Review – Bandette Volume 3: The House of the Green Mask HC (Dark Horse)

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Click to enlarge

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Paul Tobin
Artist: Colleen Coover
Release Date: 19th October 2016

Cards on the table time – Bandette is unquestionably one of my favourite comic creations in recent years.  I know that might sound a little odd, particularly given my well-established love of horror books and “darker” characters like Swamp Thing, but when it comes to Tobin and Coover’s multiple Eisner Award-winning “World’s Greatest Thief”, I’m not ashamed to admit that I have a soft spot a mile wide.

This latest volume sees Bandette uncovering the secrets of a fabled treasure trove – the titular House of the Green Mask, only to find that her nemesis the Voice has set his sights on the very same treasure, and is willing to take any steps – including kidnapping – to ensure he gets his hands on it first.

The quirky charm practically explodes off pages here, with Bandette’s whimsical approach to life making this an enormously uplifting read.  Yes, there are the familiar drama, twists, turns, secrets and criminal wrongdoings that have become synonymous with this series, but they all pale in comparison next to watching Bandette happily munching on a candy bar while dispatching a ground of armed henchmen, or having a hilarious run-in with a stubborn pigeon on a telephone wire above the streets of France.  Oh, and the way she disposes of a bomb in the middle a crowded street festival is a thing of absolute beauty, and about as perfect a summary of the character’s appeal as you could possibly hope for.

Tobin’s surprising knack for sweet, tender moments is on full display here, from the coy innocence of Bandette and Daniel’s relationship to the wonderfully executed resolution to Monsieur’s own attempts to get his hands on the treasure.  It’s almost impossible to read this volume (or any of the previous volumes, for that matter) without a smile on your face, and it’s probably worth reminding yourself occasionally that this is the same writer who pretty much ruined both pigeons and fingers for me with his work alongside Juan Ferreyra on critically-acclaimed horror series Colder.

At first glance, Coover’s artwork appears almost basic in its cartoony simplicity, but a closer look reveals the depth and detail on display here, with a wonderful ink-washed aesthetic to the pages that fully embraces – and enhances – the lighter tone of the series.  It may also seem like a fairly trivial point, but Coover does a fantastic job of drawing animals, something which is of vital importance given how prominent a role they play in Bandette’s adventures, from the aforementioned grumpy pigeons to her beloved companion Pimento.  The action sequences flow beautifully, and the expressions Coover gives certain characters – usually in response to Bandette’s frivolous antics – are hilarious at times.

Okay, so the story itself is fairly basic and doesn’t quite land as well as the previous two volumes of the series, but the warmth and likeability of the main characters does more than enough to keep the pages turning.  Seekers of value will also be glad to hear that the bonus content in this volume is truly impressive, from “Urchin Stories” illustrated by Steve Lieber and Cat Farris to a fantastic prose story from Tobin entitled “The Music”.  These all work wonderfully to flesh out the already engaging world, and serve to further highlight the clear love and affection Tobin and Coover have for their creations.

In summary, this latest volume serves as yet another seemingly effortless success from Tobin and Coover.  Perhaps not quite the greatest Bandette story ever told, but still an absolute joy to read from start to finish.  Presto!

Rating: 4.5/5.

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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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