Paper Girls is written by highly regarded comic writer Brian K. Vaughan (known forEx Machina, RunawaysandSaga), illustrated by Cliff Chaing (Wonder Woman, Human TargetandGreen Arrow/ Black Canary), colours by Matthew Wilson (The Wicked and The Divine, Swamp ThingandThor) and lettering by Jared K. Fletcher (Southern Bastards, Hellbreakand Avengers Age Of Ultron)
Paper Girls is not my first foray into the world of Image comics, my first taste came in the shape of Saga and then later The Wicked and The Divine, two series that I utterly and completely ADORE, but there was always something holding me back from picking up Paper Girls. I couldn’t tell you what it was, but it just was never the title I came home with. So when I received it as a gift in the Christmas of 2016 from one of my very trustworthy comic-minded girlfriends I was delighted and intrigued. It was time for me to take a read.
Well why the hell did I wait?!
I loved it, every single second I loved! The story line was not what I had thought at all I was kicking myself at my misconceptions! I spent a wonderful hour or so curled up in my favorite chair, with a big coffee in my fave mug and read something that with every turn of the page traveled higher and higher up my favorite comic list! Be aware that if like me you are late to the Paper Girls party this article will contain spoilers!
So what was it about it that I loved?
Everything! Whilst that is true, lets narrow things down a bit. Looking first at the story line. Vol #1 takes place in the early hours after Halloween 1988 and we are introduced to four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls, Erin, Mackenzie, KJ and Tiffany. Our journey with these four begins on Erin’s first morning when during her route she comes across a group of teenagers still dressed for Halloween. When the teens start to get mouthy, the girls come to her aid and offer her a spot in their gang. Things go from strange to stranger pretty quick.
Soon after we come across three characters all wrapped up looking like mummies (don’t forget its only the dawn after Halloween) but later we find out that these three mummies, who we are led to assume are the baddies, are actually just time travelling teenagers and it looks as though our Girls are caught in the middle of some sort of futuristic space war! The first volume ends on a pretty awesome cliffhanger, which I wont spoil, but I was not expecting it at all!
I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline in Vol 1, the mix of the ‘good girl’ Erin and ‘bad girl’ Mac is s a really relatable dynamic. I think regardless of gender everyone can recall knowing that ‘bad’ kid growing up, the one who acted the toughest, cursed and had a late curfew (if at all). However as the story goes on we see two sides to Mac; the hard exterior that will stand up to the teenage boys and the police, and the little kid inside that needs a mother figure to support and cherish her. Brian K. Vaughan’s skills and experience shows in all his works and this is no exception, the dialogue between the two characters feels natural and easy despite them being polar opposites.
Art direction and Style
Looking toward the art direction and style of this series I can not get enough of Chiang’s line work. The elegant minimalist line-work throughout shows just enough detail to keep you in that moment but not so much to distract from what’s happening front and centre. The combination of the staging of the panels and Wilson’s colouring in the panels first showing Erin on her bike are some of my favourite. You ate filled with such a sense of knowing, I can easily imagine that chilly, still morning where dawn isn’t quite upon you and anything is possible.
I love the character placement when we first meet the other girls. We are looking up at them as though we’re on the floor or as though they are towering over us. They are for all intents and purposes a biker gang but instead of burly blokes with ZZ top beards they’re wily 12 year old girls not afraid to cuss you out and stand up for themselves. It’s the kinda biker gang I can get behind! The girls wear quite hard expressions, you know they can handle themselves, which in a world where the danger for these girls is round every corner is something both necessary and ideal. The arrangement of the characters in this panel is very telling, Mac is front and centre and drawn with the most detail, we know without any description that she is going to be one of the forerunners of this volume. The positioning of her being almost twice the size of KJ and Tiffany not only puts her in the foreground, literally leading the group, but also connotes her as being a larger then life character.
I would say one of the reasons I enjoyed Paper Girls so much is also one of the reasons I love Netflix’s Stranger Things so much, the characters are so endearing! Due in part to their ages, the girls, much like the Stranger Things gang have a level of naivety appropriate to their age. But it is not to be mistaken for helplessness, these kids don’t and won’t wait for the grown ups to show up and save the day, they’ve got that covered. In true Brian K. Vaughan style there is a beautiful and crazy vein of sci fi running through the heart of the series which, although I’ve not touched on heavily in this article, is more then just enjoyable; it also has the sort of vivid imagery we have come to associate with the likes of Saga, that leads the reader straight into the crazy beautiful world. That being said, for me the girls are the lifeblood of this series. I could’ve just read pages about them going on their paper routes, each character is so likeable, relatable and you are rooting for them from the beginning.
It will not come as a surprise after reading this that I instantly purchased vol. 2 upon finishing vol. 1 so keep your eyes out for the next review! Let me know your thoughts in the comments, do you agree? do you disagree? are you a fan? are you not a fan?
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