This is the second volume of Brian K. Vaughan’s Paper Girls, and takes up the story right where it left off in volume one. The four paper girls from 1988 have found themselves in 2016, but still in the sleepy suburb of Stony Stream. And they are about encounter more weirdness and sinister characters that the first volume…
Paper Girls has been likened to a female version of Stranger Things, and while they both center on 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 is a lot edgier and intense, which is just what you’d expect from the creator of Saga.
Once again, Vaughan spins off new plot elements and characters without letting either the reader or the characters know who are the good guys or the bad guys, so it makes you wonder if he really can pull it all together over time eventually, or if he’s just winging it along the way. Considering that there are folds to other dimensions and time travel in the story, pretty much anything can happen and he can back-engineer things to make some kind of sense. Only time will tell.
[ENTERING SPOILER TERRITORY – DON’T READ UNLESS YOU’VE READ VOLUME ONE]
In the meantime, Volume Two focuses on Erin meeting her future self in 2016, which presents lots of fun moments for the girls to marvel over the advances in technology since 1988, and for 12-year old Erin to meet her older self and vice-versa. It isn’t all happy times – young Erin probably didn’t see herself as a small-town journalist, and older Erin is torn between feeling responsible for these young girls in her charge, and seeing their youth and enthusiasm that she has since lost. The whole situation is pretty stressful for the older Erin.
Still, as KJ has disappeared along with the mysterious cloaked time-travelers from the previous volume, the girls convince older Eric to help them track her down, using the mysterious device with the apple symbol. It directs them to the “First Folding” at the old Stony Gate Mall.
Meanwhile, a mysterious new character in a futuristic red suit shows up in a parking lot, and when they remove their helmet things get even more disorienting. It’s quite a WTF moment, and I happen to like those quite a lot, which is why I enjoy Vaughan’s stories so much. With hardly a pause to catch our breath, a giant creature shows up in the parking lot, which looks very alien but is actually of terrestrial origin and if you’ve watched the new version of Cosmos hosted by Neil De Grasse Tyson, you will recognize it. The new character is also heading for Stony Gate Mall, so we know they will all cross paths soon. Once again, we’re kept in the dark as to whether they are good or bad, though they claim to be on the girls’ side.
The new character saves Mac and Tiffany from a nasty creature, while the old and new Erin have some bittersweet conversations about life, before they discover a mysterious field hockey stick dangling from a patch of nothing with a cryptic note. Then the interloper (see, I’m trying extra hard not to spoil too much) starts to reveal a bunch of info to the girls and older Eric, but if anything its just enough to create more questions in their minds (and the readers’). When the interloper offers to take them all to a future sanctuary and gives them a glimpse, its very tempting indeed. Our protagonists make a gutsy decision on who to trust…
Then things get even more bizarre, as the Oldsters start to get involved with a giant airship, some pteradactyls, and even more crazy stuff that clearly belongs in the future. Older Eric calls in unexpected help, and more exciting mayhem ensues. There are some great larger panels here, and the artwork by Cliff Chiang and coloring by Matt Wilson are truly excellent.
Despite all the new plot details and fleshing out of the world Vaughan has created, you’ll likely feel like your head is spinning from all the possibilities, but if you are comfortable being kept in suspense, then this series remains intriguing and unexpected.