When it come to the crime genre, comics are a unique method for storytelling. Whether it’s presenting violence or showcasing the inner monologue of a detective, the graphic medium of comics is perfect for heightening the drama that’s essential for a memorable crime story.
Roxane Gay takes full advantage of that in The Banks, a gritty, multi-generational comic series set in Chicago. The women of the Banks family have built their legacy by being the most successful thieves in the city. But when the youngest member of the Banks decides she wants to join the family business, chaos isn’t far behind.
The family that steals together stays together
At the centre of the series is the relationship between Clara, Cora and Celia Banks. Gay takes the reader on the journey through the lives of all three women, starting with how Clara met the man who became her husband and set her on the path to being a thief. In the modern day, Clara’s granddaughter, Celia, is a savvy investment banker who decided to go her own way. Meanwhile, her mother, Cora, is forced to mediate between them.
When Celia hatches the idea to rob a client, she returns to her family to plan a heist. But her grandmother is skeptical, which leads to them bickering. Cora is more welcoming, and they eventually decide to go through with the heist.
Gay does an excellent job of highlighting the strengths and flaws of each of the Banks women. Clara is the proud and stubborn matriarch, while Cora is protective and taciturn. Celia is presented as spoilt, reckless and intelligent. But all the ladies are powerful in their own way and their family dynamic is relatable, funny and heart-warming.
Tight pacing and suspense
In addition to great character work, Gay tells a suspenseful heist story that gets more and more complex. When an old enemy of the Banks family surfaces, Celia takes matters into her own hands and it almost costs her everything. This creates a variety of twists and turns, with Gay leaving the reader guessing as to whether the heist will be successful or if the Banks will finally be caught.
Artist Ming Doyle brings The Banks to life with colourful splash pages and tasteful scenes of family intimacy. I loved the detail in which Doyle captured the passing of time through Clara as a young woman in the 1970s and the most badass grandma ever in the modern day.
The Banks is a stellar comic series that shares the stories of empowered women forging their own legacies. But at the same time, there’s an infectious family spirit that will leave you wanting to read more about the exploits of Chicago’s most successful thieves.