess Ann ditches that whole royalty thing and decides instead to don a red wig and a face mask and begin a life of crime.

You would read that comic, wouldn’t you? Luckily for you, it exists and it’s called Bandette.

Bandette is a digital-first comic from Monkeybrain Comics and available through Comixology. But for those of us who still like our comics on paper (and, more importantly, don’t have one of those fancy devices you can read digital comics on), Bandette Volume 1: Presto! (Dark Horse, 2013) collects the first five issues in a beautiful hardcover book, complete with side stories and a few glimpses behind the scenes.

While Bandette by Paul Tobin (writer) and Colleen Coover (artist) does take place in modern times — there’s the Internet, there are cell phones — the overall feel recalls an earlier, more innocent time. Bandette scampers across rooftops and sneaks in and out of houses, all in pursuit of priceless objects. Despite the fact she’s a thief, we are always firmly on her side, as are her crew of “urchins” (a group of friends and helpers). True to her independent spirit, Bandette is on the right side of the law as often as she’s on the wrong side. Mostly, she’s just doing things her way and not taking too much seriously.

In Tobin and Coover’s hands, Bandette is impossibly adorable — always flirty and smart. She charms fellow thief Monsieur, has a teasing battle with rival Matadori, and works to stay one step ahead of the evil Absinthe.

Tobin’s writing keeps the tone light and fun, and while some violence and subtle innuendo pushes the title toward older audiences, it all still feels playful rather than “adult.” Coover’s art is bright and spirited with strong outlines and a vibrant, watercolor-like palette. There is such an inherent sweetness to everything here that softens any darker edges the story might have.

While most of Bandette Volume 1: Presto! is just laying the groundwork for the story that lies ahead, it left me wanting more of Bandette’s adventures and those of her friends and enemies. Few other comics are full of such charm and joy. Bandette shows how much fun comics can be.

Now if I just had one of those tablets so I could keep up between physical volumes …

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