By Sarah Miller
Jam in the Band is the story of Pitch Girl, a band that makes it semi-big before imploding under the weight of different personalities and different desires. The band is headed up by Bianca, an intense young woman who lives for the music and the road and not much else. The other characters seem more well-rounded, with desires that reach beyond the success of the band. Tiara is more interested in love and settling down than touring for months on end, and Corbin admits that she joined the band to meet girls. When that doesn’t seem to pan out as well as she’d hoped—being part of a band is more work than any of them suspected—she too eventually tires of the work involved in touring.
The band is the brainchild of Bianca, whose main goal at the beginning of the graphic novel is to get out of Watertown, the small town she grew up in, preferably through achieving success with the band that she forms with Tiara and Corbin. In the introduction to the graphic novel, Robin Enrico admits that she feels like even she knows Bianca less than any of the other characters. In almost 400 pages of graphic storytelling, I would have liked to see more insight into Bianca’s personality, more insight into her mental health issues, more insight into what exactly she wants out of life, if she wants anything other than success for Pitch Girl. In some ways, it seems like that’s all she wants, to the detriment of her relationships and her mental health, though Bianca herself questions her desires. “Is this really what you want to do with your life?” her alter ego asks, but Bianca doesn’t provide a clear answer. When Pitch Girl disbands, that is the perfect opportunity to explore the other sides of Bianca’s personality, but Enrico doesn’t take full advantage of it. Perhaps the most succinct summation of Bianca’s personality is spoken by Nathan, Bianca’s close friend from college. He says, “When I really knew Bianca, she only had time for one person. Bianca.” Unfortunately, this doesn’t tell us that much about Bianca at all—but maybe it tells us all we need to know.
The format of the story is rather interesting, as it makes use of several different methods of storytelling. There are postcards, journal entries, and scrapbook items acting as artifacts of Pitch Girl’s rise to fame and Bianca’s response in particular to this rise. Enrico also imitates a documentary style, showing interviews with those close to and surrounding Bianca and Pitch Girl, with reminiscing about the early days. These are all interspersed with the straightforward narrative of the Pitch Girl story, providing insight into and perspective on the events that are depicted.
However, the black-and-white artwork seems rather stiff, in the same way that the story is somewhat stiff. There is a lack of movement that stunts the dynamics of the story. Each character has the same body type and posture, no matter what they’re doing at the time, with only the arms moving. The characters’ line work is thick and bold, adding a weight to the story that would otherwise be absent, and which I enjoyed; it contrasts nicely with the more detailed background work. It would have been nice to see the characters’ line weight combined with the dynamism of implied movement.
In spite of the somewhat plodding artwork and a lack of insight into the main character’s motivations, there is an enthusiasm for the art of storytelling that shines through and saves the work from tedium. And in spite of its intimidating length, I recommend this work for anyone who has tried to follow their dreams, whether they have failed or succeeded—if they are patient with indie comics that aren’t perfect.
Jam in the Band
Writer/Artist: Robin Enrico
Publisher: Alternative Comics