Jimmy Palmiotti brings his Painkiller Jane character (co-created with Joe Quesada in 1994) back with this four issue mini-series “Painkiller Jane: The Price of Freedom.” The first issue features artist Juan Santacruz illustrating the 20-page primary story “The Price of Freedom” while artist Sam Lotfi handles the 10-page back up titled “From The Beginning.”
The main story, one of Jane on a mission at the request of her longtime best friend, NYPD Detective Maureen Fernandez, is nothing particularly interesting — as a spoiled “princess” is being attacked at an airport and Jane is the only one in a position to save her. While it’s nice to see so many women in leading roles, what we have so far on each of them is shallow. Jane is the “badass that doesn’t follow the rules,” Maureen is the “tough as nails detective,” Sabina Poonwalla is the “spoiled, vain, stupid, princess that needs saving,” etc. It’s just a bunch of cliches thrown onto paper at this point. Is there time for greater depth to be found for these characters? Of course, but what’s here now is paint by numbers. Similarly, Detective Fernandez’s interaction with the FBI rings false and overly convenient. Even the jokes in this first issue, generally Palmiotti’s strength, fall flat.
The visuals by Juan Santacruz are equally uninspired. There are some pretty moments and he draws beautiful girls, but the storytelling is overly busy and works really hard to force as many T&A-worthy moments as possible, whether they’re the best choice for the story or not. Every panel is packed with characters, the drawing is frequently inconsistent and the pacing needs work. There’s a scene in which a missile is mere feet from crashing into a window, but Jane (with spoiled princess in tow) is able to run across a hallway and into a bathroom for cover before it crashes into them. It’s just sloppy.
The back-up story is an odd addition in that it feels as if it’s there primarily as a primer to bring new readers up to speed on the character, but placed as it is at the end of the of book it feels wholly unnecessary. That said, for the most part it’s more charming, especially visually, than the main story.
Lotfi’s exaggerated art style is a great fit for a Painkiller Jane story, with his extreme poses and high-octane action. The storytelling itself could be stronger, but his take on both Jane and Maureen is great, and the last splash page panel of them in particular has a great buddy cop vibe that’s very fun. That’s the strength of Palmiotti’s writing in the back-up as well — the focus on Jane and Maureen as an inseparable hard as nails pair of action chicks. Unfortunately, the story itself is thinly sketched and stumbles badly in the middle with three pages of tedious exposition that are impossible to care about.
While Painkiller Jane is an interesting enough character and the idea of a cool buddy cop book starring two ladies is certainly appealing, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. So far there’s just nothing particularly sharp, funny, or original in “Painkiller Jane: The Price of Freedom.”