Plainer Jane – Graphic Novel Review

The independently produced and Kickstarter-funded comic series Plainer Jane was released by Broken Face Comics across seven issues from 2020 to 2022. The series followed a young woman living in the UK, who decides to turn her murderous urges to good use, and becomes a killer for hire. However, her dark deeds soon catch the attention of both the mob and the law. For those that may have missed out on the series, there’s another chance to get your hands on it, as a new full colour graphic novel is now available.

Plainer Jane centres on Jane, a teenage girl who has grown up with something of a dark side to her. Ever since killing a bird as a child (in exchange for money) she’s had a lust for killing, and spent her time ‘practising’ by killing other animals. But animals fail to really scratch the itch that she’s had going since that first kill. Reaching the end of her school years, Jane is expected to find a future for herself, but nothing at the school career day excites her as much as her dreams of murder. With nothing left to pick from, she ends up joining her friend Kat at nursing collage.

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Whilst Jane settles into a quiet life as a nursing student she begins a second, secret career. Finding a website on the dark web that lists jobs for killers, she discovers the one career that she’s always wanted to do. Beginning small, with a hit on an annoying dog, Jane tries her hand at murder for money and finds that she loves it. After a few weeks she finally gets her first hit on a human being, on a man sleeping with a married woman. And thus Jane steps fully into the world of contract killing, stalking her target, learning their routines, and killing them. As Jane continues her killing she soon finds herself wanted by the police for her series of grizzly crimes, and becomes the target of a local crime lord for killing his men. Now Jane will have to put everything she’s learned to the test in order to survive.

Plainer Jane is a book about its central character first and foremost. Half the book is focused on Jane, her personal life, her relationships, and her world outside of killing. It’s not the story of a cold blooded murderer, or at least not just that, and is a story about a young woman and how her life spins out of control. That being said, Jane isn’t a nice person. She isn’t a hero for us to root for. She’s a killer, she takes joy in taking lives, and it seems like she’s the kind of person who would have killed at some point anyway even if she hadn’t turned to contract killing. The fact that she openly admits that she abused and killed animals as a kid makes her a monster.

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That being said, you can’t help but get drawn into her narrative. She becomes a character that you want to see more of, a person whose story you want to see play out, even if it is just to see how she gets her comeuppance. It’s a credit to the book’s writer, David Wilburn, that he’s able to craft the story in such a way that you become invested in the character without ever really liking them. I’m sure that there are some out there that will find Jane disgusting from the outset, who may even hate her as a character, but I never found myself being able to fully hate her. She’s a complex figure, one that has more layers to her than you first think.

Having previously read the story when it was released in individual issues it was great to get to read the series again, especially in one single go like this. One of the drawbacks of Kickstarter comics is that it often can take several months between issues being released, something that can really harm the flow of a story. Whilst that never really happened here, reading Plainer Jane as a collected graphic novel was a much better experience, and led to me enjoying the later chapters a lot more.

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This new collection doesn’t just bring all of the already released issues together into one volume, however, it also colours them. The individual issues were released in black and white, with the occasional use of red in the book whenever blood was on the panel. Here the book is presented in full colour, and it definitely changes the feel of things. Black and white comics tend to get labelled as ‘darker’ and ‘gritty’, and I think that it’s a stylistic choice that can absolutely enhance the right kind of story, whilst also sometimes hindering other kinds.

The more violent origins for something like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles worked well in black and white, but a Superman comic would be better in colour, for example. Is Plainer Jane a story that suits one style more than the other? I don’t think so, no. Whilst the book worked in black and white it’s also great in colour, and there are even some segments of the book that I’d say work better this way. Colourist Linda Scott Campbell had a big task updating the series for the book, but did a great job.

For those who haven’t already picked up Plainer Jane this new release is the perfect way to experience it. The collected story is the best way to read it, and the newly coloured art looks fantastic and delivers a bright and vibrant experience. For those who’ve already backed the single issues and have the floppies it’s still worth checking out the graphic novel. The coloured version of the book does alter the feel somewhat, and gives you the opportunity not just to have a nice looking book on your shelf, but to have a whole new way to experience the story.

Plainer Jane is available now from Broken Face Comics

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