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Her Cosmic Joke Of A Life: A “Painkiller Jane” Retrospective (Part 3)

Hello, my friends.  Even after battling various kinds of villainous scum alongside close friends, familiar allies and even some familiar comic book characters, our favorite anti-heroine is still ticking.  Not only is it because of her own Healing Factor, but it’s also because there’s some stories that somebody wants to tell that also see her front and center.  On that note, I welcome you to the final chapter of…

It’s been five years since her last tale (technically four years if you include her short story within Liberty Comics #2), but that downtime has allowed the creative juices to flow, gather and develop into three different stories that she’ll find herself in for the 2010s.  On that note, let’s make our way towards the trinity of tales that she found herself in for that particular decade.

Founded in 2004, Icon Comics was a Marvel imprint that saw the creation of several noteworthy titles throughout its existence, including Kingsmen, Powers and Kick-@$$.  Needless to say, these creator-owned titles were more adult with its content.  As such, it’s this kind of mature-themed publication that made our featured character fit right in for her next few outings.

Published from November 2013 to February 2014, this four-issue mini-series sees co-creator Jimmy Palmiotti once again assuming his regular writing duties.  Juan Santacruz gets to work on the art, while Paul Mounts takes control over coloring this story.  With all of that out of the way, let’s tackle this harrowing adventure as Painkiller Jane finds out how steep “The Price Of Freedom” can be.

Following a one-page recap of how she acquired her signature Healing Factor, we truly begin at the airport (I assume JFK) as Jane is having a drink while the bartender talks about her jerk-tastic boyfriend.  Just then, Vasko gets a call from Det. Maureen Fernandez.  From there, she reminds Painkiller Jane that a Saudi princess named Sabina Poonwalla is arriving soon and that she has to look out for her, despite her father refusing official police protection.  After learning that she’s not in the correct terminal, Jane takes her leave before asking a valet on the best way to reach Terminal 4.  After learning that she can take a taxi cab, she does manage to reach one.  However, the driver is on a lunch break.  Thankfully, she convinces him to get moving by promising him $100 if he makes it there within the next five minutes.

Meanwhile, Sabina has finally arrived as she gets escorted by her two bodyguards named Troy and Kan into a limo before they head out for a shopping venture.  However, they soon discover a police barricade blocking the exit.  Kan gets out to learn about the situation, but Troy starts to get a bad feeling about this.  His hunch gets confirmed when Kan gets hit over the head, to which he responds by turning the limo around.  From there, a chase ensues before it reaches the runway.  During this, several pursing police cars get taken out by a passenger plane that’s unable to avoid them in time.

Jane sees the explosion from afar (while Det. Fernandez also learns about this) and gets the cab driver to let her out.  As Vasko tries to climb over a barbed-wire fence, Troy drives the limo right towards her and manages to ram through it, only to end up crashing into the barricade on the opposite side while she ends up falling onto the vehicle.  From there, the remaining officers arrive and begin to open fire while Troy attempts to retaliate.  Even though one of the opposing officials gets taken out, he ends up getting shot as the remaining cop attempts to reach him, but Jane intervenes with a kick to his face.

She soon discovers that he’s wearing a fake police badge before introducing herself to Troy.  Afterwards, she climbs onto the car and tells Sabina to exit through the sunroof, since the car doors are damaged.  However, the Saudi princess decides to wait until they’re fixed.  Suddenly, Vasko and Troy discover a drone heading right for them as she yanks Poonwalla out of the limo.  From there, the drone fires a missile and blows the vehicle up.  Despite wearing a bulletproof vest, Troy has been impaled through his gut by a fender.  As such, he tells Jane to protect Sabina before he passes out.  Vasko then heads out with Poonwalla while contacting Maureen about her situation, as well as requesting an ambulance for Troy.  Shortly after they head inside, Jane sees the drone returning for another strike.  As such, she fires her gun into the air in order to clear out the surrounding patrons.  With the drone firing another powerful missile, our two ladies are forced to seek shelter within the women’s restroom.  After they evade the blast, Vasko assures Sabina that the drone has used up its arsenal.  Despite that, they still have to reach a safe place.

Oven on the Van Wyck Expressway, Det. Fernandez gets called up by Painkiller Jane.  Vasko informs her that she’s taking the princess over to Fire Island before hiding out at their summer side home in Kismet.  Maureen then tells her to lay low with Sabina until further notice before Jane tells her to find out who’s trying to kill Poonwalla.  From there, Sabina continues to learn about the cultural difference between her country (Saudi Arabia) and America as she and Jane arrive on Fire Island.  Meanwhile, Maureen arrives at the airport before she’s met by Agents Bill & Green who tell her that her “lethal weapon” has run off with the princess and that they want to learn about where they went.  After Det. Fernandez says that she doesn’t know, she then asks about the wounded bodyguard.  The agents then proceed to recap what happened to him, his request to keep the princess safe, how fake cops came after them with missiles & such and that even though they have one of the false officials in their custody, he’s keeping his lips sealed.  Agent Green then says that the girl’s father is a “powerful” & “untouchable” man over in Saudi Arabia and even to America.  This is because he has an NYC-based company called EyeCorp and also, he’ll threaten to bring some of his own men over to the states if he doesn’t get in contact with his daughter real soon.  As such, the agents want Maureen to help them find Jane and get her to return the young lady to them.  Det. Fernandez assures them that she’s in an undisclosed location until they’re able to find out who was behind the assassination attempt via the fake cops and the drone.  With the assumption that it must be someone who’s “well-connected and willing to do anything” to carry out this kill order, she asks to talk with Troy in order to get any vital piece of information that they’ll need.  Just then, a fellow agent comes in and informs the group that they’ve identified two of the assailants: Joseph Modoc and Steve Gomez.  It turns out that they used to work for EyeCorp as security guards five years ago, but have since fallen off the grid.  Agents Bill & Green then deduce that it must be an inside job and that they must let her father know right away.  Maureen then says that have to find out who this mastermind is and why they want the princess dead.  Not only that, but she’ll be kept in hiding until they finally solve this case.  The agents still want to bring her into their protective care as they once again ask for her location, but Det. Fernandez says that the killer would simply tail them with a drone and complete their lethal mission.  As such, she tells them that the young lady is safe, especially since she’s the only one who knows where she and Vasko are.  Unfortunately, Issue 1 ends with three fiends already on a ferry that’s en route to Fire Island.

Issue 2 opens in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as Mr. Poonwalla is angry that the FBI in unsure where his missing daughter is, even though her bodyguard Troy is still alive.  As such, he plans on flying over alongside his son Samir.  During his phone conversation, he demands that the press are kept unaware of all of this and that he’ll require some proper help to get his baby girl back.  Afterwards, he tells Samir to start packing his bags for America.

Meanwhile over in the Fire Island community of Kismet, Jane and Sabina arrive at Seth’s beachside house.  After noticing that they’ll need groceries, Vasko takes out some vodka and preps a pair of shot glasses.  During this, she tells Sabina that someone has put on bounty on her and her killers are now doing everything they can to find out where she is.  With only a day or so of downtime before they’re forced to go on the run, she’ll be kept close to Jane until Det. Fernandez informs them that it’s safe for the Saudi princess to be brought under official protection.  As they drink their shots, Vasko tells her that she’ll need to change into new clothes in order to not attraction some unwanted attention.  Later, they’re out on the seaside porch as they chill out to the sight of the setting sun while taking in more vodka shots.  Jane notices that Sabina has been observing her bikini-clad body, while she herself is still mostly covered in clothing.  They talk about tattoos as Vasko says that her body doesn’t allow those to be on her.  As for Lady Poonwalla, she mentions how those are forbidden back in her home country.  Sabina then recalls a time where she drew a bird onto her arm and kept it hidden, yet her brother found out and ratted her out to their dad, resulting in a week-long grounding sentence.  Afterwards, Sabina explains her whole situation to Jane, specifically that she comes from a wealthy family and that she has a pre-arranged marriage that fell apart because her fiancé disgraced his family by blowing all of his money through gambling.  From there, she flew to America since her father does own a couple of businesses there and that she’s always heard about both the United States and New York City throughout her life.  Lady Poonwalla then asks about the citizens of Fire Island, to which Vasko says that aside from renters, it’s mainly occupied by middle to upper class citizens.  After mentioning how this used to be the home of the working class before “celebs and gay millionaires” came along to buy it up for investments, Jane says that her friend Dr. Miller owns this beach house.  Sabina asks her if they’re lovers, to which Vasko says that he does have a crush on her, but they’ve never “sealed the deal”.  Lady Poonwalla then says that even though she’s a virgin, she’s aware of Americans’ stance towards sex before she takes another shot of vodka and says that maybe they can go shop for some food, to which Painkiller Jane says that she needs to give her a makeover first.

Meanwhile, the three goons arrive onto Fire Island as they prepare to split up and search for Sabina.  The fiendish lady tells a fellow cohort named Captain Jack to begin his search alongside the island’s west side and that if he finds their target, he should notify his cohorts due to her being protected by Jane.  Meanwhile, she and Harry will investigate over at some nearby streets.  After they proceed to split up, Harry asks why Captain Jack is with them, especially since he’s very perverted.  She says that their client insisted on it, especially since he possesses “an uncanny ability to sniff off just about anyone”.  From there, she tells Harry to focus on their assignment before the last ferry heads out for the day.  Back at the seaside cabin, Vasko and Sabina manage to get dressed within some extremely light clothing.  Shortly afterwards, they proceed to head out as Jane asks the princess what it’s like “to be a billionaire”.  She says that while she have the financial ability necessary to purchase nearly anything she wants, her modern-day father still makes her follow their old-school traditions, which leads to them constantly arguing with each other.  After they learn that they’ve both lost their mothers, Vasko informs her that she’s contacted Seth and that he has a tab over at the island bar.  As such, they can take in whatever food & drink they want.  One hour later, Lady Poonwalla is being hit on by a muscular young guy who shows off his various tattoos, especially one that he got for the left side of his chest.  He then tries to “hook up” with her before Jane intervenes with a bottle to his gut and asks for another round of drinks.  Unbeknownst to them, Harry and the devious woman arrive at the island bar.  She then sees Sabina and then tells Harry that they’ll wait until she’s separated from her protector before they kidnap here.  Back over with Vasko, she has to use the restroom as she tells the two young guys to look after Poonwalla while she’s away.  Shortly after she heads out however, Harry proceeds to move in.

After reaching a stall and proceeding with her personal business, Jane is suddenly approached by a pair of boots standing right outside.  From there, the woman kicks in the door and throws Vasko into a soap dispenser.  A fight proceeds to break out as they kick and punch each other for a bit before the fiendish lady slams Jane’s head into a sink and prepares to execute her.  Fortunately, Vasko grabs her wrist and disrupts her aim, even forcing her to shoot off her left ear before she tackles the adversary into a stall.  During this, the gun got dislodged as they both notice it.  Jane proceeds to punch the woman in the ear before she dives for the firearm.  The evil lady does quickly recover, takes out a knife from her duffle bag and throws it towards her, though Vasko does deflect it before she finally defeats her adversary with a couple of gun shots.  Shortly afterwards, she realizes that Sabina is in trouble.

Back on the NYC mainland, the fake cop is resting up at Mercer Hospital while Maureen and Agents Bill & Green look over him.  With the false official still refusing to talk and asking for a lawyer, Det. Fernandez tells the agents to go find a lawyer while she stays put.  After delivering a phone call for him to come in with “the thing”, Seth arrives with a shot and a few vials containing particular serums.  Maureen then tells the fake cop that Hiller is less of a doctor and more of a friend who helps her with some “odd jobs” that allows them to take scumbags out with efficient ease.  As such, Seth is going to inject him with enough adrenaline so that he’ll ultimately die, yet it’ll look like the cause was a simple heart attack.  Det. Fernandez then places a towel over the top half of the perp’s face in preparation for their devious act, which makes the false official freak out.  Later, Maureen leaves the room having made the criminal spill the beans.  She tells Agents Bill & Green that the guy is a freelancer who worked for Dino Trigg, a high-end kitchen remodeler who also delves into kidnapping plots.  Det. Fernandez then tells them that they have enough “juice” to keep a sharp eye & ear with the perp, while they assign her to examine Trigg’s files.  When Agent Bill asks how they got this crucial information out of the fake cop, Seth explains that he injected the perp with a mild adrenaline mix.  During the various rushes, the fake official told them everything that he knew before he ultimately passed out.  The agent says that’s an illegal practice, but Dr. Hiller assumes him and Green that the perp will be OK and that this was all Maureen’s idea.

Meanwhile, Jane emerges from the restroom and finds the establishment in ruins before she learns from the roughed-up friends that the kidnappers have taken Sabina towards the beach.  Meanwhile, Harry is carrying the pilfered princess while Captain Jack mentions that their comrade (who’s finally given a name: Myra) was axed off.  Harry then says that they can get off Fire Island if they head towards the lighthouse.  However, Captain Jack spots the “cop friend” approaching them.  Harry then tells him to take care of their pursing adversary before meeting back up with him at his apartment over on Rockaway, especially since they’re now going to hold Sabina for ransom.  Not too long after the two fiends go their separate ways, Vasko finally arrives only to get shot in the leg.  From there, Captain Jack points his gun at her head and orders her to drop her weapon.  Not to mention, he adds a perverted request for her to discard her top, especially since the sex-driven fiend has some rape-fueled desires on his mind.  She complies by lifting her shirt up before she demands that he takes off his shorts.

From there, she distracts him by making fun of his man’s region, but gets pistol-whipped as a result.  Thankfully, she retaliates by tripping him up, which causes him to lose his firearm.  After she acquires it and places her top back on, she then aim the gun at his crotch and demands him to tell her every single detail that he’s aware of.  Later, Jane is on a speedboat as she drives back towards the mainland.  In her narrating phone call to Maureen, Vasko informs her about Sabina’s kidnapping, yet she’s going after her kidnapper.  She wants her friend to clean up Seth’s beach house, especially since she’s placed Captain Jack’s corpse inside, as well as his dismembered fingers inside an ice-filled bag.  As her Healing Factor takes care of the pistol-whipped wound on her forehead, she drives onto the beach while her phone call narration informs Det. Fernandez that she’s heading over to the Klein Building (specifically Apartment 4B) over on 121st Street in Rockaway, Queens.  From there, Issue 2 ends with her making her way towards the street as she vows to save the captured princess.

Issue 3 begins with Mr. Poonwalla arriving in America as Agents Bill & Green inform him about the current situation, along with the fact that his daughter has initially gone into hiding alongside Jane Vasko.  Afterwards, he learns from his fellow compatriot named Churchill that three more killers were hired once the initial assassination attempt failed.  Even though he’s not certain if she’s still alive, Churchill says that these series of attacks were meant to take Sabina out before he tells Mr. Poonwalla that he has to find out who’s got it out for him.  Mr. Poonwalla informs him that he’s got hundreds of people who hate his guts due to him owning fourteen different businesses in America alone.  Afterwards, Churchill says that he managed to wiretap Det. Fernandez’ phone, so that he can immediately spring into action once he hears anything vital.  Not too long afterwards, Maureen listens to Jane’s phone message about her heading over to the Klein Building out in Queens.  As she drives over, she starts to contact the proper police.  Unbeknownst to her, Churchill’s bug paid off as he also learns where he should go as he informs Mr. Poonwalla about it before heading out.  Meanwhile, Vasko makes her way towards the Klein Building.  From there, she begins to sweettalk a pair of goons standing outside the apartment in order to gain proper access into it.

Up in his apartment, Harry is in the middle of a call with his employer as he demands $3 million before he hands Sabina over.  Just then, he’s approached by one of the goons who asks him if he’s seen his cat.  Unbeknownst to the muscular fiend, this was all a distraction as Jane climbed up the fire escape and managed to sneak in through the window.  After freeing the captured princess, Vasko holds Harry up at gunpoint and demands for his cell phone.  After briefly talking to the employer, she orders him to get down and says that even though his contact has hung up, she still has his recent phone number and begins to interrogate him.  Unbeknownst to her however, Sabina managed to take a handgun and a decent amount of money before escaping.  This distracts Jane long enough for Harry to respond with a fierce elbow strike to her nose as a fierce fight breaks out.  Even though Vasko managed to grab a knife and stab him in the arm, the blade soon gets dislodged from her grasp by the ceiling fan.  He then lifts her into the fan as it cuts her forehead, but she soon grabs it, pulls it from the ceiling and uses it to briefly choke him.  Ultimately, he charges her through the window as they fall out and land on a police car, with Harry receiving the harshest end of the impact.

Though Vasko survived the ordeal, she wound up with several glass shards on her back as she briefly sits to heal up from it while learning that the muscular fiend is newly-deceased.  Shortly afterwards, Det. Fernandez arrives as Jane informs her that Sabina escaped.  Maureen says that she’ll put out a missing person report on the fleeing princess before Vasko says that she talked to the guy whom Harry and the rest of the deceased killers worked for.  She mentions that he sounded “young” and had a “bit of an accent”, but there’s a chance that they could trace him.  However, it’ll be difficult as Jane pulls out Harry’s cell phone, which got damaged during the scuffle.  Just then, Churchill arrives as Maureen informs her friend about him.  As the detective pulls out the shards from Vasko’s back while introducing her to him, Jane then informs him about Sabina having just slipped away from her.  She then asks Det. Fernandez for her car so that she can search for the fleeing princess, to which Churchill offers to help out and offers to drive for her.  As they head out, he says that he’s read her file and is amazed by what she’s gone through.  When she asks him about this fascination with her, he says that he’d like to know about those who’ve been in contact with Sabina and that he believes that they have loads in common.  After realizing that he’s trying to ask her out on a date, she tells him that she’ll accept his offer, but not before they get the princess back to her father.  From there, the scene with him asking if she would like to look over his file, to which she declines on the grounds that she likes a challenge.

Later that day, Vasko is back at her apartment as she relaxes in her bathtub while listening to some music.  Shortly afterwards, Maureen arrives as she walks in and notices that her friend is relaxing to the sounds of heavy metal music.  She then reaches for the MP3 player, but Jane grabs her wrist and pulls her into the tub.  Even though Vasko says that she could’ve rung her door bell, Det. Fernandez tells her that she was listening to loud music.  After they dry off, Maureen sets up some Chinese takeout that she brought over and learns from Jane that she’ll be going on a date with Churchill once their current ordeal is over.  Afterwards, Det. Fernandez says that she and fellow officers haven’t been able to find Sabina.  Not only that, but the devious employer’s phone number turned up as a bust.  From there, she asks Vasko on what the princess was like.  Jane describes Sabina as a little reserved and spoiled, but a good person overall, even though she’s “a fish out of water” with “no sense of currency” what various things are worth, due to her rich status.  Maureen then wonders where she could possibly have gone, due to her needing her bodyguard for practically everything.

From there, we shift over to Penn Station where Sabina and her mostly-healed bodyguard Troy are on a train heading out of town.  After he sees the thousands of dollars that she took from the deceased thug Harry, he tells her that they have to get off and find a more-discreet form of transportation.  She wonders how they can be spotted due to her paying for their tickets in cash, to which he says that there’s security cameras everywhere and that they must get off of the grid.  Just then, he suffers a mild pain from his wound as he assures her that he’s OK and that they must get some new clothes.  From there, she gets an idea and tells him that they’ll get off at the next stop before they share a kiss.  Later, it’s soon discovered that she managed to swipe the clothes from a sleeping couple, but she compensated by leaving them a plentiful stack of money.  From there, they plan on hiding out in a motel room before they head westward.  Over at one of his NYC-based apartment complexes, Mr. Poonwalla is met upon by Churchill and gets informed about his daughter fleeing with her bodyguard via a southbound train.  Churchill assures him that he has his people checking every single station and terminal for them as Mr. Poonwalla is amazed that Sabina managed to sneak Troy out of the hospital.  He then wonders why they didn’t simply go to one of his apartments, especially since Troy has loyal access to them, to which his son Samir says that killers were after her.  As they head out towards the pool, Churchill says that there’s not much else he can do at this point, since it’s now become a runaway case.  He does promise to find out who hired the princess’ would-be killers, especially with his intel feeding off of Maureen and her fellow officers.  Just as Churchill is about to take his leave, he’s soon met upon by Samir who offers him a job with a $2 million payment attached to it.  Later on at the 4th Precinct (4am to be precise), Det. Fernandez gets a call as she informs Jane and Churchill that an afterhours attendant has identified Sabina and Troy checking into a Trenton-based motel.  He says that it’s a fourty-five minute drive and that he offers to go after them, but Vasko says that she’ll join him in order to have a smoother time winning over the princess’ trust.  Maureen then gives her the address before Jane and Churchill begin their drive towards the Garden State.  From there, Issue 3 ends with him asking her if she’s interested in making a million dollars.

Issue 4 opens with Agents Bill & Green busting up an illegal operation at Trigg’s Warehouse over in Red Hook, Brooklyn.  In a phone call he makes to Maureen, he informs her that they’ve intercepted a couple of calls and have finally figured out who was behind the hit order on the princess.  Meanwhile, Vasko also learns that it was Sabina’s own brother, Samir, who was behind it as Churchill says that they’ll get paid $2 million if they execute both Sabina & Troy and that he’ll give her half of said payout as well as a trip to Las Vegas with him.  Despite Churchill trying to convince her that they’re both crazy killers in their own ways, Jane tells him that she doesn’t murder innocent people.  With her unwilling to comply, he manages to reach his gun within his coat and fires a few shots off on her.  Despite getting hit, she manages to grab the steering wheel as they proceed to struggle.  As they deliver vicious and bloody hits upon each other, they wind up driving through opposing traffic before they crash off a bridge and plunge into a river.

Shortly afterwards, Churchill manages to reach the surface before he reaches dry land and lies down to rest.  Meanwhile, Vasko winds up unconscious within the car as it ends up at the bottom of the river.  Thankfully, she wakes up and manages to swim up to the surface.  Churchill notices this as he grabs a rock and attempts to bludgeon her to death, but she notices and lunges at him before she strangles him to near-death.  Afterwards, she reaches the bridge where an ambulance is at as she allows the medics to take her to the hospital for some necessary recovery.

Meanwhile, Det. Fernandez, Agents Bill & Green and a few officers arrive at Mr. Poonwalla’s apartment as they inform him that his son Samir was behind the attempted assassinations of his daughter, especially due to overwhelming evidence.  Even when his father demands for conformation from him about all of this, even going as far as slapping him for his defiance, Samir still refuses to comply.  From there, Mr. Poonwalla asks for a few minutes of privacy in order for him to properly talk to his son.  From there, he demands to know why he did all of this.  Samir essentially tells him that he gives far too much attention towards Sabina ever since his mom died.  Mr. Poonwalla expresses his disappointment towards his son before Samir asks if he’s going to wind up in an American jail, even though his father has diplomatic immunity and that he promises to never do this horrid act ever again.  Ultimately, Mr. Poonwalla tells Maureen, the agents and the cops that they can take Samir in for questioning, so long as his lawyers are also present.  From there, the scene ends with him asking where his daughter is currently at.  Meanwhile, Sabina and Troy are hiding out in a motel with him getting introduced to American fast food through her.  Suddenly, they hear a knock at the door as Troy tells Sabina to hide while he investigates.  They soon discover that it’s Painkiller Jane as she managed to make her way there, despite losing blood along the way as she proceeds to collapse into the room.  Troy notices that she’s badly hurt and that “they” can’t be too far behind, to which Sabina says that they must leave.

Sometime later, a fully-recovered Jane wakes up within a house that’s out in the middle of a desert.  From there, she makes her way out to the pool to find Sabina and Troy.  The princess proceeds to hug her and apologizes for running out on her before she shows off her newly-dyed hair.  Vasko is puzzled as to what’s going on, before Sabina and Troy decide to explain themselves.  The princess says that they planned on using her shopping trip as the perfect way for them to sneak off and secretly start their new life together.  Troy chimes in by explaining that he’s built up his salary over a two-year span in order to get this picturesque desert home built with environmentally-friendly materials.  As for being as far away from unnecessary attention, Sabina took care of that by using her own allowance to purchase this slice of desert land and under a shell company that she created.  They knew that this life would never fly with her father, especially since a servant would never be allowed to engage in a relationship with his own daughter.  As such, the only way they could let their love for each other flourish was if they pulled such a drastic action.  Thankfully, they planned all of this out in grand detail.  However, Samir’s constant assassination attempts that started over at the airport had put those plans initially into chaos, but Vasko was able to be there at the right time in order to save her.  Sabina and Troy then share their amazement by the fact that Jane’s injuries have healed up in only four days.  After she briefly mentions about her advanced “healing metabolism”, Jane tells her that her brother Samir was behind her attempted assassinations via several assassins, as well as a freelancer who was offering a $2 million bounty for his services.  Sabina is rightfully outraged that her own brother would do this before Vasko assures her that he’s been busted.  Troy then assures his love that Samir was always jealous of her before he asks Jane what she’s going to do now, to which Vasko says that she’ll need some time to think things over.  After she gets a spare bikini and goes for a swim, she narrates about the fact that Sabina and Troy have become “forbidden lovers” who’ve managed to flee towards a better life for themselves.  Even though Jane thinks that Mr. Poonwalla will ultimately find out where they are, Vasko ultimately decides that she can’t force these two apart due to their genuine love for each other.

As such, she ultimately flies back to NYC as Maureen meets up with her at the terminal.  From there, Det. Fernandez tells her that Churchill actually vanished from the hospital that he was taken to, due to someone helping him escape.  As they reach the airport bar, Jane says that she was certain that she strangled the man to death, but she underestimated the strength of his neck.  Maureen then assures her that she did collapse his throat and that the medic had to cut open an airway into his neck.  As for Samir, he did confess to his crimes.  However, he was able to use his father’s diplomatic immunity in order to get deported back to Saudi Arabia.  As for where Sabina is, she says that now that her brother has been busted and that Churchill was ousted in the process, she and her bodyguard are out on their own and that it’s no longer their business.  Despite Det. Fernandez wanting to know where Sabina and Troy are, Vasko tells her this was an act of love that must have a happy ending for once, regardless of how their family business ultimately handles this.  Maureen then expresses her gratitude towards her friend, mainly towards her use of the word “love” towards anything other than food, drinks, blood or even guns.  After Det. Fernandez assures her that she’s dropping the case, the series ends with Jane asking the bartender for some drinks before she leans in to give her longtime friend a kiss.

Before we continue, I should mention that there’s also a 10-page short story that’s included with the first issue of the previous series.  As such, I’ll also cover this breezy tale that has Palmiotti writing the story and Sam Lotfi handling the artwork.  In this venture that sees our featured heroine “From The Beginning”, we open with her chasing down a group of perps on foot while shooting at them.  During this, she narrates how she used to be a regular part of society, but she’s now her “best friend’s lethal weapon”.  While she does miss her old life, she doesn’t look back at it too much since it would distract her from her duties.  She then mentions about the crooks who’re trying to drive away from her in their Hummer as she explains that they’ve been mainly pilfering from trucking companies within the tri-state area.  From there, Maureen asked her to track down a lead that’s paying off, bringing her to a mad pursuit of the three felons: Gina Chase, Brian and Vince.  Due to her own “short temper and impressive talent” of using vehicles as weapons, she’s forced to go after these fiends on foot and that she must catch them before they get to the highway and escape.  Thankfully, Det. Fernandez and her partner named Rob drive and intercept the fleeing felons.  With the thugs having no intention of slowing down or even stopping, Maureen manages to fire off some shotgun blasts and takes out the driver named Brian, causing them to crash into a store.  Suddenly, Gina manages to wearily get out of the wrecked vehicle before Maureen orders her to surrender.  However, Chase refuses to go back to jail as she manages to shoot Det. Fernandez in the chest.  As such, Painkiller Jane takes the fiend out with a vicious headshot.

While she dashes over to her friend to check up on her, Vasko narrates about how much of a sister Maureen has been to her and that they’re very much alike in numerous ways.  From there, we flashback to their time as trainees within the police academy.  Even though Fernandez was able to beat her fellow roommate in various things, it only inspired Jane to push herself harder and that she developed a deep admiration towards Maureen.  When they were out in public, our two ladies were able to become the center of attention out in various public gatherings.  On one particular night, Fernandez shows some nude pictures of herself towards Vasko.  Jane found her friend’s body “stunning” before she ultimately “took a chance” and began to kiss her, which ultimately led to them sharing an intimate and loving night in bed with each other.  Even though Maureen would ultimately go on to marry her boyfriend named Mike, Vasko says that she was fine with that since she was still trying to find herself and that she wasn’t “the most sexual person” back then.  Ultimately, they graduate from the academy as Jane’s parents (I assume Karl & Maria, even though they’re not named here) attend the ceremony and take several pictures as well.  During this, Vasko is met upon by her “old boyfriend” named Raymond (though her then-fiancé Mark Willofsky seems to be nowhere in this version of the backstory) who tells her that it’s awesome that she’s now a cop.  Following the ceremony, the whole group have a celebratory dinner at Casa Mattaeo’s where Karl shares stories about her daughter’s new profession, mainly tales that she’s never heard before.  From there, the flashbacks end with Jane sharing tales about how she and Maureen “terrorized certain teachers” and even played practical jokes upon the staff.  Back in the present, Vasko checks up on her friend.  Thankfully, Det. Fernandez survived the gunshot to her already wearing a bulletproof vest.  Having being helped back onto her feet, Maureen thanks her longtime friend for providing the necessary information that ultimately helped them stop the newly-deceased group of felons.  As they head out to celebrate over some burgers while they “talk like it’s the old times”, the story ends with Jane narrating about how much they’ve gone through ever since their graduation, ranging from Det. Fernandez losing her husband while Vasko ended up losing her previous life.  Despite their losses, they’re still fighting crime together.  Jane goes on to narrate how life helps them realize who “really matters” the most in their lives, compared to those who aren’t and those “whose balls are the most fun to bust”.

Moving on, we’ve now reached the second and final contribution that Icon would bring to this long-running character.  Published in May, July & October 2014, “Painkiller Jane: The 22 Brides” is a three-issue mini-series that sees Palmiotti and Santacruz once again team up to handle the writing & artistic duties of this tale.  Challenging Studios gets to take up the task of coloring the overall venture, while Norberto Fernandez gets to have specific artwork duties for the story’s prologue.  So, what kind of explosive adventure will our familiar vigilante and her longtime group of crime-fighting female furies face this time around?  Let’s join up and find out.

We open on a prologue that speaks of “the wealthiest king in the world” living large within “the most picturesque and expensive palace” of all.  It was the home of the 21 Brides, who were all “women of magnificent splendor” that were gathered throughout the globe to be the king’s numerous wives.  Although they had everything they ever desired, there was one thing that they most wanted but couldn’t have: their freedom.  This was because the king himself was “a repulsive and heartless tyrant who despised himself” and as a result, took his anger out on those around him.  The 21 Brides never fought back against him out of fear that they would suffer from his fierce wrath.  As such, they suffered through various beatings and wound up with numerous injuries or “even worse” kinds of fate.  Then one day, the king would acquire his 22nd Bride.  However, she wouldn’t be as easily submissive as the rest of the women.  On their wedding night, she fought back at him.  Even though the king wasn’t used to this kind of resistance, he still prevailed by the end.  As a result, this 22nd Bride wound up with a scar near her right eye.  She then proceeds to chat with the rest of the brides and calls them out for not striking back at the ruthless king, despite vastly outnumbering him.  Afterwards, she tells them of a place where women are treated with absolute respect & dignity and that if they want to reach that paradise, then they must work together as she promises to help free them all from their oppression.  On that night, they set in plan in motion as the king checks up on his sleeping brides before he approaches his newest bride with ill intent.  Suddenly, all 22 Brides spring into action as they hold him up and viciously kill him.  Even though his blood-curling scream would resonate through the palace, none of his guards came to help him, especially since the brides managed to bribe them all early on.  From there, the prologue ends with the women fleeing from the castle and following their inspiring leader towards a better life for themselves.

We then truly begin within Central Park as Carrie and Libby are enjoying a relaxing day.  Suddenly, a nearby building explodes as they rush over to investigate.  They soon learn from a crew leader that he and his team were renovating the emergency stairs when the whole facility suddenly imploded.  After they learn that the man and his fellow workers were the only ones within the building, Carrie then covers her mouth with a bandana and decides to head inside in order to find any survivors.  Shortly after several fire fighters arrive, Carrie emerges with a lone guy.  Later as she’s receiving oxygen from a tank, a fire fighter informs her that the guy she rescued is going to be fine, as he only suffered a broken leg and smoke inhalation.  Meanwhile, Maureen has arrived onto the scene as an officer informs her that the building was cleared for minor construction before it suddenly collapsed and claimed two lives.  He then says that at the time of the sudden implosion, only construction workers were inside and fixing the emergency stairs, since the tenants were moved into a hotel during the work.  Det. Fernandez then wonders how the building was destroyed, since it was around for a very long time and were originally built to be fortress-strong.  As such, she asks for the surveillance footage of the surrounding area before she learns about a young woman who ran in and saved a worker.  From there, she approaches Carrie & Libby and automatically assumes that they were somehow involved with the building’s destruction (given her past history with them, I guess).  Carrie assures her that she and her sister were in the park when this incident went down and that this the third time this week that this has happened within the city.  Maureen then tells the two ladies that they must be brought to the police station in order for them to make some proper statements and that if they simply tell her fellow officers what happened, then they’ll be back on the street relatively quickly.  Carrie agrees to do so, as long as she buys some lunch for her and her sister, to which Det. Fernandez complies as she gives some money to a cop and tells him to get them some pizza slices and drinks.

Meanwhile at the East Side Cinema, Jane is watching a movie.  However, she’s having a hard time hearing it due to a young couple constantly talking about the film.  Ultimately, this annoys Vasko as she yells at them to be quiet.  However, this action gets her kicked out of the theater.  Suddenly, she and the employee hear a loud noise back inside before the whole cinema explodes and collapses.  Shortly afterwards, she asks him if they were anyone else inside there besides the two moviegoers.  He then says that only three others employees were in there as Jane calls up Maureen and tells her to bring the proper authorities over here.  As she tries to head back inside, she smells some leaking gas as it gets ignited and blows up, causing her to get thrown into a nearby bus.

Later, she wakes up within a bed where she’s met upon by Lulu Stump.  She explains that Det. Fernandez gave her over to the Brides after the paramedics had finished their own examination over her.  From there, she’s spent the next two days resting up while under the watchful eyes of the Brides.  Vasko then learns that she and that lone employee were the only ones who survived the theater’s sudden destruction and that Det. Fernandez was only two blocks away when she got her friend’s call, due to a similar incident.  Later, Jane asks Lulu where she can take a shower.  Lady Stump proceeds to lead her over to one that’s being used by Hardkiss.  Vasko asks her if she lives here with Lulu, to which Hardkiss says that all of the Brides live here on the building’s top six floors and its adjacent penthouse.  While Jane says that she’s already aware of the several buildings that’ve been suddenly destroyed, Hardkiss then mentions that each one of those buildings had a symbol on them as well.  Vasko then mentions that she didn’t know about that, to which Hardkiss explains that every single building that ultimately gets decimated had the same symbol placed within their basement walls.  Namely, it’s a red upside-down skull with blue diamonds in its eyes.  With the unknown fiends targeting these buildings, Jane wonders why they would be going after such trivial structures.  Lulu then assumes that their foes are more interested in scaring people as opposed to killing them before she says that they must find a connection between these buildings.  After being presented with the symbol, Vasko then asks them to wait until she’s done with her shower before they resume their investigation.  One hour later, Maureen arrives as she meets up with the Brides’ technical expert named Spider (formerly named Spyder).  Det. Fernandez explains that there hasn’t been any further attacks ever since the destruction of the East Side Theater, nor has there been any revelations from the surveillance footage, especially since the buildings could’ve been rigged to blow several months in advance.  Spider then says that the only connection that she could find is that every single building that’s been destroyed were over six decades old.  Maureen even adds onto the fact that the devious symbol was checked across several local artists, but it failed to bring up any notable leads as all search avenues thus far has ultimately lead to dead ends.  Spider then says that the Brides appreciate her police department in trusting them with cracking this case, to which Det. Fernandez says that her comrades hate having to ask Spider’s group for help.  However, the Brides know the NYC streets better than anyone else, thus the alliance.  From there, they arrive at the Brides’ rooftop pool as Maureen hugs Jane for her recovery.  Afterwards, she asks the Brides for some private time with her longtime friend.  Libby agrees to her request, since she and the rest of the group can get ready for an upcoming show.  She goes on to explain that Lady Morgana is going to perform at a place called “The Rox”, which is going to close down following the show.  For the event, the Brides are going to handle security with Go-Go and Ally (originally Dark Ali) being already there as bodyguards before their comrades ultimately arrive.  As the Brides head out, Libby tells Maureen to either let herself out once she’s done or stay put and have fun.  From there, Det. Fernandez decides to take up said offer and go for a swim.

Over within a building on the Lower East Side, Mr. Adams is met upon by a pair of guys known as Mr. Letteria and Mr. Cobb.  They inform him that they prepped the next building for demolition and that it’s going down the moment that he gives the go-ahead.  They also say that after tonight, it’ll mainly be empty and that it was going to be demolished in a week’s time.  After learning that the building is hosting an event with about a thousand people in attendance, Mr. Adams says that those that he work for has felt that “playing it safe” hasn’t had much of an effect.  As such, his superiors want to send a clearer message towards the citizens and orders his goons to blow the building up with those patrons inside “for maximum consequence”.  Mr. Letteria refuses to have innocent blood on his hands, even with a tripled offer.  However, the increased payout entices Mr. Cobb as he accepts, while Mr. Adams takes out a gun and executes Mr. Letteria with a precise headshot.  As night falls, Go-Go and Ally mention how the Rox Club doesn’t have a back entrance, especially since it used to be a warehouse.  Ultimately, Lady Morgana arrives as she get escorted to the dressing room.  Suddenly, Ally notices the familiar red skull logo as Issue 1 ends with her contacting Maureen.  As such, she tells Painkiller Jane to get dressed for tonight’s concert.

Issue 2 opens with the patrons being evacuated from the Rox Club as Jane looks over the devious symbol and notices that its paint is still very fresh.  From there, she says that they must search the building for the explosives, to which Det. Fernandez says that they will once everyone’s been cleared.  Meanwhile, Mr. Cobb and a fellow goon are seeing this situation as he calls up Mr. Adams and informs him of the present situation.  From there, he tells Mr. Cobb that he’ll make a quick call.  Later, Painkiller Jane and Maureen head down into the club’s sub-levels to begin their search for the explosives.  Det. Fernandez wants to have a bomb squad with them, but Vasko says that they can track the source materials if they find the armaments in tact.  She even reminds Maureen that the mastermind behind these destructive acts has mainly made sure that next-to-no people are around when the buildings ultimately blow up and since the Rox Club is closing for good on the next day, she’s certain that the bombs won’t go off.  However, Mr. Cobb gets the call as he tells his comrade to blow the building up.  As he’s reminded that officers and fire fighters are still inside, Cobb orders his fellow fiend to only detonate the lower level explosives in order to give them time to escape.  As such, the goon takes out the detonator and sets the Rox Club’s destruction into motion.  Meanwhile, Vasko and Det. Fernandez continue their subterranean search.  Just as Jane suggests that they check the building’s support structures, they’re suddenly rocked by a powerful explosion.  Although they survive the blast, Maureen ended up with some debris lodged into her right eye as Vasko helps her friend out the club.

At that moment, Lulu picks up the detonation signal from a nearby rooftop as she and Hardkiss head out to find the perps while Mercy stays behind to alert their fellow Brides.  At the same time, Painkiller Jane manages to help Det. Fernandez get out of the Rox Club before it finally collapses.  Shortly afterwards, she goes to get her injured friend some medical attention.  Meanwhile, Mr. Cobb and his cohort are about to head out.  Suddenly, they’re approached by Lulu & Hardkiss and get held up at gunpoint.  Shortly afterwards, Mr. Cobb tries to reach for his hidden gun, but Hardkiss notices this and dares him to go for it.  They both proceed to draw, but Hardkiss is much faster as she shoots the gun out of Mr. Cobb’s hand.  With the other felon easily surrendering, Lulu contacts Libby and informs her of their successful capture.  Back with Maureen, she’s being put into an ambulance in preparation for her transportation to the hospital.  Jane offers to ride with her before she tells her fellow Brides to hold the two goons for her, since she wants some “face time” with them.

Later over at Mercy Hospital, Seth informs Vasko that the debris has been successfully removed from Det. Fernandez’ eye and that it’ll regain its normal sight in a few weeks.  Not only that, but she only suffered minor injuries and will be able to head out after a night’s worth of observation.  While they allow their comrade to enjoy some much-needed rest, Dr. Hiller then comments on the fact that he hasn’t seen Vasko in a long while.  She assures him that she’s been very busy before she offers to take him out for his break, especially since she has a certain place in mind.  They ultimately arrive at a bar where it’s revealed that it’s operated by Don Joe Fonti.  As such, he lets them in and makes some drinks as Jane asks him about “the exploding building around town”.  Fonti says that he’s aware of these incidents, but not much else surrounding it.  Shortly after she sends Joe on his way, Vasko tells Seth that she has “a unusual history” with him and that he used to be a major criminal before he got “smarter”.  Dr. Hiller then says that he’s been trying to get a grasp on her sexual preference, to which she tells him that she’ll fall in love with someone, no matter their gender, even if things get ultimately screwed up.  He then says that he’s not trying to be needy, but he hasn’t seen her in a month and that doesn’t constitute much towards their relationship.  She says that she’s been busy, but he brings up the fact that he saw her a week ago with another woman.  She assures him that it was a simple fling and that it wasn’t meant to be a harmful gesture towards him.  After all, she still has humanly needs, yet she’s far-more comfortable with being sexual to a stranger.  Seth then wonders why he even bothers having these kinds of conversations with her before he wonders how many times she has to remind him of her preferences before it finally sinks in, to which Jane says that she’s willing to keep telling him if he’s still willing to ask.  She then tells him to not give up on her before she gives him a kiss.  Suddenly, she gets a call as she springs back into action.

Later, she meets up with her fellow Brides before she asks them what they found out from Mr. Cobb and his cohort.  Hardkiss says that she couldn’t get a word out of those thugs, despite beating them up.  Libby then mentions that she hacked into Cobb’s phone in order to find out where his last several calls came from.  Vasko then checks out the device and notices its last received phone number right before the club blew up.  She decides to take a risk and calls it up as Mr. Adams answers.  From there, Jane angrily says that she’ll track him down and that she has his two cohorts.  Shortly afterwards, Mr. Adams hangs up as Lulu and Libby berate her action, since their enemy now knows that he’s being pursued.  Vasko assures them that she’s done this before and that they’ll be ready-in-waiting for their adversary.  Until then, she hands the phone back to Libby while she decides to interrogate the two goons herself.  Back at his building, Mr. Adams contacts his superior and lets him know that they’ve located where the Brides’ main building is.  Afterwards, he tells a villainous comrade named Villany to take a well-armed group to a certain location in order to rescue his captured men.  He then shows a particular person’s photo and says that she must be left unharmed, while everyone else can get killed off.  After learning that he’ll be facing “a lot” of resistance and gets offered $50,000 for his services, Villany tells him to add an extra $10,000 to the bounty pot and promises to bring “the whole body”.  Meanwhile, Carrie, Libby & Lulu are in their armory as they continue to chastise Jane for luring their foes to their base.  Lulu says that they must bring the fight to the street and decides they they’ll cover the front entrance in order to ambush their adversaries.  Carrie then mentions that she hates the idea that they’re forced to stay put at their base while waiting for their enemies to come to them.  She then mentions that Spider is dissecting the cell phone before she suggests that they “make this the police department’s problem for a change”, especially since they don’t know what kind of opposing force they’re up against.  As Libby hopes that Jane gets the two captured agents to talk, Lulu gets a call from her father and gets told to come see him right away, especially since he has a medical condition.  As such, she’s forced to head out as Carrie tells her that they have their own army-sized group to hold things down and that she can get back as soon as possible.

Back with Vasko, she gets some handheld shearers from Go-Go before she tells the captured agents to inform her who they’re working for.  If not, then she’ll start cutting their fingers off.  Back with the remainder of the Brides, they arrive at the main floor as Hardkiss tells Carrie & Libby to guard the back loading dock while everyone else looks over the main lobby, with Frenchy going to be dressed up as a regular security guard for the front desk.  Another member volunteers to go undercover just outside their main entrance as a lookout, while another Bride offers to position herself within the lobby and the loading dock.  She also tells Hardkiss to turn off the elevators since if their enemies do get past them, they’ll be forced to use the stairs.  Back on the roof, Go-Go removes the gags from the enemy agents’ mouths.  Immediately, one of them spills the beans as he explains that he was hired by Mr. Adams to place explosives within the various buildings and that they made sure to avoid excessive collateral damage.  He goes on explains that Mr. Adams owns the top floor of the MCI Building before describing him as a “rich white dude” who’s six feet tall and with blonde hair.  Mr. Cobb chastises him for ratting out their boss, when an enemy helicopter suddenly flies in and guns down both agents.  Jane and Go-Go managed to dive out of the away in time (with Vasko only taking a single shot to her leg), while Hardkiss manages to hear the gunfire all the way from the main level.  The armed agents then repel down onto the roof and confirm their murder of their captured comrades before Jane manages to take one of them out with a headshot.  Even though she does get hit in her waist, she still takes out the last agent as the pilot attempts to fly away.  Not wanting to let them escape, she jumps from the roof and grabs onto the rope.

After she climbs into the helicopter, she then takes a gunshot to her shoulder before she grabs the co-pilot’s wrist and redirects his aim towards the pilot, which ultimately takes him out.  She then punches him out cold before she jumps into the pilot’s chair and notices that the controls have been damaged by the excessive gunshots.  Just as she wonders where she’s going to land the busted aircraft, Issue 2 ends with her discovering the top floor of the MCI Building as she proceeds to fly right for it.

Issue 3 begins within Mr. Adams’ office giving a prostitute some money for her services before excusing her.  Afterwards, he calls his secretary in and tells her to inform his wife that he’ll be home late, as well as letting Ms. Gilberto know that he’ll be tardy for their dinner.  During this, she’s shocked by a surprising sight that’s right outside his office window.  As he turns around to look, he sees Vasko flying the disabled helicopter right towards him.  She proceeds to crash it right into his office before she climbs out and demands to know where Mr. Adams is.  After his secretary points him out and quits her job before taking her leave, Jane grabs him by his suit and chastises him for the destruction of several buildings.  He manages to take out a hidden gun, but she’s able to smack it out of his hand, headbutts him and then holds him over the side by his tie as she tells him to start talking.

Later over at Stump Towers, Lulu meets up with her father Ronald as she realizes that he doesn’t look very sick.  He then mentions their past trip to Monte Carlo where she fell in love with a racehorse called Vagabond that he ultimately bought and ended up winning a bunch of prize money as a result.  As he pours himself a drink, he then mentions that something serious has happened.  He explains that his businesses have taken major hits over the past and because he’s lost some major clients as a result, he now owes the IRS over $600 million, even after he’s sold off all of his holdings, with the exception of the building that Lulu and her fellow Brides use as their headquarters.  As such, he’s also had to sell off several extravagant luxury vehicles and even some living spaces, including a Hamptons-based house that he built and was also Lulu’s childhood home.  With her rightfully shocked by what’s happened, she says that they can downsize and settle in a small place out in Brooklyn.  However, he says that he’s not going to be a part of those plans, especially since he “made some moves” that he’ll never be able to come back from.  At that moment, Vasko bursts in and reveals that Ronald himself was the ultimate mastermind behind the destruction of the various buildings, even creating a fake terrorist threat in order to purchase numerous properties for dirt cheap.  She then grabs Ronald and chastises him for going through with this horrid scheme, just so he could make some quick money.  He ultimately confesses to her and his daughter how it started off with the idea of making people believe that those buildings were “marked for destruction” and that those red skull symbols would create some conspiracy & false rumors in order to make the patrons flee from those areas.  Afterwards, he would’ve bought them for next-to-nothing.  He even says that at first, nobody was supposed to get hurt from this operation.  However, “it just got easier” the more this went on.  Lulu then proceeds to chastise her father for his horrid action, even saying that he’s no better than the fiends that she and her fellow Brides go after.  Jane then tells him that the police are going to arrest him and everyone else who participated.  She then says that the only reason that she’s not going to serve as his executioner is because of his daughter and for all of the good will that she’s done for other people.  From there, the cops arrive to arrest Ronald while Vasko takes her leave alongside a weeping Lulu.

We shift ahead by one month as Jane is hanging out with Maureen as they enjoy watching Game of Thrones.  As Vasko goes to grab some more beers from the refrigerator, she suddenly gets a call as she learns that Lulu has gotten herself into a certain situation.  As such, she tells Fernandez that she needs to borrow her car before offering her to come along, to which she accepts.  Later, they arrive at a particular house out in the Hamptons as the current owners inform them that Lulu has been in their beachside yard for the last several hours.  Fortunately, the home owners refrained from calling the cops and managed to look up Jane’s recent dialed phone number from Lulu’s cell in order to get some alternative help.  From there, Vasko makes her way towards Lulu in order to have a calm talk with her.  During their conversation, they mention how the home was built by Lulu’s parents as she also mentions that this was where she grew up when her father first struck his initial financial wealth on the stock market.  She then expresses her glum nature over the fact that her dad has to spend six life sentences in jail for his actions and nowadays, she’s being treated like “a bad seed” and she even feels like she’s let her fellow Brides down.  She then mentions that she thought about taking her own life via “a one-way swim”, but she just can’t bring herself to do so.  After telling her that it takes even more guts to not go through with that insane action, Jane then tells her that she’s been in a similar dark place herself.  She explains how several years ago, she seriously considered ending her life in order to find some peace and to spare her burden from others.  Thankfully, her best friends in Det. Fernandez & Dr. Hiller allowed to not only realize that she had lots of reasons to live, but that she can use her newfound situation in order to help people.  Not only that, but it’s taught her to rely on others for some much-needed help.  She then tells Lulu that they both have a common connection in that they’ve both lost their past lives, albeit in different ways.  Despite her own loss, Lady Stump gets reminded that she has twenty-one friends who would do any single thing for her and that what just happened wasn’t her fault in any way.  Vasko even tells her that the Brides have a deep appreciation for her because she cared enough to financially secure them with a home that they can share.  From there, Jane reminds her of her favorite saying: “Tough Times Never Last; Tough People Do.”.  Lulu then tearfully says that she’s mentally & physically tired from everything that’s just happened and that she’s aware that her fellow Brides have been trying to contact her, even though she’s been purposefully ignoring them, since she desperately wants some alone time.  Vasko says that she understands before she tells Lulu that she’ll never be alone since she’s always a phone call away.  From there, the scene ends with Jane reminding Lady Stump to let her know when she’s finally ready to head out.

We then cut to three hours later with our three ladies struck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Long Island Expressway.    After learning that Vasko is just as hungry as her, Lulu asks her to take the next exit so that they can eat at Burger Castle.  Later, our three women arrive as they order a large amount of burgers, including an equally-hungry Det. Fernandez.  Later, they make their way through their meals as they each talk about the most pitiful dates that they’ve ever had.  Suddenly, a group of masked robbers burst in to pilfer the place.  With another goon holding a gun up to some kids’ heads, our three women quietly discuss how they’re going to handle this situation.  Lulu then mentions that she has an idea.  From there, she approaches one of the goons as she holds a knife behind her back while asking him if she can go get a refill for her drink.  She then manages to get the drop on him as she stabs him in his side and takes his gun.  She then shoots an adjacent fiend before stabbing him.  However, the remaining robber stops her heroic endeavor before placing his gun up to her head.  Thankfully, Painkiller Jane managed to save her friend by taking the fiend out with a headshot.  Not too long afterwards, the proper authorities and medics arrive to get the scene under control.

As a mother thanks Lulu for saving her children, they head outside for a calming talk.  Back inside, Vasko tells a wounded fiend that he’ll live.  From there, she’s approached by Det. Fernandez as they share their appreciation towards their friend, especially since she went from being an emotional wreck to calmly handling a tense situation.  Ultimately, our three ladies take their leave.  As their make their way back to New York City via a far-less busy Long Island Expressway, Lulu resumes her story about her utterly bizarre first date.  And so, the series ends as Lady Stump concludes her story with the notion that her failure of a dinner date was possibly accompanied by a ghost version of his mother.

Just like our previous series, the first issue also has a stand-alone bonus tale.  Unlike that prior version however, this one is much lengthier as this particular story lasts a full 21 pages.  With Palmiotti once again in the writer’s chair, he’s accompanied by artist Steve Mannion and colorist Paul Mounts.  For this done-in-one venture, Painkiller Jane will find herself on a brutal adventure as she set her lethal sights on some real-life “Monsters”.

We open with Jane as our narrator as she properly begins her tale two days over in a Coney Island-based warehouse.  She’s been captured and is tied up by a leisure suit-wearing fiend who threatens to have her battered & bruised by his musclebound brute named Carl if she refuses to tell him who sent her to spy on him.  The man says that he doesn’t believe that she’s “a concerned citizen looking out for the community”, especially since she knew where to find them and cause “some irrevocable destruction” on her way over there.  Despite his threats, she only says that she’ll kill them if they lay a single bodily digit on her.  During this, she’s been digging into her ropes with her fingernails in a bloody attempt to break through her sloppy bonds.  However, Carl is still able to land a few punches onto her face.  Afterwards, she gets herself free and retaliates by punching him in the throat.  As she beats the goon up, the leisure suit-wearing felon overhears this from another room as he tells his fellow thugs that he’ll offer $1,000 to anyone who can kill their foe before he makes his escape.  While the goons wait for her to come in, Vasko yells at them to flee.  From there, she takes several surgical instruments and tapes them onto a stick in order to create a makeshift mace.  From there, she bursts in and confronts the fiends before she bludgeons them to a blood-soaked death.

Afterwards, the leisure suit man runs onto the boardwalk before he confronts a pair of thugs and offers them $5,000 if they can take out his pursuer.  Shortly after his takes him leave, Jane gets the fiends’ attention by firing a shot onto Mountain’s shoulder before she easily beats them up.  From there, she chases the guy into a funhouse before she tackles him and delivers her own beatdown and drags the goon out.

Later, the man named Stevie wakes up as he finds himself stripped down to his undergarments.  He’s also met up by Jane who tells him that she’s going to kill him through Ling Chi, a form of Chinese torture where the victim is slowly executed through a series of slow cuts.  After she mentions that the only way that he’ll live is if he helps her, he finally cracks and says that the true bad guys had kidnapped his wife and that he knows where they have her.  The reason that he initially captured Vasko in the first place was that he thought that she was working for those fiends.  From there, he realizes who’s behind all of this: Basso.  Later, she calls Maureen and brings her up to date on this situation.  Jane says that she plans on saving Stevie’s wife, call him up to inform him of the good news and then he’ll tell her where Basso is hiding out.  Det. Fernandez then tells her to get the address and then let her fellow officers handle this, but Vasko says that Basso has been on their most-wanted list for the past nine months and that she’s not going to hand him over to the cops.  From there, she hangs up and approaches the thug that’s guarding the front door.  Later, she beats up the various kidnappers and finally reaches Stevie’s captured wife named Donna.  She then calls up Stevie as they let him know that his spouse is now safe, to which he tells Jane to take her to the hospital so that he can see her again before he promises to finally reveal where Bosso is.  One taxi ride later, Vasko and Donna arrive as Jane calls up Maureen and lets her know that even though she took out the majority of the kidnappers, she still left one of them alive for her friend to question.  Afterwards, Stevie and Donna are reunited as Vasko asks for Bosso’s location.  He then says that Bosso isn’t actually a person and that he’s more of a network of sick, demented people who use the identity.  He accidentally came across one of those members during his robbery of a Long Island-based nightclub, as he unintentionally came across a guy who was “having his way with a girl in the basement of the place”.  Little did Stevie know was that he wound up killing the woman.  Then on one particular day, another man showed up at his mother’s house wearing a gas company uniform and said that he came to fix a reported leak.  After being let down into the basement, the guy then shows Stevie a picture of his newly-kidnapped wife Donna and says that if he tries to rat them out, then she dies.  As such, he was given a list of demands that he had to follow.  One day later, a woman drops off a car at his place with its trunk containing several small plastic bags and a note.  Vasko then realizes that this is where his henchman was forced into dumping several severed body parts before getting arrested, which is how she found herself assigned into overall plot to begin with.

Two days later, she meets up with Det. Fernandez at a diner.  Maureen says that she and her fellow officers looked into the place where Donna was being held, but they couldn’t find any prominent leads at all since every single felon who was hired in some capacity by the devious group all turned as dead ends.  She then says that her investigation did lead to the discovery of an old, defunct web page that the hired thugs got coded messages from.  Despite that, it was another trail that ultimately led to nowhere.  However, she and her fellow officers did notice some peculiar murders that took place outside of NYC and that they were familiar in some ways.  Even with the numerous possibilities, she says that they’ll truly know unless they capture someone red-handed.  She then tells Jane to stop killing every criminal she comes across, but Vasko says that she doesn’t kill innocent people and that she doesn’t believe that doing things by the book leads to total effectiveness upon the city’s crime.  Maureen then tells her that ever since she got out of that fateful coma, she’s been relentless with her “one-woman crime-fighting spree”, to which Jane says that her way has greatly helped in solving several cases for the local police.  However, Det. Fernandez doesn’t entirely approve of her methods since she has to deal with “piles of body bags and nobody to arrest”.  Vasko then angrily tells her friend that in the end, she still calls her for help and is still willing to make time for her.  From there, she leaves some money and tells her to never call her again before she storms off.  Later that night, Jane is enjoying a relaxing bath as she narrates about how she still emotionally cares about Maureen and that even though she’s aware that her friend’s constant lectures are a sign that she’s looking out for her, she’s “too hot-tempered” to fully comprehend it, despite the fact that she knows that Det. Fernandez feels bad for those constant criticisms.  Ultimately, she knows that she still needs to have her longtime friend as a part of her life.  Just then, Vasko gets an attempted call from Maureen, but she refuses to answer as she slips underneath her bath water.  Just then, she’s surprisingly met upon by Det. Fernandez.  She informs Jane that both Stevie and Donna have suddenly disappeared, though hospital security footage did show a guard escorting them out of the facility.  It turns out that he got a phone call about someone who’s threatening to execute his grandmother if he didn’t follow their orders.  Thankfully, the elderly lady turned up alive over in Atlantic City.  Vasko then asks if this is the Bassos striking back, to which Maureen says that it fits with their usual activities.

We then cut to a short time later as Jane is getting dressed while asking Det. Fernandez if she also came over to apologize for their recent argument.  Just then, they hear a knock at the door as Vasko heads over to answer it.  Suddenly, she gets hit by some powerful gunshots that blow the entryway open.  It turns out to be Donna wielding a shotgun as Maureen responds by putting her gun up to the woman’s head and orders her to drop the weapon.  Donna immediately complies as she says that she had no choice, since Stevie was kidnapped.  After placing Donna in handcuffs, Det. Fernandez then rushes over to Jane’s side in order to deal with the wounds to her stomach while mentioning that she’s going to call Seth.  After a quick narration that reminds the reader of her Healing Factor, Vasko then asks Donna why she did this to her.  She tells Painkiller Jane that she was ordered to kill her and take her dead body to the roof before she gets a call up there.  Realizing that there’s eyes up there, Maureen gets an idea.  Later, Donna is dragging Jane’s body up to the roof as a sniper oversees this.  Suddenly, she’s met upon by Det. Fernandez and surrenders to her.  Shortly afterwards, Vasko calls up (supposedly) Dr. Hiller and appreciates how this plan worked out for them for once.  Suddenly, she starts feeling incredibly dizzy as she mentions that this is being caused by her gunshot wound before she passes out into Maureen’s arms.  Later, Jane is resting up at the hospital as Det. Fernandez informs her that the sniper was also blackmailed by the mysterious Basso people, since they had kidnapped her son.  Thankfully, the kid was discovered at Grand Central Station with his name and mother’s phone number pinned onto his shirt.  After some further investigation, they still found nothing outside of dead cell phone numbers and stolen credit cards.  With Stevie and Donna now under 24-hour surveillance, this whole case has now been handed over to the federal agents.  While Vasko is bummed that they couldn’t solve this case themselves, Maureen says that not every case can be a happy ending for them and that sometimes, it’s ultimately up to the professionals to handle this.  She even says that until they find out the identities of the true masterminds behind this whole scheme, then this will keep going on.  In the end, Det. Fernandez says that they tried their best and that all they can do now is read about it in the newspaper.  From there, she cuddles up next to Painkiller Jane as they watch some TV together.  After learning that she’ll be back to full health in a day’s time (thanks to her Healing Factor), Jane then asks Maureen for an apology.  When Det. Fernandez says that she doesn’t know what she’s apologizing for, Vasko says that she should just do so in order for them to move on.  And so, the story ends with them watching a shark-based program before they make cracks at each other concerning their families.

For our final story, we now shift over to Paperfilms, an independent comic book company that was created by a couple of notable names within the industry: Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Justin Gray, Craig Weeden and Patrick Wedge.  As for this particular graphic novel called “Painkiller Jane: Trust The Universe”, it came about thanks to a crowdfunding campaign via Kickstarter.  Requiring a minimum goal of $38,000, 991 backers were able to finance this project with a grand total of $56,658.  Ultimately, it was published in August 2019 and came with some notable content.  In addition to a gallery of pin-ups and extras, it also came with three stories.  Two of them are tales that fans of the character will most likely already have.  In particular, it reprints her origin tale from Vol. 1, Issue #0 (a.k.a. her early Event Comics days) and the recently-discussed “Monsters” story.  Fortunately, there is a venture that’s exclusive to this graphic novel and it’ll see her coming across a character that actually debuted with a major publisher, but had its rights reverted back to its owners and thus, gets to show up here.  We’ll cross that expositional bridge when we get there, but for now, let’s wrap up this three-part retrospective with a tale that sees Conner & Palmiotti writing the narrative, Santacruz taking care of the artwork and Dan Kemp handling the colors.

We open to a bathroom within the 22 Brides’ headquarters as Jane thanks Hardkiss and her fellow compatriots for letting her stay over while her apartment undergoes some renovations.  Hardkiss assures her that she’s always welcome, especially after she greatly helped Lulu with her recent situation.  After taking a shower, Vasko has to head out for an undercover assignment.

From there, we move into Chapter 1: “Darkness After The Fall” as Painkiller Jane is having some drinks at a bar.  Suddenly, the bartender (who turns out to be a redesigned version of Det. Maureen Fernandez) notices two people walking in and points them out to Jane.  Just as she’s informed that Maureen & her fellow cops are unaware of who the guy is and who he works for, Vasko narrates about how she got to this point at shutting down this human trafficking venture from a helpful and informative woman who sadly lost her life.  Det. Fernandez then tells her that she’ll track the young woman & the client, while Jane follows the client back to his source and text the address to her so that she can swarm the place with the proper authorities.  Maureen then reminds her to “be gone before anyone shows up”, especially since their covers require them to have some restraint.  After the devious guy hands the young woman over to another man and receives the proper payment, he proceeds to head out as Vasko proceeds to follow him.  As they walk the streets with her in pursuit, she narrates about her instruction from the police academy when it comes to trailing a suspect.  During this, the guy uses the selfie camera in his cell phone to check if he’s being followed at certain points while Jane narrates that her friend is right and that she must use some caution, especially since they don’t know the full extent of this human trafficking operation.  Ultimately, they arrive at Hotel Hellenbach as the guy gets onto an elevator, forcing Vasko to stand back and let him get on by himself in order to check what floor he’ll arrive at.  Unfortunately, she approached by a pair of thugs who were on to here as they hold her up at gunpoint before they get on an elevator.  Jane then narrates how as much as she would love to take their firearm and smite these goons, it’s actually smarter to maintain her restraint and let them take her right to their boss.  As such, she decides to play dumb.  However, the thugs say that they followed her right from the bar and that their associate has taken some interest in her.  Shortly afterwards, Vasko gets shocked by their stun gun and gets knocked out.  We then shift over to a single office over in downtown as we move into Chapter 2: “A Deep Feeling”.

A pair of young women named Tilt Shimura and Alice Cohen are having a small celebration.  In particular, it involves Alice having been sober for the past six years.  Tilt then asks if “the big guy” will be joining them, but Cohen says that it’s unlikely, especially since he wasn’t around earlier that morning when she left for work, probably out fighting crime in his own way.  She also mentions how she hasn’t been able to spend too much time with him over the past several weeks.  From there, they take to the streets as Shimura plans on taking her friend to a club called Saturn, especially since their lead singing pal named Sunshine is playing there with her punk girl band called Angry Buzzsaw.  Following the performance, Tilt and Alice are allowed into the band’s dressing room as they meet up with Sunshine.  She then tells them that her little sister named Tina has been missing for the past two days.  As such, she asks them for some “extra help” from “him”.  Cohen tries to act oblivious and says that she doesn’t know whom Sunshine is talking about, but Shimura is fully-aware as she tells her lead singing pal to never mention him.  However, Sunshine says that this is urgent and that she’s even brought some of her sister’s clothing for him to use to find her.  Alice then takes Tilt aside and proceeds to chastise her for informing someone about their special comrade, to which Shimura says that Sunshine is her oldest friend and that her little sister is missing.  Ultimately, Cohen is convinced as she tells Sunshine to bring whatever belongs to Tina and follow them.  Later, they arrive back at Ashley’s riverside home out in Brooklyn.  She then tells Sunshine that she inherited the place from her grandmother and that she waved away every single offer from multiple real estate agents who wanted to buy her land and turn it into expensive condominiums.  As our women prepare to head down to the basement, Cohen says that it goes below sea level and that it connects to a building over on the Lower East Side of town, especially since liquor smugglers used to use it during Prohibition.  Shimura even adds onto the fact that the passage goes right underneath the East River.  As our women head down, they hear a noise before they recognize that it’s Monolith.  However, he’s also carrying Painkiller Jane and she’s bloodied & beaten.  Monolith promises to explain himself as he tells the ladies to help her.

Moving on to Chapter 3: “What Happened”, we then flashback a few hours earlier as Monolith looks over a few photos that show some kidnapped women.  He then places his hand on the ground and proceeds to scan the whole city for them.  Ultimately, his ability leads him to the Hotel Hellenbach before he heads towards it.