The Banks Review: A Fresh, Engrossing Multi-Generational Robin Hood Tale With a Feminist Twist

the banks tko header
(Photo: TKO)

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Legacy is at the heart of most good crime stories and that is certainly the case in The Banks, but it's accompanied by a twist. Written by Roxane Gay with art by Ming Doyle and colors by Jordie Bellaire, The Banks is a story that weaves its way through three generations of black women—tracing a tale of oppression and justice, one that reveals how past and present may collide to right wrongs in an extralegal, but still righteous, ending. Think of it as a fresh, realistic, multi-generational take on classic Robin Hood themes with an added feminist kick; it's brilliant.

The Banks a heist story in its finest form. The tale follows young, successful investment banker Celia who has worked hard creating a life outside of the "family business." Despite her hard work, Celia is passed over for partner—it's never made clear why, though her gender and race seem to be major factors—and her frustration leads to a discovery that gives her an idea for revenge while bringing her back to the family.

the banks tko
(Photo: TKO)

Her family, in the present day, consists of her mother and grandmother, both lifelong criminals, but The Banks doesn't just tell you they're thieves. Instead, Gay's elegantly plotted, and carefully paced tale shows you the story, the history, the connective tissue between each generation of Banks women and doesn't shy away from the institutionalized racism they all experience. Each of the women, from grandmother Clara to mother Cor and even Celia herself, aren't just criminals for the sake of breaking the law. There's an element in each of their stories which invokes a need for justice. Clara and her husband stole from those with far more than they and their neighbors had. Cor continued the stealing as she grew up, though she did it to ensure that Celia would have a good life. Celia's foray into the world of crime is to right discriminatory wrongs.

While those elements make for a good portrait of the Banks women and an interesting story about how some struggles span generations, all good heist stories have a twist and that twist is what brings Celia's story into sharper focus. No spoilers here, but just like the Banks family business spans generations, so does a certain (grave) injustice. It's this added element which really transforms The Banks into a rich tale and elevates the heist to something more than a familiar comic book caper. Gay brings the story to life with well-formed characters each of whom are interesting, compelling, and nuanced.

The dialogue in the comic is especially excellent—to the point that it almost reads more like a standard prose novella than a comic—but Doyle's art with Bellaire's colors is just so good (no surprise to reader's familiar with their work). The pair brought a similar style to The Kitchen with similar success. It adds depth and realism to the story that enhances the entire experience. You can see the pain on Clara's face, the love in Cora's eyes, the internal struggle Celia feels as she tries to figure out her own place in this story.

The only thing that doesn't work perfectly for The Banks? The comic attempts to bring a bit of law and order into things, almost shifting it into a detective story. It's a strange element that ultimately feels out of place and decelerates events at the end. While The Banks has a satisfying conclusion, the landing is somewhat shaky due to a few extraneous threads the narrative could have done without. In spite of those missteps, The Banks is an engrossing and thought-provoking read, one that feels of the moment, yet absolutely timeless. It presents a new kind of Robin Hood for a modern reader, and then so much more.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Published by TKO Studios

Written by Roxane Gay

Art by Ming Doyle


Colors by Jordie Bellaire

Letters by Ariana Maher

Disclosure: ComicBook is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.