Book Review: Paper Girls Volumes 1-2

Paper Girls Vol. 1

Brian K. Vaughan (writer); Cliff Chiang (artist); Matt Wilson (colors); Jared K. Fletcher (letters)

I’ve had the first two volumes of this series sitting on my shelf for ages, and I promise it is a sheer coincidence that I finally decided to read them now that the first episodes of the television show have aired. I will admit that for quite a while I wasn’t in a rush to read something that would probably feel a lot like Stranger Things, but if the mass appeal of that show is what is getting this series the attention, I’m not complaining. Especially now that I’ve finally read volume 1 and am wondering how many of the next books I can buy at once.

The Stranger Things boys are cute, but I am already way more interested in everything about the four titular paper girls in this series. I’m a handful of years too young to have direct experience with living at their age in the late 80s, but this mix of memories and nostalgia is hitting my sweet spot. Especially since these girls could give the Hawkins nerds a run for their money with their particular spectrum of good- to bad-girl feminism.

The nightmare that opens the series is weird and might turn readers off. But I chose to take it as a bit of cosmic science-fiction foreshadowing, and if anything, the reality of what Erin and the other girls encounter surpasses my wildest expectations. We also get a perfect little timey-whimey hint of what might be to come at the very end of issue 1. For the rest of this volume, the actual events of this November 1 morning feel a bit manic as the nonstop pacing has the girls encountering everything from fleshy UFOs to dinosaurs to overwrought stepmoms.

Everything about this volume sets up a lot more questions than it is willing to answer, and I appreciate Vaughan’s trust that we are willing to be along for the ride. I’m already eager to dive into volume 2, and then it might be time for a trip to the comic store for more.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Paper Girls Vol. 2

Brian K. Vaughan (writer); Cliff Chiang (artist); Matt Wilson (colors); Jared K. Fletcher (letters)

Now that I have a much better idea (even though still so little) of what to expect from this graphic novel, I thoroughly enjoyed volume 2. We get lots of interaction between young and old(er) Erin as promised at the very end of the previous issue, which immediately introduces us to the dynamics of youth versus age. Vaughan sets up the concepts but allows the readers to follow the issues to their conclusions without wasting time spelling out the themes, and then expands upon them in an even more subtle manner when the story insinuates that age dynamics might play an even greater role in the overarching conflict of this series. A perk of this visual medium is that it’s easy to track and distinguish multiple versions of the “same” character, regardless of age.

Since we’re learning along with the paper girls, there’s still a lot to decipher about how time travel works in this universe. At some point, paradox is always an issue, but how much of a problem will it be if characters are interacting so closely with their future/past selves? The answer we do get is pretty limiting from a storytelling perspective, so I look forward to seeing how Vaughan deals with it.

Honestly, it’s hard to go wrong with a story that has a ton of Bechdel test pass AND timey-wimey shenanigans AND giant monsters. Also, there might be aliens? I don’t quite feel like this series was written specifically for me, but Vaughan comes incredibly close. As a bonus, I also enjoy geeking out over the amazing use of dialect employed by the “old timers” from a purely world-building standpoint. There’s still a lot to unpack this early in the series, but at this point, I’m 100 percent invested.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Published by J.L. Gribble

Author, Editor, Worldbuilder

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