Paper Girls Vol. 1
Brian K. Vaughan, writer; Cliff Chiang, artist; Matt Wilson, colorist

Image Comics, 2016

It's 1988, so newspapers and neighborhood delivery are still a thing. Delivery in this particular neighborhood is handled by paper girls instead of paper boys. The story begins on the day after Halloween--All Saints' Day--and three of the girls have gotten in the habit of delivering papers together, because of all of the costumed crazies still hanging around from the night before. Erin has just started her paper route, and after the older girls rescue her from a group of trouble making teenagers they invite her to join them.

The setup makes the story look like a YA coming of age story. It is that, but strange things start happening almost immediately. Setting the opening during Halloween was a master stroke. It leaves both the characters and the reader in doubt about the reality of what is happening. What first looked like misbehavior from masked humans starts to look potentially alien. It's a bit reminiscent of Vaughan's digital series Barrier with artist Marcos Martin. It also has a lot in common with the Netflix TV series Stranger Things (similar 1980s setting, group of kids banding together to solve a mystery), as others have pointed out.

But it eventually becomes clear that the girls are dealing with time travelers, and the question is who to trust. That is unresolved at the end of this arc. But the reality of time travel is established when Erin meets her future self after a time machine accident sends three of the girls into the future. Plenty of unresolved questions!

Cliff Chiang has a dream illustrating job here. He gets to draw roughly contemporary people and places, plus futuristic time travelers and machines (including dinosaur steeds, a nice anomalous touch). His paper girl designs are distinctive and individual, although the two brunette characters can be hard to tell apart without clothing cues.

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Paper Girls is probably my favorite new series of 2016. There is a natural break in the story after issue #6, and if you are tradewaiting, rest assured it’s about to kick into high gear. I read #10 over the weekend. This series keeps getting better and better.

Yes, I am digitally tradewaiting. Nice to know there will be lots happening in Vol. 2.

Another observation: the paper girls are not cookie-cutter characters. MacKenzie is full of surprises. She's a Camel-smoking tough guy from a rough family, and is casually homophobic. Erin keeps gently correcting her, but she says lots of things that would not be acceptable today--impolite, politically incorrect, or both. I expect if they do make a TV show out of the series they will tone that part of her character down.

When Stranger Things came out and I binged it within the first week, I immediately thought of this series. Sure, Paper Girls is a pastiche of times past that many of us share, but ST was another branch of the same memories.

I am fully caught up on this series, but it still leaves me asking maybe too many questions. It is well-written enough that I'll give it more of a chance (I dropped Saga about a year and a half ago), but I really hope this one moves forward before long.

Sensei, I'm still really enjoying Saga in collected form--I just recently read Vol. 6. It is called "saga," after all--not surprising if it's taking the long view! If you haven't tried reading the trades, I'd recommend it.

I kind of lost interest when the female lead starting working as a soap opera actor.

Mark Sullivan (Vertiginous Mod) said:

Sensei, I'm still really enjoying Saga in collected form--I just recently read Vol. 6. It is called "saga," after all--not surprising if it's taking the long view! If you haven't tried reading the trades, I'd recommend it.

I've been enjoying Paper Girls, but I definitely have the feeling that I'd benefit from a read-through before the third book starts in February. I feel like I'd have a little bit stronger grasp on what's happening & what's at stake with the future people.

Of course, that's something I should really do with a lot of the long-form/finite story comics I'm reading. Letter 44 and Revival are both nearing their conclusions, and could each use a bit of a reread.

I've been doing more rereading than ever before recently. It's common for creator-owned series to publish bi-monthly or go on hiatus periodically. That increases the time between collections. Which also increases the chance that I'll forget about the series myself and have to catch up.

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