Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Plain Janes

Castellucci, Cecil and Jim Rugg. The Plain Janes. Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher. New York: Minx - DC Comics, 2007. Print.
[Book cover credit: librarything.com/work/2335288]

After being injured in a bombing in Metro City, Jane's parents move her out to the 'burbs where it is safe. Trying to come to grips with what she's been through and make a difference at the same time, Jane falls in with a group of misfits. Together Jane (Main Jane), Jayne (Brain Jane), Polly Jane (Sporty Jane), and Jane (Theatre Jane) form P.L.A.I.N., People Loving Art in Neighborhoods. By pooling their talents the PLAIN Janes stage art "attacks" all over their town, engaging their high school and creating the community Jane needs to get over the real attack in Metro City.

This is a really cute, girl power type graphic novel. The Janes really grow together as they learn to accept each others' different quirks and even use them to the advantage of the group. (Main) Jane, being new and from Metro City, is courted by the popular girls, but her insistence on staying loyal to the rest of the Janes, without Mean Girl-ing the popular chicks, is highlighted a few different times. It's her ability to be nice to everyone, even when she's blowing off the popular crowd, that makes the Big Unifying Art Attack possible.

Running underneath this light storyline is (Main) Jane's attempt to cope with the attack she lived through in Metro City. After the attack she grew attached to a John Doe who also survived but has been in a coma ever since. His notebook, full of his admiration of everyday art, is what inspires her to start P.L.A.I.N. She writes him letters, which she sends to the hospital, about the art "attacks" and her new friends. Though this relationship is entirely onesided, it gives Jane the outlet that she needs for her feelings regarding the attack and her parents' newfound fear of Metro City.

The artwork is entirely in black and white, which I found a bit strange at first considering it is a book about public art. The artist uses the black and white drawings to highlight the emotions of (Main) Jane and later of her friends, rather than to highlight the art they create, as color work would do. It lends some levity to the lighter, surface storyline.

Overall, this is a quick and fun read that has a bit more heft and substance to it than you'd guess at first glance. I highly recommend it.

Book source: Philly Free Library

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