Starting a new comic can be a difficult and daunting prospect for a writer, especially for a book that isn’t part of a larger universe and can’t rely on excitement for existing characters to draw in new readers.
As such, authors of independent comics have to make sure that they deliver a stunning first issue in order to attract readers to stick with their books, and finding a great concept is a key part of that. This is something that writer David Wilburn seems to know is important, and has tried to deliver a comic that not only presents interesting and engaging characters, but a scenario that really grabs the reader’s attention.
Plainer Jane follows Jane, a school girl who’s drifting through her final years at school, unsure what she wants to do with her life. Presented with a number of options at career day, nothing really jumps out at her, so instead she turns to the thing that she would love to do – kill for money. Yes, Jane decides to become a killer for hire, even whilst still being a senior school student. Now that’s a plot outline that definitely grabs me. Wilburn presents it well too, having the book move around a lot using flashbacks in order to quickly draw the reader in with Jane on a job, before taking the reader back to explore her character further.
Whilst seeing Jane going around killing people, something she seems incredibly good at, it’s the exploration of the character and her decisions to become a killer that are the most interesting, and they take up most of the page count of the book. It would have been really easy for Wilburn to have simply focused on the action and gore, forgoing actually developing the character in favour of spectacle, but he made the bold decision to not make this first issue all flash, but gave it some real substance too, something that makes me a lot more interested in reading more of the book.
Whilst the cover of the issue is presented in full colour, and looks great, readers should be aware that the interior art is black and white, with the only colour used in the book being the red of blood, something that really makes the gory, violent moments stand out on the page. Whilst the artwork, provided by Wayne Lowden, is really nice, there were a few moments where I felt the lack of colour let the book down a little, particularly when Jane’s changing out disguises and wigs but doesn’t look too different, as I felt colour would have really helped this scene.
There’s also a moment where a character has her hair coloured black on one page, but seems to then have no shading on the next. This led to a little confusion if this was supposed to be the same character or not. Other than those couple of moments the book looks really good, and the darker, grittier black and white aesthetic adds to its down to earth feel.
If you’re looking for a new comic experience that’s different to the regular superhero fare, something that feels new in itself, and feels really British too, Plainer Jane is definitely worth checking out, and might just become one of your most anticipated books of 2021.
Plainer Jane #1 is out now from Broken Face Comics.