Jane’s World, Volume 7
Girl Twirl Comics
Paige Braddock returns early next month with another dose of loveable misfit Jane in a book chock full of “girl-on-girl action, chicks with guns, a vegan menace, vintage Winnebagos, and the transformative energy of the Sedona vortex.” You know, the usual—for stability-challenged Jane, that is.
Jane is, you see, one of those people to whom things just happen. She combines mild-mannered amiability with indecision, a severe lack of style- and nutrition-savvy, and just plain wishy-washiness. It seems she’s also (slightly) irresistible, much to her own bewilderment, since she seems to have only the vaguest of clues about the same sex (she happens to be a lesbian). In short, she’s a magnet for the kind of drama that makes for good comedy.
Whether it’s friends who see her as one of the guys (her roommate Ethan), women who see her as a fixer-upper (vegan surfer Skye), or figures of mystery who find themselves attracted to her in spite of themselves (badass ex-cop Chelle), or just nice, normal women (Jane’s on-again, off-again girlfriend Dorothy), everyone around her finds themselves being sucked into the maelstrom of drama, coincidences, and serious enmeshment issues that surround Jane. The results are funny, sexy, silly, and sometimes dramatic—the last thanks mostly to the flashbacks of Chelle and her current (romantic and otherwise) ex-partner Jill’s days as cops and the resultant side plots that continue to unfold in the storyline’s present day.
Volume 7 is not the best place for new readers to start, as the story picks up where the last book left off. Jane’s in the middle of an awkward dinner with both the women who are pursuing her; Chelle’s ex (and current business partner) Jill is being held for ransom by the mullet-sporting, plaid-wearing women of the Nevada Liberation Militia, who’re not only looking for revenge against the two ex-cops, but who are also coincidentally working for Chelle’s mother’s extra-butch girlfriend, Ted, who also happens to be married to unsuspecting monster truck driver (and ex-coworker of Jane) Bonnie, who thinks Ted’s a man…And that’s just a small part of the backstory.
Braddock stretches her narrative muscles in this book, which represents the series’ first non-serialized graphic novel. Jane started out as an old-fashioned newspaper three- or four-panel comic strip and gradually morphed into a pamphlet-style comic book. Volume 6 was mostly serialized in pamphlet form, except for the last chapter, which only appears in the collected edition. Volume 7 has a much less episodic feel than the collections of pamphlet books. Braddock clearly conceived of this book as one long piece, and she takes her time building the story to single massive climax that resolves all her tangled (snarled, even) plotlines.
She brings it all together in an impressive concatenation of coincidences that make the book part Priscilla Queen of the Desert road story, part farce. Compared to the earliest collection of three- and four-panel strips, it’s less jokey, with fewer punchlines. Compared to the later books, it’s less focused on the angst and drama of Jane and company. Braddock, in her recent interview with The Daily Cross Hatch, said that her goal with Volume 7 was to pull back a bit from the drama and return to the series’ humor roots. “I want to do a combination of the two, where there is kind of this overlay of drama,” said Braddock, “but I really want to keep the humor in the book…[Volume] 7 basically ties up all these drama loose ends in humorous ways, and then it stays funny. That was my goal, to get back to that.”
She succeeds. The strip’s as amusing, entertaining, and engaging as ever. It is, however, a more plot-driven book than regular readers might expect. Braddock needs most of its 152 pages to wrap up all her loose ends, leaving less room than usual for character development and the smaller-scale humor of significant looks and double takes that is one of her strengths. For example, there’s little of the quirky interplay between Ethan and Jane–a staple of the series to this point. In fact, Ethan’s hardly in this book.
That’s not to say it’s all plot: Chelle gets more backstory, for example, and there’s plenty of reliably confrontation-averse Jane’s waffling, too. Her solution to the double-date dinner from hell is first to secretly call her coworker to ask him to call her in to the office on a pretended emergency, and, when Skye and Dorothy wait her out, to hide in the bathroom pretending to be sick. Not surprisingly (for regular readers), her efforts to avoid confrontation only make her situation much more confusing.
Ultimately, Jane’s World succeeds because always Braddock makes it fun to read, regardless of its current form. She’s clearly having a blast experimenting with her creation, and her enthusiasm for her characters is infectious. Whether it’s a drama or a demented road story or a whimsical and intimate strip, she infuses her story with an off-center charm that’s reflected in the sketchy, energetic style of drawing that she’s retained (and honed) since Jane’s World was a comic strip. Fans will find the book a satisfying read, both in and of itself, and as a return to the funny that it represents for the future of the series.