Paper Girls (Vol 1) by Brian K Vaughan

Paper Girls Volume One by Brian K. VaughanPaper Girls (Vol 1) by Brian K Vaughan (writer) and Cliff Chiang (artist)

If you are a fan of Brian K. Vaughan’s amazing Saga comic series, you are likely to want to check out some of his other series as well. In addition to writing many stories for Marvel and DC comics’s well-known franchises, he has also written a number of original series, including Y: The Last Man, Ex Machine, Runaways, and Paper Girls. For Paper Girls, I rally liked the cover artwork by Cliff Chiang, coloring by Matt Wilson, and lettering by Jared Fletcher.

Paper Girls has been likened to a female version of Stranger Things, and while there is some superficial resemblance as they both center around a group of suburban kids growing up in the 1980s who start to encounter strange and occult happenings in their town and have to take things into their own hands, with copious 80s pop references, Paper Girls goes into far weirder and most outlandish territory, and while things start out out on a small scale about four 12-year old girls doing a paper route in Cleveland, Ohio, things don’t stay that way for long.

During her early-morning paper delivery route, Erin Tieng is accosted by some bullying teen boys who are chased off by three other female paper girls, Mac, Tiffany, and KJ. Mac is a tough-talking, cigarette-smoking tomboy who doesn’t back down from anyone while Tiffany and KJ are a bit more typical kids. Erin is the new girl, but gets thrust into their group when they get jumped by some mysterious cloaked individuals and have their walkie-talkie stolen.

The early morning pre-dawn blue colors and artwork are done really well, as are the 80s period details of clothing, hairstyles, manner of speech, and pop-culture references. However, these girls are a bit more street-saavy than their male Stranger Things counterparts, and when they discover a mysterious device in an under-construction house, you know things are going to get weird. If you’d rather discover the rest for yourself, stop reading and get yourself a copy right now!

Anyway, the girls get transported to a different version of their sleepy suburb of Stony Streams, and run into the mysterious cloaked figures, who speak a mystery language depicted with alien-looking lettering. They acquire a tiny device with an apple symbol on it, try to figure out what is going on, and very soon we’ve got winged pteradactyls with futuristic armored riders with power lances, weird light formations in the sky, and then things get very chaotic.

The girls end up with the mysterious hooded characters, people get injured, and they end up on the run from some very bizarre alien constructs, and get conflicting details and snippets of information just enough to confuse and tantalize us. Again, it’s not clear what’s going on and where the story is going, but compared to all the stories out there that are painfully predictable, I found this refreshing.

Vaughan throws in a steady flood of new plot elements and characters without letting either the reader or the characters know who are the good guys or the bad guys, so if you like your stories crystal-clear from the outset you may find it frustrating. I myself enjoy the disorientation of a new stories where nothing is yet clear, so I don’t mind. If you trust the creators of the story, you’ll be willing to go along for the ride. Much like in Saga, he likes to have smaller panels lead to larger reveal panels that build anticipation in the story. It’s a good visual technique and gets you trained to look ahead to the next one, very Pavlovian!

Because the events of Volume 1 are still so preliminary and confusing, I read the first three volumes before even attempting to write a review, but I can honestly say that while I’ve got a more detailed view of the larger plot and more details, I remain in the dark about where this story is going, but it remains very entertaining.

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STUART STAROSTA, on our staff from March 2015 to November 2018, is a lifelong SFF reader who makes his living reviewing English translations of Japanese equity research. Despite growing up in beautiful Hawaii, he spent most of his time reading as many SFF books as possible. After getting an MA in Japanese-English translation in Monterey, CA, he lived in Tokyo, Japan for about 15 years before moving to London in 2017 with his wife, daughter, and dog named Lani. Stuart's reading goal is to read as many classic SF novels and Hugo/Nebula winners as possible, David Pringle's 100 Best SF and 100 Best Fantasy Novels, along with newer books & series that are too highly-praised to be ignored. His favorite authors include Philip K Dick, China Mieville, Iain M. Banks, N.K. Jemisin, J.G. Ballard, Lucius Shepard, Neal Stephenson, Kurt Vonnegut, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny, Ursula K. LeGuin, Guy Gavriel Kay, Arthur C. Clarke, H.G. Wells, Olaf Stapledon, J.R.R. Tolkien, Mervyn Peake, etc.

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  1. Great review.

  2. I, too, am in the dark about where this series is going, but I’m enjoying it. I love how well the 80s are evoked here, and the theme of girl-power. W/O spoilers, part of the storyline is dependent upon some inter-generational conflict and I think that’s done very well. I’m so happy you reviewed it here so more people will find it.

    • Hi Marion, I remember you saying that it was quite confusing, especially volume 3, and I’ve gotten to there and agree that despite various brief glimpses into the larger story and the inter-generational conflict you alluded to, Vaughan is keeping his cards close to his vest and wants to play the long game here (I heard about 10-15 volumes are planned), so as long as it remains interesting and original I’m willing to go along for the ride. Volume 4 will be available on Apr 10th, so looking forward to that!

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