TKO Studios presents The Banks, written by New York Times bestselling author Roxane Gay (Hunger ; Black Panther World of Wakanda), and illustrated by artist Ming Doyle (The Kitchen). This six-issue series tells the story of the Banks family, the most successful thieves in Chicago. For years they pulled off heist after heist because of their golden rule: get in, getaway, get paid and never get greedy.
The youngest, Celia Banks, is an investment banker, who distanced herself from her family after she refused to have any part her mother and grandmother’s life of crime. However, when Celia comes across an opportunity to pull off the heist of a lifetime, she decides it’s time for her to join the family business. They soon learn that this heist is connected to their past and it becomes much more than the chance at a huge payday. It becomes a chance for revenge. Now they have to learn how to put their past behind them in order to band together in order to settle the score.
Ming Doyle’s art style is a real treat to see in this series. I especially love how she captures the aesthetic of each generation’s era. Whether it’s through hairstyles or clothing Ming does a great job of setting the era through the characters’ designs.
Making Chicago the setting for the story was a great touch. Chicago has a vast history of organized crime and heist, so it makes an excellent location to tell the Banks’ women story. I especially appreciated how Gay doesn’t just use the location as a backdrop but goes further to specify actual locations that add to the story. For example, when Melvin and Clara are doing a job together you specify that the location is in Evanston, a wealthy Northern suburb of Chicago.
The specific location lets me know right away that the Banks aren’t just some common low-life criminals that just rob anyone. They choose their targets carefully and have only stolen from the rich. Granted, there are some things I think that only natives of Chicagoland like myself will get more out of than people who aren’t very familiar with Chicago. And while these things are minor but nonetheless I think it’s a nice nod to Chicagoans.
What I enjoyed most of all about this series is that the creators take their time giving each of the Banks women their own individual identities. Each of the Banks women has gone through different situations and experiences over their life, and that shows how the creators made the effort to give each woman their own identity.
For example, the matriarch Cora, migrated to Chicago from Mississippi by herself in 1968. A task that’s not easy by any means during that time, but she manages to do it and that shows her resiliency. Especially when she had to raise herself and her daughter Clara on her own while her husband was in jail. Cora is resourceful and hardworking, and she uses the means she has to make a way when it seems like there no way.
Then there’s her daughter Clara who grew up learning the family business from a young age. So she has a deep respect for the type of work that they do. She has no shame in being a thief because it’s how her mother managed to raise and support her and that’s how she did the same for her daughter.
And last but not least there’s Celia, the youngest of the Banks women. She didn’t grow up knowing the family business, instead, her family made sure she was kept out of it. They gave her everything she ever needed and more. But when she learns the truth about her mother and grandmother she distances herself from them, not wanting to be involved with criminals like them. So she prides on being driven and pushes herself to work twice as hard to get the things she wants. However, it’s ironic that she ends up being an investment banker and works with clients, some would say are far worse criminals than her family.
I’m not saying that I think it is a difficult task to give Black female characters their own identities. Still, I do think it’s something that Black woman characters don’t always get that individuality as they quickly feel like tokens when there’s only one of them. And that’s what makes this series so good. No one feels like a token or has to be the character that represents all Black women. They each get to have their own identity and life and while also being connected and playing a role in each other’s lives.
There are not many, if any, negative things I can say about this series. If anything I wish that it was longer, specifically to have more time with characters like Clara. She’s an interesting character, but still, I can’t help but feel like we don’t get enough time just focused on her throughout the series. She’s usually stuck put in the middle of keeping piece between her mother, Cora, and her daughter’s, Celia, arguing and head butting with one another. I would have liked to see what other kinds of experiences she went through as growing up immersed in the family business as a teenager and as being a gay Black woman in Chicago in 80s and 90s.
Overall, I highly recommend grabbing The Banks it’s a great graphic novel that also makes a refreshing addition to the heist genre. As a lover of the heist genre myself, so reading The Banks was a great pleasure. The best part about this series for me is that it is a story that centers on Black women. I can’t recall many heist films or comics that have done this before, and that’s another reason why the story feels so refreshing and original to me. We haven’t seen a story as the Banks told from this perspective much if at all. I think the closest thing it comes close to the Banks is Set It Off.
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A great graphic novel that also makes a refreshing addition to the heist genre. As a lover of the heist genre myself, so reading The Banks was a great pleasure.