The creators of Bandette have a novel idea for a (kinda) superhero comic: instead of gritty and dark, why not lighthearted and fun? The main character, Bandette, has elements of both Catwoman and Hit-Girl from Kick-Ass, but Paul Tobin’s writing never takes itself too seriously, and Colleen Coover’s artwork especially with the book’s French/European setting and backgrounds – is a little bit reminiscent of the children’s book/cartoon/TV show character Madeline, plus the old Warner Brothers Pepe LePew cartoons.
Bandette is a cat burgler/thief, though like Catwoman, in a Robin Hood ‘rob from the rich’ way, which is my favorite aspect of this book, and an idea that I’d like to see explored more in comics in general. That is, the people she steals from have made their fortunes doing bad things – though technically legally – like on the labor of others. Though, of course, rich people do steal too. So, for example, in issue #1, “Presto!” she breaks into a billionaire arms-dealer’s home in order to steal some artwork that he has stolen – in other words she steals it back, kind of (though she’s not above keeping a little for herself!).
She also is somehow independently wealthy while still being on the older side of high school age (I think), with a “Secret Treasure Room” and access to some high-tech toys, like Hit-Girl does, and when in action she wears a cute pink-and-red wig and dress. Bandette also doesn’t seem to have parents, which might be the one dark thread of the plot arc, though really the whole point of the story is that Bandette and her teenage friends live in a world unfettered by depressing things like parents. That said, unlike Hit-Girl, though Bandette is capable of karate kicks to the head, that’s not really her thing. If things get rough, she just tends to drive off on her scooter, laughing the whole time, keeping up a snarky Spider Man-esque running commentary.
In sum, she’s smart, Bandette is confident, she’s fit, she’s rich, she’s cute-sexy (or maybe sexy-cute)( and she’s beloved by her fellow teen community members, who are willing to help her out with a simple text from her fashionable phone. Yes, and when the police need help with a hostage situation, who do they begrudgingly call? That’s right! Bandette! It’s a teen fantasy/reality: adults are all mostly clueless and incompetent like in Real Life, and teenagers, who know what’s really going on, are willing to stop the fun they’re having (like playing basketball and taking dance lessons) to help them out, especially if it means having more fun messing with bad guys.
Normally I like collected volumes of individual comics, but I had to take this one in doses, so as not to be overwhelmed by cuteness. But as the issues progress, the creators start to let loose and get weird. Tobin introduces new characters and fleshes out some minor ones, like the mysterious Monsieur, and Matadori, a female Zorroesque rival of Bandette’s. These two or three page mini-stories are where Coover gets to really show her chops—the artwork changes radically, and often, my favorite being yellowed-looking pages like the old old Golden Age comics.
Bandette is a good comic, and certain audiences will find it great. I’m not quite in those audiences, and I hesitate to offer up huge generalizations about who they might be (though that hasn’t stopped me before, I guess) but, for example, if my nieces were just a little older—say, ten or fifteen—I’d consider Bandette a great gift. I say that having already given them some of my Catwoman comics, but that’s my point: Catwoman seemed to be a wee bit over their heads, plus she has issues. Bandette models what confident free-spirited young women can be like. But there’s much for adults to enjoy here too, especially Bandette’s snarky commentary and that glorious later-issue artwork.