Debuting through Marvel’s Icon imprint, “Painkiller Jane: The 22 Brides” #1 brings readers a whole lot of Jane. The issue, written by Jimmy Palmiotti has two stories: The opening chapter of a multi-part adventure, and a one-shot back-up, though weighing in at twenty-two pages, “Monsters” pushes the boundaries of the definitions of a ‘back-up tale,’ despite the fact that it is placed at the backside of this issue. As a matter of fact, the lead tale is only twenty pages in length, which makes the back-up more like a feature, right? Whatever the case, the end result is the same: “Painkiller Jane: The 22 Brides” #1 delivers a lot of story for its $4.99 cover price.
The first of those two stories is part procedural and part action flick as Jane and her girlfriend, Maureen, cross paths with the Brides while investigating a series of exploding buildings. That story is preceded by a four-page prologue tale recounting the history of the Twenty-Two Brides. That four-pager alone could, and would, be expanded to fill an entire issue of a comic from other creators or publishers, but Palmiotti really packs the panels and pages of “22 Brides” with dialog and character dynamics. Promoting his PaperFilms brand, Palmiotti is able to creatively stretch under the Icon label and does so, giving Jane space to express herself to the readers.
The art in the prologue, under all of the bare breasts and awkward poses, is detailed, resulting in a comic book appropriate for mature readers. Norberto Fernandez handles the art chores with linework reminiscent of Paul Gulacy. The narrative of the prologue is told through caption boxes, reflecting the images in panels toned by the color work of Challenging Studios. The prologue gives readers just enough information about the Brides before diving into the story, illustrated Juan Santacruz, whose art is a little more prone towards titillation and rigid poses with characters clad in some really weird fashion choices. The art for the final scene of the lead story gets fluid, and not in a good way, with the mysterious Mr. Adams sporting a shifting — in both position and color — hairline, augmented by coloring that doesn’t quite succeed in emulating a sunset spilling into an office.
“Monsters,” the second story reads like an introduction to Jane and her girlfriend, Maureen, but sports a timeline that is slippery when juxtaposed with the first tale. Palmiotti again packs the panels with exposition, occasionally slipping into really heavy, borderline unnatural, dialog that ditches contractions and colloquialisms a little too much. Steve Mannion’s art is cartoony and exaggerated most of the time, occasionally struggling to convey detail, but never sacrificing clear storytelling and projected expressions. Not unlike Amanda Conner blended with Tom Mandrake, the art is filled with energy, cemented to the page by shadow.
“Painkiller Jane: The 22 Brides” #1 is a thick book with a lot to offer readers. Longtime fans of Jane will certainly get more out of the comic than newbies, but the second story will give them all they need to know to understand the title character. This is a comic that pulls very few punches, filled with female nudity, swearing and violence, a book which isn’t for the squeamish, easily offended or reserved. It’s unapologetic, and sets the tone for the series on the very first page.