Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Review time! with ‘Bandette’ volume 4: The Six Finger Secret

“Kicking me in my heart, tearing me – tearing me – tearing me – tearing me all apart … because me and you could’ve been a work of art”

This is, as you can see, the fourth volume of Bandette (from Dark Horse), the delightful comic by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover. Honestly, that’s all I should have to write – Tobin and Coover are very good creators, so any book they do together should just sell itself, right?

If you need more, I will oblige. Bandette is a series about a Parisian thief who’s in the thieving game just to have fun, and so she does. We might have questions, but it’s best not to ask them: What kind of weird Paris is this, where thieves in odd costumes traipse around and everyone knows who they are? Are we supposed to believe that no victim of Bandette’s cares all that much to really try to track her down? How did she, who is described as a “teenager” once, become such a master thief in such a short period of time? La-la-la, Tobin and Coover can’t hear you, and you should just put those questions out of your mind. It’s a caper comic, and while logically, things don’t always make sense, it doesn’t have to because it’s too enjoyable. You must deal with it!

Each volume of the series is largely standalone, although of course the cast of characters stays relatively the same and there are a few plot points that carry over. It’s easy to catch up, though, although as the series gets longer, I imagine the lives of the characters will become more complicated. The police lieutenant, Price, is in love with her boss, Inspector Belgique (who’s blissfully unaware), and their story moves along glacially but inexorably, so a later volume might be a bit puzzling if you haven’t been reading along, for instance. The older thief, Monsieur (who believes he’s the greatest thief in Paris, a notion Bandette disabuses him of often), has evolved a bit over the course of the series, becoming softer toward his rival and more of a father figure (although he still competes with her). Bandette herself has shown her admirer, Daniel, that she is more interested in him than she originally let on, so there’s another thing that might go somewhere. But generally, Tobin and Coover concentrate on the heists and how Bandette triumphs over her rivals and outright enemies while outwitting the police. It’s very fun.

This might be the best volume yet, because Tobin brings in several characters we’ve seen before and some we haven’t, as many different thieves are after the prize, which in this case is “The Artist’s Studio” by Pierre Subleyras (take a look at it here!). In Bandette’s world, the painting has had some additions made to it, with several coded messages that mean a lot to various people (including Inspector Belgique), so several thieves are after it for several clients. So we get Bandette trying to outwit Monsieur, of course, but also a few new crooks, most of whom are as honorable as Bandette is (she might be a thief, but she’s an honorable one!). And there’s the weird killer dude, Il Tredici, skulking around, so that’s no good. There is a lot of double-crossing, re-stealing, legerdemain, and eating of chocolate (Bandette is a big fan of chocolate), and it’s all very charming. I really don’t want to say much more, because it’s too much fun discovering it for yourself.

Coover is, of course, a wonderful artist, and her style is perfect for this kind of book. It’s a bit cartoonish, sure, but that keeps the tone light, and she can do very nice, detailed work when it’s called for. So Bandette in costume is a bit of a cipher – Coover draws her with a big wide grin and her domino mask shows nothing of her eyes, while her mop of red hair is there to distract people (it’s a wig). When Bandette is “incognito” as her actual self, she has black hair cut in a cute bob, and her eyes, hair, and clothing give her a different personality than when she’s in costume – she’s still a fun young lady, but in a different way. Coover draws a lot of different kinds of people, which is nice – the women are all cute because Coover can’t not draw them that way, but they’re cute in interesting ways, which is nice. Her men are less cute, but they’re still interesting, because she doesn’t have a cookie-cutter way of depicting them, and while someone like Belgique isn’t as fit as, say, Monsieur, he’s still a tough dude. Coover also does a wonderful job with Paris itself, as our hero zips across rooftops and down alleys that aren’t dark and scary at all, while even Il Tredici’s journeys in the sewers don’t look all that awful. There’s a charming shop on every corner, and everyone drives cool cars or adorable mopeds. Coover’s gorgeous, soft “watercolors” make everything look the tiniest bit dream-like, so that even though this takes place in Paris, it’s the “Paris” of the movies, and not the place where naked hookers parade along the south side of the Bois de Boulogne. Coover, unsurprisingly, fits Tobin’s tone perfectly.

There’s nothing terribly consequential about Bandette, to be sure. It’s not a book that pundits will write long exegeses about, and that’s fine. It is simply a very fun story starring a lot of very fun characters doing very fun things. There’s the element of danger, to be sure, but we’re always confident that Bandette will thwart the really evil people and do it in a wonderfully embarrassing (for them) way. These volumes, and this one in particular, are just fun to read. And that’s not a bad thing at all.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆


  1. Eric van Schaik

    After reading your column about the first 3 issues I had to get them and found them half price. I liked them a lot so I’ll have to get this one too. Thanks for the review Greg.

  2. tomfitz1

    BURGAS: I’m not 100% sure, but I think I saw the same redheaded sidekick in Donny Cates’s CROSSOVER.

    Not sure which issue.

    But Madman did show up in it so anything’s possible.

  3. Le Messor

    A couple of years ago, I’d parked my bicycle at work and locked it up. Sometime in the afternoon, some guy came along with an angle grinder and cut through the lock and stole my bike.

    A few months later, it was Free Comic Book Day. I picked up an Avatar comic, and the back-up story was Bandette, which I’d never heard of before; in which she goes to a museum and steals a valuable old film for a bit of fun with her friends. The only way they came close to trying to justify it was that she didn’t steal the even more valuable jewel she could have stolen.

    It turns out I’m not a fan of comics designed to teach kids that stealing is a fun career that’s just a harmless thing to do with your friends.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Well, I’m not terribly sure this is a good comic for kids. Just because Coover’s style is a bit cartoony doesn’t mean kids will like this. She drew a porn comic in the same style, after all.

      I do get what you’re saying, but I just don’t think a 10-year-old, say, is going to pick this up and enjoy it. It’s not really geared toward them.

        1. Greg Burgas

          Oh, I get it. Yeah, that’s a weird choice to pair with Avatar. Methinks the people at Dark Horse didn’t think it through and said “Wow, that cartoony style means it’s for kids!” Silly Dark Horse people.

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