Meet the Plain Janes
*May Contain Spoilers*
The Plain Janes is one of those stories I know I’m not supposed to like that much, but I do anyway. There is just something compelling about it. Perhaps it’s the High School setting. Stories, movies, television shows, comic books about high school never seem to get old, even for people who are technically too old for high school. BTW – this is a product of the now defunct Minx DC label. It’s always a bummer now to pick up one of their books, really enjoy it…and realize that engaging comic books catered specifically to young adult women are a thing of the past. *sigh*
There’s elements to like here – the artistic rendering of the characters by Jim Rugg for instance. He creates a fascinating world – cartoony yet emotive that easily carries the story. There is never a moment in the art (except for perhaps the disastrous hairstylings of the main character) which seems out of place. Looks like he’s also co-creator of Street Angel comics, of which the title comic has been produced into a short film that was released in 2009. Here’s the trailer for said film:
It also looks like Rugg is now doing some work on The Guild comic book for Felicia Day, which is housed at Dark Horse. Definitely an artist to watch out for.
The writing itself wasn’t bad either – done by Cecil Castellucci, a scribe of young-adult literature. In spite of it’s overall appeal – there were just a few sticking points in the stereotyping of the characters. It’s hard not to fall into that with stories centered around high school, I suppose. The caricatures are so prevalent in this institution, and everyone is struggling to define themselves using stereotypical labels. It felt a bit forced here. I wanted the characters to be able to grow and expand – the other Janes all rang so hollowly throughout most of the story. The nerd, the jock, the drama queen, the Cheerleader, the artist and the sensitive boy Main Jane has a crush on. Yep, this is kinda plot and characters by-the-numbers.
But the context is so refreshing, and the artistic terrorism the Janes perpetrate in the sleepy town seem antithetical to the hotbed of stereotypes they grow out of. To put it more precisely, in order to make this story really work I needed to spend more time with the Janes as individuals.
I feel like the book was rushed, we were rushed through some of the best parts of the story, and I dreaded the insertion of the romance between Main Jane and Sensitive HS Boy, because it was un-needed. Main Jane was getting along fine without Sensitive Boy. He is helpful, but she is an interesting person outside of the interactions she has with him. And the meat of the story should be with the Janes. Ultimately, I wanted the work they did together to bring Main Jane to her life conclusions. It doesn’t always have to be the dude! What’s wrong with a little chick-mance now and then?
Dudes get bromances ALL the time. Buddy cop movies, the majority of comedies, and even a few action movies. Definitely war films – war films are like bromance on steroids. So, is it wrong to ask that every once in a while, a decent film about a woman overcoming a traumatic obstacle in her life does not feature a regular romance, and instead embraces the ability of women to help other women heal. Believe me, it happens.
So whatever – there is just too much stereotyping for me to love this book whole-heartedly and without reserves. The idea of art helping people overcome tragedy is a wonderful message to the piece, but the ending rang a bit false to me. I wanted Main Jane to take more of a stance, and take ownership of her actions. There needed to be more resolve for her then I felt at the end. The lack of a real conclusion is most likely also a victim of the rushed story. Really, this was a nice world to be in, and I didn’t mind spending more time there. I just wish the author would have allowed us the space to know these characters a bit more, and achieve a satisfactory resolution.