Saturday, March 15, 2014

Bandette Volume 1: Presto!

I bet 99% of the reviews about this first volume of the Bandette series use the word fun, because dang it, this book just contains so much of it. It follows the exploits of Bandette, a young woman who is also a master thief with a cheeky sense of humor and panache. In addition to that simply brilliant set-up, the book also has a few other amazing qualities, including deft, witty dialogue; imaginative, taut plotting; and excellently composed and colorful artwork. Just take a look at that page and I dare you not be charmed.
Bandette's exploits and appearance belie an old-school, David-Niven-in-the-Pink-Panther type of thief, but the story is very much set in the present day, with the clever use of modern gadgetry and social media to coordinate efforts among Bandette's very large (for a secret thief, I gather) band of accomplices, who include a delivery guy, a band of street urchins, and a trio of dancers.
Plus, the series features further colorful characters, including colorful assassins, rival thieves, criminal masterminds, and the salty police inspector who begrudgingly collaborates with Bandette in times of crisis.
With all these characters and situations, there is the danger of a book like this trying too hard to contain too many "OMG THAT IS AWESOME" elements. But I am happy to report that this one brings everything together in an organic narrative that buzzes along in breathtakingly entertaining ways. This may be the most fun book I have read all year.

Bandette is another creation of husband/wife creative team Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover. They have collaborated in the past on the web-series Gingerbread Girl and Banana Sunday, an all-ages graphic novel about a young woman who becomes guardian of three monkeys. They are both members of the Periscope Studio. Tobin has written a number of comics, notably many entries in the Marvel Adventures series. He has also written a novel about superheroes, Prepare to Die! Coover has also written and drawn the adult comic book series Small Favors, which has a strong following, and a number of short works for Marvel Comics. Coover and Tobin speak more about their work on Bandette in this interview.

Bandette won the 2013 Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic, and all the reviews I have read about this book have been very positive. Hillary Brown called it "wonderfully ephemeral." Publishers Weekly summed up, "This is a wonderful gateway comic for readers of all ages—one of the brightest, and most fun, comics of the year." Craig Neilson gushed, "I honestly can’t recommend Bandette highly enough to those of you who may fancy a change of pace from the overly serious, ‘grimy and gritty’ titles which seem to make up the lion’s share of comic book shelves these days."

The chapters in this book were originally published as 99¢ e-comics from MonkeyBrain, and you can keep up with the more recent episodes there. This book contains the first five installments, plus a bunch of bonus stories from some very talented artists as well as notes from Tobin and Coover about how they create the comic. It is a very well designed and purchase-worthy book, even with the option to cheaply buy the main narrative in shorter segments.

Presto! was published by Dark Horse, and they provide a preview here.


  1. What age would this be directed at? I'm looking for 12+.

  2. It is a pretty all ages book, though I think the reader would need some sense of maturity to get the jokes and appreciate the set-up. There are couple of vaguely adult situations, but I think this book would work well with ages 12+.