By Dustin Cabeal
On paper, I’m the wrong demographic for Jane. It’s a modern day adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, which I have never read. I could go either way on modern day adaptations as well; sometimes it’s interesting to see how they pan out other times they’re this weird hybrid of old and new that doesn’t quite make it. If we explore further, I’m not a fan of screen writers or TV writers writing comics. Archaia’s owner BOOM! has produced more than a few stories by Hollywood writers that I have outright loathed.
Here’s why I was the right audience and the right pick for this review. I’ll read anything. I’ll also read it without reservations for the creators. Every time I pick up a comic it’s a first chance for the creators, never the last chance. Giving creators a last chance is just robbing yourself of potentially entertaining stories.
Jane is wonderfully paced. The title character Jane begins her story about her parents being lost at sea. She quickly grows up and saves her money for art school. The story continues wonderfully as Jane hits the big city, but not in the annoying “stare up at everything” kind of way. Just overwhelmed but in heaven. Jane finds out one of the conditions of her scholarship is to have a job, which leads her to a strange job listing that starts immediately and pays well. The interview is just a job offer and an address, to which Jane accepts because she doesn’t have enough time to find another listing to chase.
Upon arriving at the job, she finds out she’s going to be a nanny for a little girl named Adele. The house governess (not her real title by the way) informs Jane that the last one lasted a week. Apparently due to the weird living arrangement most people don’t last long. The rest get fired for trying to access the door on the third floor, which Adele informs Jane of on her tour of the penthouse.
Jane, of course, wants to quit. Everyone does, but Jane grew up a lonely kid, and so she feels for Adele and can’t abandon her like the others before. Jane becomes more and more wrapped up in the family’s life, pushing her way into Adele’s father’s orbit until their stories become intertwined.
Again, the pacing is what makes this book a fantastic read. That’s two fold as the writing has a lot to do with it, but then also the intelligent art choices. The majority of the story is narration which keeps the prose feel to it in a lot of cases, but the dialogue, when it does hit, it’s sharp and to the point. For the most part, the modernization works. Having never read the original you’re probably calling b.s. on that, but I could easily spot the parts that were out of place from our modern times. There were several, but nothing so awkward that they were glaringly obvious. Overall Alien Brosh McKenna’s first time out as a graphic novel writer is quite successful.
Ramón K. Pérez’s artwork is the star of the show. Obviously, I have no idea how much of it was by his design or McKenna’s or both, but the art is beautiful and powerful. The story beings in all black and white, which gives the tale a circular flow. In other ways, it’s cleverly bringing the story into the modern era with the visuals as well. Pulling it slowly from black and white to color, it wasn’t lost on me while reading. There were a lot of cinematic panels, with close ups on characters eyes and expressions. What I found particularly interesting about Pérez’s illustrations was the fact that while all the characters are detailed, they don’t stand out. I don’t mean that as a bad thing, but it was as if Pérez was letting your mind partially create the characters yourself. Perhaps I’m completely off, but it was effective in that when I thought back to the book, I didn’t particularly remember what the characters looked like, but I knew their impressions and personality still.
I rather enjoyed Jane. It reminded me a lot of Archaia’s heydays in which they would release these gems of graphic novels. Hopefully, Jane is the start of their second wind, and we can expect more impressive graphic novels in the future. In the meantime, whether you’re a Jane Eyre fan or not, Jane is an entertaining graphic novel worth reading, if anything for the incredible artwork from Pérez.
Writer: Aline Brosh McKenna
Artist: Ramón K. Pérez