Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Cliff Chiang
Colors: Matt Wilson
Cover: Cliff Chiang
Published: July 4, 2018
Is their any chance that Brian K. Vaughan saw the first seaon of True Detective and thought that ‘yes, time is a flat circle.’ Or maybe he watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and though time turners were a great idea. That’s a bit of sizzle for the end of Paper Girls #22 where the mysteries deepen and begin to fold back on themselves. But before we get that, lets return to our four favorite paper deliverers and Future Tiffany who are still standing around the tree of knowledge in the library discussing the implications of Mac learning that Leukemia has been cured in the year 2171 (this is actually the second scene in this issue). The fault lines form pretty rapidly regarding what should be done with this info. KJ and Mac want to get this done now, Erin is opposed, and both versions of Tiffany sit hard on the fence. We’ve discussed previously how much of their future each girl has been exposed too, with Mac’s revelation probably being the most dramatic. KJ has had some pretty harsh visions of what is to come while Tiffany has been confronted with a future self that is (maybe) kind of disappointing. But do not forget (although it’s very easy to because this book runs deep) that Erin has also seen two future versions of her self although little time was spent with either and one was probably evil. That’s rather beside the point though as relitigating who is the most shocked or traumatized about what they know of their future misses the individual reactions reactions to this moment. This is perhaps the first time that their collective effort is not aimed towards the same goal and sides are potentially forming. Is Mac’s life worth the danger of maybe not getting home (ever), and what are the ethics of either choice. Again we are only taking a few steps down this road as the girls discussion is disrupted by a golem who demands to see their library cards. They use the staff/weapon they took off one of the future people that was killed by the old lady in the church (that’s a sentence) to slice the golem in half, which causes all the apples on the tree to break and all light in the library goes out.
This issue actually opens on an old woman looking out a window as The Grandfather comes into the room to talk (this lady was scene in one panel in issue #21). We quickly learn that the woman’s name is Wari, The Grandfather’s name is Jahpo. He has come to ask her why she has stopped taking the medicine that keeps her alive. They are quickly interrupted by a call for The Grandfather that they found the time interlopers who started this whole thing back in issue #1. This is an interesting development, but in the interaction between Jahpo and Wari we learn something else that gets into the time bending stuff and connects these two to the Paper Girls.
Meanwhile they have found their way out of the library and are discussing another thing they learned from the tree, which is that time travel is governed by the WATCH organization which is run by Jahpo. (Hang with me for a minute as I explain some lore from the second arc which came out before I started writing these reviews) The Paper Girls ran into Jahpo and Wari a while back when they saved a lady and her baby, in what appeared to be prehistoric times, from some violent men who seemed to believe they were owed the baby. The girls took a time machine from that prehistoric moment to the brink of the new millennium (which is where I jumped in with these reviews). They believed that Wari and Jahpo were mother and child, but we learned from the openening scene that they are actually brother and sister and they made it from B.C. to well beyond the year two thousand. The girls decide that Wari is their best chance for getting out of here and decide to split up in order to find her. KJ and Mac aren’t done looking for the cancer cure so they head to a hospital with a walkie-talkie as the others head to a nursing home.
Probably all the character development in this issue (their isn’t much) happens in the final pages when KJ and Mac are alone on the hospital roof. KJ has or is actively trying to make peace with the revelations about her sexuality that happened a while back. As KJ tries to explain to Mac that she saw them kissing on a roof just like this, she is looking for Mac to reciprocate something (anything) and not leave her alone in this limbo. It’s a difficult moment for KJ who (like Mac) doesn’t really make herself vulnerable. Mac is understandably preoccupied by what they are trying to do, but the moment is entirely disrupted when chatter comes over the walkie-talkie, chatter that appear to be Mac from the night this all started in 1988. This is the time bending that was alluded to earlier as it appears their may be a large degree of fluidity between the past and future (time is just a construct right). Other evidence for this is The Grandfather’s plan to stop any of this from happening by going back to 1988 to stop the time machine the girls ran into from ever landing. This suggests that the time stream is somehow editable and it isn’t the case that things always played out like this. Time travel is complicated and parsing the rules isn’t exactly the purpose of these discussions (if it’s necessary we can get into it more) but this was a very plot heavy issue which happens every now and again with this series. Some exciting things though have begun developing and hopefully those will continue as well as getting further into those ethical considerations the girls are facing.
Even when the writing and the plotting sometimes feels like too much, Cliff Chiang and Matt Wilson’s art is always on point. We saw a little more of future Cleveland, which looks great, but perhaps the most interesting panels took place inside of the WATCH facility where they were dissecting the huge robot the girls arrived in. Also, they have dinosaurs in the future (we’ve seen them before, but this is where they keep them). Along with their ability to capture how cool the future look, Chiang and Wilson can always bring it back down to beautifully show the small moments. There is a panel of Mac and KJ on the rooftop against the skyline that is really gorgeous and shows that even though they are near each other, maybe they can’t yet see each other clearly, yet.
(Subjective) Score out of 10: 7