ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I went into Paper Girls completely blind. The only thing I did know is that Brian K. Vaughan created this world and everyone is absolutely obsessed with his other graphic novel series, Saga. I haven’t tried Saga, yet, but I figured this would be a good place to start since Saga will already have six volumes out this July.
I’m not going to lie; I didn’t really like the art work, but I am for sure in the minority feeling that way. My copy, from Netgalley, had compressed graphics in the PDF I had to review, so maybe that just dampened my experience and made it hard for me to ever get into the art. I also understand this is supposed to have an 80’s feel, and boy does it, but I just don’t think this appeals to me or my art tastes. But the story itself was actually pretty well done. I normally don’t dabble in Sci-Fi, but it was a very welcomed and unexpected surprise in this bind up.
This story is about four twelve-year-old Paper Girls that get wrapped up in something much bigger than themselves. After delivering papers on All Saints’ Day, they end up finding a mysterious space capsule that will show them a very different version of the world they know. This definitely has an apocalyptic theme, and the lines of reality are for sure blurred. As started prior, this is set in the 80’s (1988 to be specific, which was when Brain K. Vaughan was also 12-years-old) and there is a lot, and I mean a lot, of 80’s references. Since I grew up in the 90’s some of this was missed on me, or went over my head (especially the TV shows and movies), but some aspects still felt really nostalgic. I think Brain K. Vaughan did an exceptional job on the feel of this comic. The feel is honestly close to perfection, because while I reading it did not feel like 2016 in the slightest. This comic alone feels like a magical piece of time traveling.
I will also compliment this series on creating very diverse characters with very different backgrounds. On top of the girls being very smart and witty, maybe too smart and witty for twelve-year-olds, they each have their own very strong personality.
This comic, to me, has a pretty heavy questioning religion vibe to it. They bring up that the girls go to a Catholic school, besides the one Jewish girl who states she goes to a nondenominational school. Hell, Issue One starts out with one of our paper girls dreaming about Heaven, with a very reminiscent (eve’s) apple that appears throughout this whole volume. But then there are a few panels that compare God to Santa Claus. We also get to see people do terrible things when they think their God has left them or that they weren’t worthy enough for Heaven. I know some of this can be construed as what humans are capable of, both amazing and terrible things, but some of it comes across as antireligious and just feels sort of bad to read. I’ll applaud any writer/artist that pushes the envelope, but not when it feels forced down my throat.
The other thing that felt sort of bad was the use of “faggot” and other terrible gay slurs, like “aids patient”. They try to justify it by saying that’s how the 80’s mentality was, even though these are only twelve-year-old girls, but I have no words for the horrible taste that put in my mouth. They try to do this “tastefully” by other characters pointing out that it was not an appropriate thing to say, I will say that, but the comic would have been tremendously better without it in the first place.
Overall, I did like this. I thought the story was unique, even if the art left a lot to be desired from me. Besides a few of the panels that I thought were unnecessary, I really thought this was a unique graphic novel that I did enjoy reading.
I’m now going to break down each issue in this bind up. There will be SPOILERS, so please use caution in continuing if you have not read this graphic novel!
This issue felt way longer than normal. We are first introduced to Erin, one of our paper girls, who is having a bad dream about her sister, Missy, going to hell, while Erin is being ushered into Heaven by a space astronaut angel. She wakes up, and starts her paper route. While on her paper route, a boy starts to harass her, but luckily three other paper girls come to her rescue. We are then introduced to Mac, Tiffany, and KJ. Since it’s the day after Halloween, and the girls don’t feel very safe, Mac and Erin decided to do their routes together, while Tiffany and KJ decided to do theirs together. They do communicate through Walkie Talkies (holy nostalgia) until Mac and Erin hear Tiffany and KJ getting mugged. They rush back, and all four girls go after the two thieves. They chase them all the way to an abandoned house, and into the basement where they find what looks like a space capsule. They run out of the house, but now everything looks different, including the sky. They see their attackers and fight them. One of their masks comes off and you see he is very deformed. They run away, but not before dropping an Apple Inc. logo.
We see that these two thieves steal many things and all means of communication: home phones, cell phones, Walkie Talkies. The girls have no idea what to do in this changed world, so they decided to go to Mac’s house, where her dad has a gun. This is when it starts to feel like a rapture is taking place. Upon their arrival, they find Mac’s vile step-mom, Alice, who is really upset that Mac’s father has vanished into thin air or got “sucked away”. She blames religion, and that she wasn’t worthy enough, so she is stuck here. The issue ends with the gun going off.
We realize that Alice missed Mac, but ended up shooting Erin. The step-mom disappears, and the girls steal a car to try to take Erin to the hospital. Tiffany’s mom is a doctor, so she knows the route she drives to work. Along the way, a man stops the girls and tries to get them to come with him. The issue ends with this man getting shot in the head by the two thieves from the beginning of all of this.
A woman named Cardinal finds the body of the man that was shot, Alister, and calls a man referred to as Grand Father. He tells her to call down an Editrix. Also, all the grown-ups in this world talk very strange. It’s like old time lingo mixed with today’s slang. It’s really weird. The girls go with the two thieves who introduce themselves as Heck and Naldo. They inform the girls that these adults are called “Old-Timers” and are bad. Heck and Naldo say they are from Thirteen and want revenge because the old-timers killed Heck’s boyfriend. They are escaping through the sewers where the monster that is an Editrix finds them. It immediately attacks Tiffany, and once it touches her it makes her life flash before her. She only sees a videogame she was obsessed with, and realizes she wasted her whole life. Yeah, I didn’t like this scene or these panels at all. Anyway, they defeat the monster, go into the woods, and find the space capsule from before. The boys inform them that it is a spaceship and the boys get in with Erin and disappear, leaving the three girls alone in the woods.
Heck and Naldo tell Erin they call the spaceship Whenhouse and patch her up with bugs. The old-timers are trying to ground the spaceship, so Heck and Naldo sacrifice themselves to save Erin. This part was really fast and sort of confusing, but apparently they sacrificed themselves. Cardinal finds the girls, Tiffany bluffs with a gun and makes her drop her staff, which Mac picks up and blasts Cardinal away. The girls make a run to the abandoned house, and rush into the basement, where they find the spaceship and Erin. Cardinal calls Grand Father and tells him what happened; he says he will take care of it. We then see that the old-timers are using their staffs to suck the teenagers into time capsule things. The spaceship is going to explode; the girls aren’t sure what to do since Cardinal and Grand Father are outside the house. The ship explodes and blasts all four paper girls to 1999. They stop a car driving by and beg for help, only to realize the owner of the car is a grownup version of Erin.
Like I said before, I think the premise behind this story is really unique. I also think the 80’s setting and feel felt really cool. I’m just not sure how I feel about the adults being the bad guys, and the mocking feel of religion. Maybe when others read this they will not feel the same way as I did, but I have to be true to myself and what I did feel. Overall, I probably will not continue on with this series.