Painkiller Jane #1 by Jimmy Palmiotti (Comics Review)

I remember watching the Kristanna Loken-starrer Painkiller Jane back in my college days and thinking, this is pretty good. I followed the show almost religiously for all of its first season, the only season it got before it ended. It was a superhero show that wasn’t typically superhero-ish. An everyday character with some not-so-everyday powers just doing what is right and bringing criminals to justice. I loved it back then.

And a few weeks ago, Jimmy Palmiotti announced that he was going to be writing a new mini-series of comics based on the character. That was when I found out that he had created this character in the first place, way back in the 90s with Joe Quesada. And I got all excited for this first issue, which launched this last Wednesday. Its been a long wait for this to hit the stands, but I think its been pretty well worth it because I enjoyed the first issue, and I’m definitely on board for more.

Painkiller Jane 01The first issue is divided into two parts. The first one is the main story that is happening in the series and features Jane doing security work off-the-books for her NYPD detective friend Maureen. The second one is more of a background piece that shows us how the two women came to be friends and gives us a glimpse of their time in the police academy. Where the first one is all about the action, the second is all about the character drama and for this reader, they both worked pretty well.

I didn’t know it at the time when I watched the show (and I’ve unfortunately forgotten quite a bit since it was a long, long time ago) but Jane’s character is one that is uninhibited, without the usual restrictions of society. Reading the two letters at the back of the comic helps illustrates this point and this becomes a strength of the comic since it has a small handful of such moments, involving either wardrobe malfunctions or same-sex relationships. The thing about such an approach is that there needs to be a good reason for it. You need to show the reader that this happens organically and is not forced or shoehorned in just for the kicks. This is where Jimmy’s writing works so well, because these moments are organic, they are natural. They are not forced, they just develop over the course of the story, whether it is the current story or the background piece.

In the main story, the characterisation felt a little thin since it was all mostly about the action. Lots of shootings and missiles flying around and Jane being the badass that she is. Things improved considerably in the background piece and if I had to pick, I’d say that the background piece was a much, much stronger piece since it did a great job of expanding on the professional and personal relationship between Jane and Maureen, while also giving us a nice bit of action to focus on.

Some pacing problems in the main story, since the layout of the panels was a little weird, and they all kind of conflated together now and then, but largely, Jimmy and artist Juan Santacruz create a really nice mystery set in New York. With the background piece, artist Sam Lotfi does a really good job with everything, giving both Jane and the antagonists a good look. One thing that I was somewhat confused by however was that there is a very big difference in Jane’s look between the two artists. Juan’s pencils are much more… contemporary and “realistic”, whereas Sam’s pencils are somewhat cartoonish with slightly exaggerated features and bodily proportions.

Still, on the whole, the art in the book is something that worked for me. Paul Mounts on the colours does an excellent job of making all the action and even the character drama lively and engaging while Amanda Conner and Dave Johnson on the covers do likewise.

What it all comes down to is the fact that Jimmy and all the artists have created a story that is a great jumping-on point for all readers. If you pick this issue up, you won’t be lost as to who Jane is or what she can do. This is especially great since the new series is a mini-series. There is a very limited amount of space available to both introduce the characters and keep the plot ticking forward, a balance that the creative team is able to maintain handsomely.

After reading this, I definitely want to hunt down a DVD or something of the show and start watching it.

Rating: 8.5/10

Posted on November 11, 2013, in Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

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