Digital Comic: Bandette

January 13th, 2013

Recently I had one of those “why have I never heard of this before?” moments when I learned that Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin were collaborating on a YA comic with a female lead called Bandette.

Well, it just so happens that this year I had hoped to discuss more YA (Young Adult) indie comics with female leads. Let me first discuss the concept of “strong female lead” as I define it:
On Quora I defined a “strong woman” as “Women in control of their circumstances rather than just bearing up well in bad circumstances. Anyone might find themselves able to fight to the last breath in desperation, but the best make sure they never have to.

Here on Okazu, I have elaborated, “Women who are perfectly capable living in a world populated by men and women; women who can take command of both men and women and be respected as leaders – and who are not judged by a set of standards that are skewed so they can only ever fail. Women who can find their own solutions to issues, not to have to excel at men’s thinking or men’s skills to be considered a success.

Most action genre media portrays a “strong female lead” as a woman, pushed to the point of having nothing left to lose (i.e., already in circumstances out of their control), doing things more properly expected of male leads like fighting (i.e., excelling at “men’s skills.)

In Bandette, we see a story constructed within both the criteria I lay out for a strong female lead. Bandette is perfectly in control of her circumstances. Money is, clearly, not an object (much as it is not for, say, Tony Stark.) She is surrounded by friends and colleagues, whose respect and loyalty she commands through the use of respect and loyalty. When her “urchins” perform their roles beautifully, she calls them up to tell them so. How perfectly girly is that? ^_^

Bandette inhabits a world in which both Raffles and Saint Tail would be comfortable – inhabited by wealthy collectors, and invaluable art, Bandette’s world also includes city kids playing in the street and women in dance class. To add the dash of derring-do we all expect in a gentlewoman thief/artful dodger story, Bandette works with a grumpy, grumbly, allegorically foul-mouthed detective who could have stepped out of a Pink Panther movie, and rival/mentor Monsieur, who is the embodiment of all gentlemen thieves.

There are many things to like about Bandette. Right out of the gate, it makes no attempt to “realisticize” itself. This is a fantasy world, just kick back and enjoy. And never, not in a single panel, is the series condescending or trying to prove what does not need proving. This series is post-“girls can be heroes too!” in the exactly right way. A girl is the hero. Yep. And then…a great story happens! No wallowing in the circumstances that forced Bandette to become… nope, just a girl having a hell of a lot of fun doing what she’s doing. (Again, reminiscent of Saint Tail.)

Bandette is not a sexpot…oh my goodness what a relief. I’m never forced to stare at crotch or breast, or anything but her big grin. Her body is simply not part of the equation. Her mind, which is the proverbial steel trap, is.

I *love* that the character intros are also the “Story So Far,” and I really like that we’ve joined the story after the mythos of Bandette is already established in the participants’ minds. This no origin story, Bandette is well-known and liked/loathed by the people in the story. We learn she has previous adventures and previous relationships with the characters.

The potential love interest is also set up with conscious deliberation. The attractive delivery boy is completely loyal to Bandette, and she treats him like a valuable member of the team – and as an attractive boy. In fact, she jokes about that easily, “This attractive young lad will…” without uncomfortable sexual tension or creepy “brain goes duh when attracted to male” that is still far too often the norm for female leads. He works with Bandette just as easily. No out of place blushiness, no nosebleeds. You know that he’s part of the team because he wants to be part of the team. If they get together, I’m confident that Coover and Tobin will craft a good arc around it and I won’t roll my eyes at all.

As a YA comic, the story holds up as sheer “fun.” No adult condescension, just young people being bad-on-the-side-of-good which is always a winning setup, and decent characters who are having fun being characters, no life-draining angst need apply. I even enjoyed the fanfic-y use of random French words, which gives the story that early 20th-century Lupin-esque flavor it deserves.

Monkeybrain Comics has released Bandette as digital only, through Comixology. I gotta tell you, my tablet was made for reading this comic, really. It’s the perfect size, the color pages look fabulous. It’s 99 cents an issue and worth every penny.

Ratings:

Overall – 9

I’d easily recommend Bandette to any comic reader, female, male, young or old.

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5 Responses

  1. Liz says:

    I’m totally going to check this out.

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