And so begins another Painkiller Jane mini-series. I don’t know why I stopped reading the last one; it just sort of happened. Also, this mini-series has 22 Brides… a group of female mercenaries. So far, so good. Anyhow, let’s see what this mini-series has in store.
Painkiller Jane: 22 Brides #1 (Icon)
As with the first issue of Price of Freedom, Painkiller Jane: 22 Brides #1 has two separate stories in it:
In the main story after we get a recap of the origin for 22 Brides, we cut to New York City. Two of the 22 Brides are enjoying themselves when all of a sudden a building comes collapsing down. When they get involved, the two cross paths with Detective Maureen Fernandez and then in turn, end up working with Jane herself. Someone has been destroying buildings all over the city and it’s up to these women to figure out who is responsible.
The second story, named “Monsters,” features Jane getting herself into some trouble. She was hunting the boss of a man who was dumping body parts and in the process ended up getting herself all tied up. However, being caught never stopped her before and she is soon fighting back. Trouble is though, there may be more to this case than meets the eye when Jane finally confronts the boss himself.
Oh my god! That poor fat man’s spine!
Back in The Price of Freedom #1, I said I liked the fact that the issue provided a bonus story that added backstory and history for Jane as a way to introduce new readers to the character. After all, she hadn’t had mini-series or series in a long time (IIRC), so catching up new readers on the character was a very smart move.
However, this issue had a problem: not explaining almost anything about 22 Brides. As someone new to their existence, I was expecting a little more: their backstory, who they are, what they do, how they connect or know Jane and Fernandez, etc. Unfortunately, this issue did not provide any information about them outside of a brief prologue (I’m still not sure exactly if they are the same characters or just carrying on the name) and that’s something that would have really helped new readers.
So… how do you all know each other again?
The writing is a little uneven at points at well. The book is extremely dialogue and narration heavy throughout, even in the second story. While most of it is perfectly fine with some decent jokes throw into the mix, there are also some odd lines, weird jumps in logic, and some moments that drag. The story pacing is very quick and crams a lot of story and exposition, so it doesn’t feel really padded out or bloated with useless bits; the only problem here is that the story leaves out characterization or real development for the characters, making the book harder to get into since you don’t really grow any attachment to the cast. Both stories, in particular the first one, are extremely heavy on the fanservice and can be a bit too blatant about it. Overall, the first story is simple, but decent and gets the job done. It’s nothing too complicated or complex, but for this book, it doesn’t need to be.
The second story is probably the stronger of the two in different areas. For one, the story is far more interesting with some twists tossed in to keep it interesting. There’s some good characterization and development, especially the moments between Jane and Maureen (Maureen brings up some very good points also)– though Jane herself can be a bit unlikeable or over the top. It’s still very dialogue heavy with some problems, but again, there are some good lines and moments in it. The second story only has two problems that really hold it back; one I’ll get into a second and the second one being the story just kind of stops. It doesn’t really have a conclusion, it just kind of ends without any satisfaction or victory for either side.
Holy crap, I think that guy is the Hulk. I mean, look how big he got between panels!
Both stories get different artists, with returning artist from the previous mini-series, Juan Santacruz (another artist called Norberto Fernandez draws the prologue), and the second story drawn by Steve Mannion. Starting with Santacruz’ art: it’s not too bad at first. It looks different from the first mini-series due to a change of colorist (and possibly inker), but it’s not too bad. The characters look different from one another, the action looks decent, the coloring is alright, and the layouts are fine. However, as the issue goes along, the artwork starts looking less polished and more rushed in areas. It’s not as refined, body proportions look iffy, faces change in style, inking and shading look weird between pages, and more. I heard the issue got cut down from four issues to three, so maybe that had something do with it, but the artwork looks a bit rushed towards the end.
With the second story, however, the main problem is the artwork. It’s got a cartoony and slightly stylized look to it that wouldn’t be too bad for the story (plus it has Paul Monts as the colorist, who does a great job here), if not for the fact that the characters look very wonky; body proportions can radically shift in size and muscle, characters bend in ways that are almost inhuman or look incredibly painful, expressions can be ghastly, some people have the same faces, and more. It got so distracting that it pulled me out of the story with how bizarre some of images were.
I would like to point out that in the previous panel, that man had a beard. Did they shave it off or something?
Is It Good?
Painkiller Jane: 22 Brides #1 is sadly a disappointment. I was looking forward to this since I did enjoy the previous mini-series. However, the stories here were really lacking in different ways. The characters were not well characterized, it was extremely dialogue heavy, the artwork was iffy at points, and it was not remotely new reader friendly. I’m hoping for a turn around with the next issues, because this comic really has some potential for a fun read if it can improve upon/overcome the shortcomings.