Read ‘Jane’, a beguiling Brontë adaptation armed with charm, wit, fragility, and grace
Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, opened twice monthly to champion a book we just can’t seem to get enough of. This week Arpad recommends ‘Jane’, available now from Archaia and BOOM! Studios.
By Arpad Okay. Jane is spellbinding. An adaptation, an interpretation, a powerhouse of a story in its own right. Aline Brosh McKenna has penned a combination of coming-of-age and coming into one’s own told with haunting emotional intensity and (occasionally tawdry) romance that respects the authenticity of its heroine. It is a portrait of the thrilling lives of the rich and powerful from a charmingly authentic take on the dogged life of the artist. Jane reaches across time, not to merely modernize the Charlotte Brontë classic, but to pay homage to its influence on the romance genre, paperback novels and Billy Wilder movies, in the decades that came between. Beyond McKenna’s script, Jane shines with dedicated comic artist elbow grease, paying dues to the life of the professional artist as much as the source material.
Jane is a sterling example of how to use art to tell a story about someone who uses art to tell stories. It charms because it’s rooted in a life that feels true despite frequently fantastic circumstance. Eyre has a certain blue collar mystique because, when espionage and adultery clash with hitting deadlines and working full time, she rises to meet the challenge with humility, ability, fragility, and grace.
Ramón Pérez and Irma Kniivila make Jane more than mysterious. Pérez mixes mediums from sketchbook excerpts and watercolors to traditional inked pages that are just heavenly. His lines have life. Springy, scratchy, loose, and emotional. The balance of detail and minimalism is perfect. The characters of Jane, Eyre the nanny, Adele the innocent, Rochester the haunted father figure, each player embodies a mood and the range between them is quite broad. Jane is joy, her smile lights the page even when it’s barely peeking from a panel’s corner. Rochester is the other end of the scale, a steely, dire gargoyle.
Kniivila’s colors are ingenious and strategic. Her work cements the metaphors, adds a layer of storytelling and character development without words. The colors are Eyre’s passions. What matters to her is bold, and all colors fade when she is crushed. The reader must question Kniivila’s emotional narration: we get to see what Eyre feels but it’s up to us to parse out what she thinks.
Deron Bennett plays this role as well. He tops the project off with lettering that embodies the crisp, professional gloss you should expect from BOOM! Studios, but its intentions are just as meta as Kniivila’s. The clear diary-entry inner monolog expresses the control Jane has over the narrative, the shared serif in the lettering of the dialog a subtle reminder of who tells the story.
The city and its depiction has an important role to play as well. The money of urbanity, the wealthy old buildings and tree-lined promenades, the fancy possessions of a world utterly foreign to Eyre. Jane may be a city girl now, but her lifestyle is bohemian, not bourgeoisie. Her view is from the sidewalks and outside the shop windows until she becomes nanny to the upper crust. Eyre is an art school kid, pantry bedroom, figure studies, drop the trappings for inner complexity. The other draw of the metropolis.
The storytelling is done beautifully in addition to its exemplary attention to structure. The focus is on Jane and the people in her world, the tale told flowing easily between Eyre’s thoughts and conversations, smooth and uncluttered. McKenna and her team have produced a classic written today, the modernization of the setting fitting the voice, the essence of the story remaining timeless. Broken homes and people who know what they want. The climax comes swiftly, but its speed doesn’t compromise its meaning or potency. It twists, a dance, into a tight loop of a story that tells itself.
McKenna has an eye for moments that come to life on the page. She grasps the medium of sequential art with the nuance and power she has for the screen. Pérez’s visual storytelling and Kniivila’s colors lend a depth that befits high literature. Vivacity that inspires and drama that rings true. I was knocked flat by Jane. If you love to read about life, titillating, unlikely, banal life, then you will find yourself smitten by this book as well.
Written by Aline Brosh McKenna.
Art by Ramón Pérez.
Colors by Irma Kniivila and Ramón Pérez.
Letters by Deron Bennett.