Page 45 Review by Stephen and Jonathan
Firstly, I am beyond excited to note that a whole third of this very reasonably priced indeed volume is a brand new Plain Janes story entitled JANES ATTACK BACK! If that were not enough the previous two stories collected here, the first of which was a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month way back in May 2007, have also been treated to a spectacular new colour scheme.
Right, without further ado, let me present our reviews of the first two instalments!
First up, here's Stephen with the original THE PLAIN JANES
"Hopeless is lying in a hospital bed with a ringing in your ear and trying to forget the screaming.
"Loud noises made me jump. Sounds I couldn't identify made me jump.
"Silence made me nervous.
"But there was hope in that sketchbook."
Since the bomb blast, life has changed for Jane. Some of it - her hair, for example - she changed herself; other aspects, like being relocated from cool city to staid suburbia, has been thrust upon her by her fearful parents. "Mom doesn't see the beauty in anything any longer. She only sees the danger. I want her to stop worrying and love the world again, because if she can, then I can." Her mum, in fact, is neurotic, incessantly phoning her at all manner of embarrassing moments and as we all know, "It's hard to be a rebel on a leash."
PLAIN JANES is packed with such eminently printable quotes, but that's the young lead lady for you: feisty, defiant, quietly cool, predominantly optimistic yet occasionally sardonic.
"Here we go. Nothing worse than starting the school year six weeks late. Remember, it's just four years. Om, and all that."
Jane's actually well received by the "in" crowd at school, but sees no merit in that, electing instead to sit at a table with three other Janes - one a thespian, one a scientist and one an aspiring soccer player - but they're simply not interested in Jane, each other, or anything else outside their own insular little worlds until Jane summons all her wit to understand them, then guile to galvanise them. And so begins their inspired campaign of local art attacks as the covert club called P.L.A.I.N - People Living Art In The Neighbourhoods, and Catellucci's astute observations on adult society's overwhelming confusion if not outright hostility towards public art.
I was honestly quite surprised to declare DC's first salvo in their bid for young-teen female readers such an attractive success. The original cover was horrid (2020's edition's is a vibrant delight!), but the art inside communicates mood and expression successfully and succinctly, whilst there are elements of Jane and her life that are instantly identifiable as nigh-universal, whether it's the overprotective mum (all mums are perceived as overprotective, regardless of innocence or guilt!), the missed opportunities, frozen in romance's blinding and gagging headlights, or just the immortal phrase (muttered several times a week, I'll bet): "Boys suck."
I like the fact that Jane's far from perfect, giving way on occasion to unreasonable sulks, and suffering the setbacks we all do in life along with the inevitable, attendant deflation of confidence. But her creativity and her sense of fun are infectious both for the three Janes and for this reader, and I'd have thought there's nothing more seductive to the book's target audience than the act and art of rebellion. This is full of it.
Then here's JR with JANES IN LOVE
"The question is: what are we going to do?"
"We must remind her that as George Bernard Shaw says, 'Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.'"
"You are so weird."
A direct follow on to THE PLAIN JANES which if you've not read, why not? It was great! On the Minx label so billed as a comic for girls this, like its predecessor, still has appeal like me (36-year-old male) that just likes a well written story. The title is also slightly misleading as again the story primarily revolves around the girls' undercover art attack exploits as P.L.A.I.N. (People Loving Art In Neighbourhoods). However, this time they very quickly get caught by the wonderfully volcanic crew-cropped and moustachioed Officer Sanchez. Surely exactly what J. Jonah Jameson would have been like had he decided to take up a career in law enforcement instead of publishing!?! So the Janes decide to try and go legit and apply for planning permission with the council for an urban art installation in the local park only to be thwarted by the bristling and seething Officer Sanchez. But will the girls manage to win out in the end?
And the reference to love in the title of the book? Well, in between being their neighbourhood's answer to Banksy they all somehow find time to have a look for the man of their dreams in their own inimitable ways for the upcoming school dance, as well as managing to act as matchmakers for two of their favourite local retirees, and deal with various family and friendship problems. I particularly enjoyed the disastrous consequences of Brain Jane's attempt to manufacture a pheromone potion for herself in chemistry class.