The best thing about Western comics is that they don’t only stick with one possibility, one result, or even one universe. This issue of Painkiller Jane, evoking the badass red head from 1990’s surge of Girrrrrl Power, is very blunt in its presentation. Both and portray Jane in this light, though she comes off as two different people. Juan Santacruz‘s Jane has youthful short hair, a nasty attitude, and is very impatient. Compulsive and living in the moment are not unexpected traits for someone that had to discard her entire life to become an unofficial tool of justice. In the first story, there is a funny parallel between the girl being saved by Jane and Jane herself. That is, very important people are looking for both of them and Jane is not letting anyone get to either. Her prominent freckles and almost contemptuous pout really add on to this middle fingers up your nose attitude. Meanwhile, Sam Lofti‘s Jane is very much a woman. Approximately the same in voluptuousness and tenacity, they are very different because this Jane is much more sentimental, giving a better background for the reader to connect to. Honestly, I like Santacruz‘s art style better- from the rough lines to the Cabana Summer atmosphere, Yet Lofti‘s style encapsulates this character as someone so solid and getting through tough shifts in life with a friend she truly appreciates. It was definitely a great decision to put these two against each other in one issue, especially with the decision of revamping the ole bad girl motif.
The first half’s writing for Jane is not very convincing. Typically someone who goes through such upheaval in their lives are less prone to being a, well, dick. I love looking at Santacruz‘s version of Jane, but reading her dialogue hurt my head at times. Also, the “spoiled rich girl who doesn’t deserve help, but gets it anyway” theme has been so overdone since the rise of Paris Hilton, I can’t be annoyed too much at this specific damsel in distress nor can I be bothered to care her first realization that the world can be a terrible place. I just really didn’t care. I liked looking at it, but I don’t like thinking about the actual story. Now Lofti‘s Jane matches the writing very well. As I said before, she is very much a grown woman who has been through a lot. I will say, though, Lofti‘s stylization can be very jarring at times. Different angles make Jane’s and other characters’ proportions awkward and even alien. Even though I liked the writing and inner monologues, the darker colors, and the action panels, this issue kept on distracting me. I thought I didn’t like this version much more than the first, but thinking on it changed my mind. I still wouldn’t pay as much attention to the art as the dialogue though.
Painkiller Jane is worth your god damn time because she didn’t go through all this shit to get ignored by some punks. Really though, she is inspiring in the way she moves on with life. She doesn’t necessarily cut out her past, but she seems to mostly focus on the positive things in her life. Especially the relationship she still has that connects her to said past life. I’m looking forward to the 2nd issue. 4 stars outta 5
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