Teenage Graphic Novel - The P.L.A.I.N. Janes – Cecil Castellucci (Writer) & Jim Rugg (Illustrator)
Recommended for: Teens/Adults
Minx’ were an imprint of DC comics, designed for teenage girls, to try and catch a flourishing market who were starting to get noticed reading Manga in book shops. It ended up being cancelled after poor sales, which is a crying shame as anything that encourages more girls into reading comics can only be a good thing.
I randomly picked up a copy of another book in the Minx series, not knowing at the time it was for teenage girls (honest), just liking the art work and premise. When I really enjoyed that, and learned that there were 12 altogether, I thought I’d get them all sent to the library to go through in order (wonderful things, our public libraries – if you don’t use yours, remember they lend you books for free. That’s more money to spend on other important things, like cling film and lint roll).
The P.L.A.I.N. Janes is the first to be released. It chronicles the story of Jane, who has moved with her parents to the suburbs from Metro City following a terrorist attack which she was caught up in. The story is told mainly through a series of letters she writes to a comatose patient in the hospital who saved her life that day. When it came to move to the suburbs, she took his sketchbook with her, hoping to fill it with her own work and send it back to him when complete. When she arrives, she has the same trouble that every new student at high school encounters, namely to decide which group of friends she would like to hang out with. Shunning the advances of the most popular girl in school, she chooses to befriend the ‘odd ball’ group, made up of three other girls called Jane (or variations on). Realising that there isn’t a lot to do in suburbia, and wanting to live a little under the fairly strict and boring rule of her parents, she forms ‘People Loving Art In Neighbourhoods’ (P.L.A.I.N.) with these other Janes, and proceeds to carry out a series of ‘art attacks’ to liven up the town and show that life can be fun. Although these get all the kids at school excited (and the rest of the suburbs talking), the police view it as anti-social behaviour, invoke a curfew, and threaten anyone who is caught with juvenile hall. Along the way, P.L.A.I.N. enlist the help of a couple boys, one of whom is the obligatory crush for our main Jane.
Teenage girl or not, I thought this was great fun. The art attacks are great to see, it gets you thinking about the line between fun and breaking the law, and the main characters all have their own likeable quirks. There’s an awkward teenage crush as you’d expect, but otherwise it isn’t really full of any clichés as you might expect to appeal to a teenage female audience (fashion, shoes etc.).
The art work is great, with lots of impressive sketches that Jane draws interspersed with the main narrative. The flashbacks work well, as does the narrating to the guy in the coma, letting us know how Jane feels as the story progresses. There's even a fairly tense finish, which i'm not spoiling here, but it leaves you with a smile on your face, wanting more.
I know this is meant to attract a female teenage audience to graphic novels, so it’s such a shame that it didn’t have the desired impact, because this is a great way to get in for people who think of graphic novels as superheroes in costumes doing geeky things. I myself am most certainly not a teenage girl, no matter what the bullies at school may have said, and I thoroughly enjoyed, so don’t let the Minx imprint put you off. I’m off to start no.2 in the series, Re-Grifters, so I’ll see you then.