Ocean’s Eleven has nothing on this character-driven heist comic.
Celia Banks comes from a family of the most successful thieves in Chicago, but she’s turned her back on that business to go legit. When she’s passed up for a big promotion, despite working twice as hard as anyone else in the firm, she decides to pull a heist of her own, targeting her employer’s biggest client. The heist gets personal when it turns out this client has ties to the man who put her grandfather in jail years ago. It’s a family affair now.
While you might pick up The Banks for the heist angle, you’ll stay for the character driven story. Writer Roxane Gay develops these characters in such a way that you’re immediately invested in their lives. We bounce around through time, showing key moments from their past and how they’re influencing actions in the present. They didn’t set out to be thieves. This is the hand they were dealt and they do what they have to in order to get by, especially when Melvin Banks, the patriarch of the family is sent away.
That isn’t to say that these women can’t handle themselves without a man around. It’s quite the opposite. Celia, her mother Cora, and her grandmother Clara are the brains of this operation. They’re strong and independent, fully capable of taking care of things on their own.
Artist Ming Doyle shows the family resemblance between these three generations while also establishing a unique look for each of them. Clara is hardened, having been through more than her daughter or granddaughter, while Celia is softer, yet with a strong disposition. She’s more like her grandmother than she’d like to admit. Cora is the middle between the two.
What’s also striking about The Banks is the amount of love this book shows. It’s not just about the heist. Yes, that’s what brings them together, but this is a family full of love. They care so deeply about each other and those in their immediate vicinity. This is especially true of the relationship between Cora and her wife. The only relationship that didn’t totally work for me was that of Celia and her boyfriend. The guy feels completely out of place and has a fraction of the personality of any other character in the book.
Colorist Jordie Bellaire creates that welcoming tone in The Banks with a slight edge to it. A great example of this is when Celia gets a little desperate, taking matters into her own hands. The scene shifts from the cool blues of the evening to a violent red of a night club as Celia gets too close to the target, putting her in danger. The whole scene is shaded in this red from the lights of the club and it works to heighten the tension in dramatic fashion.
There’s a healthy amount of setup before the heist is pulled off and letterer Ariana Maher guides us through this exposition well. Each word balloon placement serves to focus our attention and pull us through each panel.
The Banks is a fantastic heist comic that is driven by family. It is an amazing story coupled with incredible artwork and packed with a whole lot of heart. It will also keep you guessing until the very end, wondering how this heist will be pulled off.