Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Bandette Volume 3 - The House of the Green Mask

This collection came out last fall, and normally I immediately jump on Bandette collections, but I was preoccupied. Job, moving, the complete collapse of all hope in decency, the usual shit. But now I have it, hooray! (Before we start, I want to say the colors in the book look much better than they will here. I took the pictures without using the flash, so as to avoid the glare that so often mars the pictures I use here, but the counter to that is how dark the pictures are)

In Volume 3, a mysterious criminal known only as The Voice is abducting people to interrogate them about a House of the Green Mask. One of the people abducted is Daniel, the delivery boy who is one of Bandette's associates (and completely smitten with her). So Bandette sets out to find and rescue Daniel, by drawing in basically everyone she can. Her friends, the police, various politicians and socialites, dogs. She does find him, they rescue the others, we are given a tantalizing hint towards Bandette's backstory, and the Voice is now a potential threat (and source of creative henchmen) going forward, with Absinthe being taken off the board in Volume 2.

But with Bandette, it's less about the plot, and more about how Bandette moves through it, her reactions, the jokes. So there's an extended sequence where she's trailing The Voice across town through a parade, with the aid of her various Urchins. This is played out over several nine-panel grid pages of Bandette in pursuit of his black car, checking in with her friends via walkie-talkie, while sporting a different disguise in each panel. In one, it's Lincoln's hat and beard. In the next, she's dressed like the Man with No Name. And she's wearing this over her usual outfit, while claiming to be in perfect disguise.

Or Le Monsieur, the only possible challenger to Bandette's title as World's Greatest Thief, thinks he's on the trail of the Green Mask, after watching a film about Madame Presto (which Bandette stole and screened for her friends). And that doesn't go how anyone might expect, either.

Paul Tobin's writing is light, and funny, both in terms of sight gags which Colleen Coover ably draws, and some well-delivered lines (which are also aided by Coover's illustrations). Bandette re-positioning a pigeon while telling it that it is interfering with the drama. Tobin's able to write so that, even when Bandette is being serious - for example, when she's advancing on Dart Petite and mentioning how they're going to discuss how Dart harmed 'her Daniel' - the voice is still recognizably her. It felt silly, but also perfectly in character for Bandette to call up her friend in the police, Heloise, simply to tell her she was stomping, then hang up. That should seem stupid or pointless, but the creative team sells it, so it's cute? Charming?

As mentioned above, Coover uses a lot of nine-panel grids, which allows for a deliberate pacing. Jokes can be drawn out over 3 or 6 panels. We can see a sequence, be it a chase, a fight, or simply a conversation with a flow to it. Things don't seem rushed or crammed together. Coover knows what information needs to be in each panel, and doesn't waste space on stuff that doesn't need to be there. Which is kind of key when working with nine panels, since they isn't going to be much room in each one.

Also, Bandette almost seems to use the pacing of the grids as a chance to disappear at the top of the page, then reappear at the bottom. What I mean is, Bandette likes to surprise people, appearing suddenly behind or above them, seemingly from nowhere. But between where she was and where she ends up, we were following someone else across and down the page at the steady pace of the grid. Like in the page above, where we see her in the upper right corner, then we follow Daniel methodically to the right and down, only to be met by Bandette, who has taken some more direct route. But of course a thief would have no time for for the normal narrative flow of the page, and cut simply to the part she enjoys.

As with the previous two volumes, I highly recommend The House of the Green Mask.

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