Painkiller Jane: The 22 Brides #1 (of 3)
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti
Art by Juan Santacruz
Prologue Art by Norberto Fernandez
Colors by Challenging Studios
Letters & Design by Bill Tortolini
Review by Joey Braccino
Painkiller Jane and the 22 Bridesare a bunch of those classic comics creations that came about through the indie industry boom of the mid-‘90s (pre-crash, obvs). Joe Quesada had a hand in creating both entities, so it’s apropos that a new mini-series featuring the characters—appropriately entitled Painkiller Jane: The 22 Brides—has launched through Marvel’s creator-owned imprint, ICON. Comics legend and Painkiller Jane co-creator Jimmy Palmiotti pens the new mini-, capturing that subversive, irreverent tenor that the series and the character is known for.
First appearing in 22 Brides, Painkiller Jane is the story of former police officer Jane Vasko who receives superhuman healing abilities after dying in the line of duty. While the power isn’t as fancy or immediate as “that dude with the claws that sings on Broadway” (as the back-up one-shot in this issue states), it does allow her to take up the role of NYC vigilante and take on crime and the mob and all kinds of crazy. Also in this new series, Palmiotti incorporates the 22 Brides in both a fascinating “folk parable” prologue and in the more contemporary, female mercenaries version of the characters.
Palmiotti has returned to the Painkiller Jane character a few times since her creation in 1995, most recently another mini-series through ICON back in 2013. He teamed with Juan Santacruz for that series as well, and the two work well together to bring sometimes-seedy, sometimes-sensual, always-hardboiled world of Painkiller Jane to life. In a lot of ways, Palmiotti and Santacruz’ work on Painkiller Jane: The 22 Brides is reminiscent of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s iconic run on The Punisher, both visually and tonally.
In terms of the plot, Jane and the Brides work together to solve a series of mysterious explosions in New York. Jane’s girlfriend, Detective Maureen Fernandez, also aids the investigation, and there are gunshots and implosions and the occasional bit of sensuality galore.
As someone new to the series, I did find the main story a bit jarring (though a bit of research afterwards helped resolve several questions). The back-up, however, helped me gain a better understanding of the titular character. Also by Palmiotti with art by Steve Mannion and Paul Mounts, “MONSTERS” is a one-and-done story in which Jane fights an uphill battle against a mysterious crime syndicate known as Basso. It’s a brutal story, with both Jane and the gaggle of hoodlums taking a ton of punishment throughout, but it’s also a hardboiled, underworld pulp crime story. Palmiotti’s use of first-person narration for Jane (which he inexplicably does not include in the main story) really fleshes out her character and her personality.
Worth a look, particular for fans of the character, of Palmiotti, and of kick@$$ females. Painkiller Jane: The 22 Brides #1 might be a little too “’90s” or “seedy” for some readers, but it’s an engaging blend of crime-fiction-meets-girls-with-guns pulp that has always been a major part of the comics medium. Check it!