Writer: Brain K. Vaughan
Artist: Cliff Chiang
Colors: Matt Wilson
Cover Art: Cliff Chiang
Published: November 1, 2017
There’s something nice about reading a comic book as it come out that you don’t get when you read it as a trade paperback. When you’re reading a good book that you really enjoy, by a writer and art team you trust, then having the opportunity to slip back into that world once a month is just incredible. It envelopes you for 20 or 30 minutes once every four weeks to transport you back to a place that you love. This is the experience of reading Paper Girls in it’s monthly release schedule, and there hasn’t really been a ‘down’ issue. Brian K. Vaughan’s story hasn’t strayed from its heart, the friendship of four teenage girls who are learning about themselves and each other and also happen to be caught in The Battle of the Ages. This is apparently the name for the timeline jumping battle that KJ, Erin, Mac and Tiffany find themselves caught up in. The old lady, that everyone except Tiffany ran into last issue, has been aware of this battle for a while and is on the side of the ‘heroes’ who are attempting to use fourth dimensional tears to set the timeline ‘right.’ The sides of this conflict are laid out more clearly now than they have been at any point previously. The giant robot battle that started in issue #16 continues in this one with the big black and white robot piloted by the ‘heroes’ and the red one piloted by the ‘old timers.’ The ‘heroes’ are from 7,000 AD and are rebelling against rules established by the ‘old timers’ that the timeline should never be used/changed/accessed/manipulated. The word heroes here is used tentatively because the old lady claims to be working with them, but then pulls a gun on the girls because they know to much.
Tiffany escapes from the wrecked cop car she was trapped in at the end of the last issue, and finds her way back to where she lived in Stony Brook in 1988. But instead of finding her parents celebrating the millennium, she finds a person dressed in all leather who claims to be her partner. It’s very Paper Girls to drop this random twist just when the book is starting to make a little bit of sense, but this book hasn’t missed yet and it will be exciting to see how this one resolves. To go with everything else that happened, KJ also confesses to Mac that she might be a lesbian. This moment isn’t given much consideration here beyond Mac asking her “What the f*** did you just say” as the old lady pulls the gun on them on the very next page. This was probably one of the more action heavy issues of Paper Girls, and it makes the time-traveling narrative slightly clearer. But even revealing the plot a bit, opens up so many questions. If you reread the issue the old lady cartoonist becomes a bit more ominous and it seems that she is watching for people coming out of the time stream. And if one of the ‘heroes’ is cool with offing innocent people then… well… that’s no good. The ‘heroes’ from 7,000 AD have weird drippy faces, an odd, less clean aesthetic compared to the ‘old timers,’ and a new indecipherable (?) language, which makes you wonder what happened in/before 7,000 AD that they are trying to fix in the past.
This story feels no where near any sort of resolution, which is fantastic, and if Brian K. Vaughan’s run on Saga is any indication then maybe Paper Girls will be similarly long running. Erin, Mac, and KJ are in a precarious situation, and also still have to deal with KJ’s revelation, but will they also be kind of forced to pick a side if they have to take the old lady down. Now that the two sides are more clear can the four of them maintain their status as displaced interlopers or will they choose a team?
It’s repetitive to say, but Chiang’s and Wilson’s art was fantastic in this book. It’s just a small detail but Charlotte’s (the old lady) computer is on old mac with a transparent orange back that is hooked up to a generator (because it is Y2K). The depiction of the interior of the battling robots s also really interesting as the ‘old timer’ one is clean and sleek compared to the more fluid look of the ‘heroes’ robot. These are small things but they add a lot to what’s going on in the narrative effectively differentiate all the different point in time from each other. It also can’t be understated how the look of Tiffany’s future androgynous leather man partner sells that twist. If they weren’t so interesting looking or even just boring that twist wouldn’t be nearly as compelling and is an example of how well the art and story work together.
(Subjective) Score out of 10: 9