{comic} jack and jane

on

The Cute Girl Network

by Greg Means, MK Reed, & Joe Flood (illus)

First Second, 2013. tradepaper, 180 pages.

cute girl network coverJane thinks Jack is the bee’s knees…but the cute girl network disagrees. (back copy)

Jane is brand new to Brookport (think author hometowns Brooklyn and Portland), living with an old friend and documentary filmmaker Wendy, and working in a skate shop where she defends her uterus and dreams a future when other girls get more involved in her first love: skateboarding. Open with cute-meet.

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Jane meets Jack who works a food cart that sells soup.*

Enter the Cute Girl Network.

“The Network is a loose alliance of smart, beautiful young women who’ve come together to share information about all the spazzes, dorks, tools, freaks, perverts, losers, and dumbass boys in the city and to prevent yet another awesome girl from falling for yet another lame guy.” –Wendy (63)

Jane’s girl friends make a plausible case for the desire to not waste time on relationships that will not only go nowhere, but will likely include heart-break. What if there were a preventative measure? I mean, if you’d only known he was an asshole (62), or, at the very least, a really bad fit. We’ll admit to sometimes ignoring those early signs later. The Network is formed to allow the “smart, confident young woman” to make “an informed decision and mov[e] forward with […] eyes wide open” (150).

You can see how this would suck for those young men who, like Jack, are excited to find an attractive woman who is new to Brookport and has yet to discover he’s an idiot (113). On one hand, he has reason to fear the Cute Girl Network because has “major memory and tact issues” (108)–he is the source of some really eww inducing moments! Even when the book would recover some of the testimonials via Jack’s perspective, it doesn’t recover everything. On the other hand, Jane is the rare female figure in the novel who is willing to explore the idea that maybe she wouldn’t garner winning testimonials from past relationships either; nor does she have a lot in common with Jack’s past girlfriends. “I’ve taken worse falls than this” (2) she says early on , and she is willing to risk heart ache for a good lay or relationship. And as Jack’s roommate Rose tells him, he needs someone “dumb-ass tolerant and willing to work around it” (113). And Jane just might qualify.

Which brings us to another issue that Wendy is willing to raise where some of the other young women less specific about: “Major memory and tact issues” versus “two-timer [or] baby-daddy” (108) type offenses. Degrees of offensiveness are tested within the book and by the reader, just compare Jack and his other roommate Gil. Another concern raised by not only Jane’s boss: Jack’s idleness, lack of ambition, a lifestyle of financial uncertainty he isn’t looking to change… The boss is framing it in a not unrealistic portrait of: even if she is financially self-supporting, her female income is up against gender bias’ that Jack’s won’t, especially with future prospects (142).

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(excerpt from p 35); “Layabout,” a song inspired by Jack.

Jane is much more ‘live in the moment’ but does eventually conceive of a future where it has been evident that the financial concerns have not been as easily dismissed by her as they’ve seemed. And really, The Cute Girl Network artfully addresses many of the concerns of the dating world. e.g. How does one balance work/play, seriousness/grace, and gain perspective? The novel employs a lot of awkward humor, frank discussions, well-placed allusions, and accessible illustrations. The Cute Girl Network is looking for more honest portrayals of single life, striving for a verisimilitude that will have its younger (and youngish) readers identifying: this means having female characters who enjoy sex and engage in frank conversations about it. I love the playground scenes of the little girls reflecting not only societal expectations in their play-pretend, but also defying it; poop insults and all. One of Jack’s most winning traits is that he does not demean Jane, not even in his awe of her**; in fact, he depends on her self-possession. The Cute Girl Network avoids the didactic which makes this accessible for girls and boys.

An easy recommend, The Cute Girl Network would be an ideal book club read at the brew-pub for the variety of discussions it hosts. The read, text/image, are highly accessible to non-comic folk without insulting the fans. The use of flashbacks, the pacing, the buoyancy of difficult subjects, make for a fluid and entertaining read.  It’s smart and funny and leans toward skater-urban-indie over hipster, which is too appreciable to go unremarked–surely, I am not the only one to worry over this point.

recommended… for any sex/gender; reader of comics or no; for those who love indie-romance flicks, the adorable but sharp kind, the type that would cast Joseph Gordon Levitt; especially for the 23-37 set. *yes, they visit an indie record shop to peruse vinyl & know people in bands (Jane even stars in a homespun youtube music video); there is a visit to a coffee shop & tavern & bookshop; references to vegans; and an ironic, awesome allusion to Twilight via a book club read: “Vampyr Moon” (bless them for the inclusion, and thanks for the excerpt at the close).

**strikes a chord for those of us who’ve discussed “gallantry” and Sarah Scott’s Millenium Hall recently.

NOT to miss Cute Girl Network extras via Flood’s blog, that if yet read will give you a sense of Jack and Jane…and Harriet, a founder of the network.

{images belong to Joe Flood, & Means and Reed}

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