Comicsly | adverb; in a manner that defies explanation but deserves recognition and praise

Paper Girls #16

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan

Artist: Cliff Chiang

Colors: Matt Wilson

Cover Art: Cliff Chiang

Published: October 4, 2017

In case you haven’t been reading Paper Girls then please, the next time you go into your local comic book shop or you’re perusing Comixology, or go here, do yourself a favor and pick up the first few trades of Paper Girls. It would be extremely difficult to recap what has happened over the previous fifteen issues as it is a whole lot of sci-fi madness. Long story short is that four girls (Erin, KJ, Mackenzie, Tiffany) ran into some time travelers on halloween night 1988 and stole their time machine. Time traveling absurdity ensued, Apple products are involved, and maybe some sort of future version of Steve Jobs is after them. Issue 16 picks up with the girls coming back from the (far) future, after learning a little about the fourth-dimensional tears that allow for time travel, to New Year’s Eve night 1999. Just as the new millennium is dawning.

The end of the year1999/beginning of the year 2000 was a scary time. The more prone/susceptible to fear mongering were preparing for the Y2K bug to do its worst, and for the anarchy that would ensue (personal aside: my family purchased enough dried food and batteries to last a year). But instead of a computer glitch about clocks not resetting or something, Paper Girls #16 reimagines the true terror of the new millennium (in Stony Brook Ohio at least) as huge robots battling each other above a strip mall which has both an Applebee’s and a Blockbuster Video. This robot battle is beautifully drawn over a two page spread (more on the art in a second) and is very emblematic of the fun that permeates every issue. Paper Girls never takes its’ sci-fi plot too seriously, because a lot of what happens is bonkers. This issue alone contains a giant robot battle along with the future Steve Jobs (might be the same time-lord/overseer that appeared in previous issues although he looks younger in this issue, or it’s a different person) strolling through a hall filled with prehistoric creatures. These scenes are never too heavy, nor do they detract from what this story is really about, the relationship of these four girls. In this issue Mac is still dealing with the revelation that she is destined for an early death, and Tiffany has a memory about when her adoptive parents got her the video game Asteroids as a way to ease the transition to her new home. But even though Tiffany’s flashback happens in this fantastical sci-fi context, its effect are given room to develop and we see how this difficult/troubling/laced with sexism memory of Tiffany’s effects her. There’s space for time-traveling robots, but also consideration of what this memory means or where it belongs in the hierarchy of things when she’s trapped in a car beneath giant battling robots? This issue doesn’t lose track of the friendship and absurdity that the readers are here for, and also give the girls an intriguing new ally after they left their previous one in the future.

Cliff Chiang’s art and Matt Wilson’s colors are again outstanding. This (and all previous colors) are brightly colored with a matte finish for a cover that really stands out among the sea of overly glossy or too flat covers of many comic books (the pink and yellow on this cover are particularly good). Most of this issue occurs at night or in dark spaces, so there are a lot of pleasing blues, purples, dark reds, oranges, and pinks. The huge robot fight above the strip mall makes excellent use of perspective to show how towering they really are while also including some great visual jokes (the inclusion of the AppleBee’s and Blockbuster is very good). The art on this book has been so consistently great that there isn’t much to mention other than that fantastic robot fight.

Again if you haven’t/aren’t reading Paper Girls you can get the .cbr file here (you just need an app on your computer/tablet/phone to open it).

(Subjective) Score out of 10: 9

Vaughan, Chiang, Wilson/ Image Comics


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