The Plainer Jane series continues with issues #4 and #5 being released in quick succession, giving fans of this dark crime series a chance to catch up with teenage contract killer Jane as she tries to navigate her dual life as a killer for hire and a student nurse.
Despite the series being called Plainer Jane, we don’t really get a huge amount of time to spend with the titular character over these two issues. We get some time with her at the start of issue #4, getting to see her interact with her mother, spending time in her medical lessons, and even watching her kill off another of Manchester’s criminal elite, but we don’t really spend much time really getting to know the character the same way we did with the first issues. And issue #5 has even less of Jane than #4.
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Instead, readers begin to see the bigger impact of what Jane has been doing, catching up with the cops looking into the sudden spike in gang killings, and the criminals who can see that there’s a problem going on, and want to do something about it. These scenes really open up the world that the series writer David Wilburn has been creating. Not only do they give us broader context for what it means when Jane starts killing criminals, but they help to build the tension. We know now that what Jane is doing hasn’t gone unnoticed, that factions on both sides of the law know that she exists and plan to take action against her.
It really does begin to feel like Jane has bitten off more than she can chew with these issues, that she never thought through what her choices meant beyond the most immediate, and that she’s going to be facing some serious consequences. But then I also think that these issue have been showing us that Jane is perhaps in a worse place than any of us were expecting. As these two issues go on, Jane becomes more and more withdrawn, she spends less time with her friends and family, she talks less, and even the narration begins to dry up. She’s not even trying to pretend to be ‘normal’ anymore. I think this is showing us that by choosing this path, by making killing her path in life, she’s losing more and more of herself to it, and that the Jane we have now is very different to the one we started this journey with.
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With Jane getting less time to shine as a character, becoming more of a figure that moves from scene to scene simply performing actions than being a real person, other characters begin to move into the spotlight. One that definitely gets a good show here is Sergeant Tyler Lewey, one of the officers working on the gang murders, and whose wife has been in a coma since being injured in a previous issue. Lewey, it turns out, has a big part to play in this story, bigger than I was expecting, and I won’t reveal what that is to avoid spoilers; but I will say that he becomes something of a complex character, and one that may divide some readers.
The artwork for both issues is by Samir Simão, who provides some nicely crisp and clean work for the two books. The art style follows much of what we’ve seen before, with simple black and white illustrations with the odd splash of red to draw your eye or highlight certain things. There are some great two-page spreads that look brilliant, and have a ton of detail to them, and it really does feel like the series is hitting its stride in terms of how it wants to look.
There are a couple of pages right at the start of issue #5 that are full colour, and look more painted rather than drawn. This only lasts for the one scene, and it’s not clear why it’s different here. In previous issues we’ve had back-up stories done in different, colourful art styles, but that isn’t the case here, and it does feel slightly jarring and out of place to start the issue this way before going back to the regular style.
The Plainer Jane series has been a really interesting book, one that has been weaving a story that has been getting more complex and layered as it s been progressing, and it really feels like its building towards something big now. We’ve got more characters involved, a bigger world, and more at stake than we first began with. With all of the developments across these two issues I’m looking forward to seeing what issue #6 has in store for us.
Plainer Jane #4 and #5 are out now from Broken Face Comics.