With a name as big as Brian K. Vaughan behind it, Paper Girls certainly has a lot to live up to. His previous work on the Saga series has cemented him as one of the greatest writers of all time and his momentum shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. So is Paper Girls a fitting continuation to his career? Well, if this first volume is anything to go by, abso-bloody-lutely.
Paper Girls starts off simple enough. Well after a horrifying and mysterious dream sequence that is. It’s the morning after Halloween and Erin Tieng embarks on her usual paper route. After being harassed by a gang of reprobates she crosses paths with a group of hardened fellow papergirls. The gang is then ambushed by strange guys in ghost costumes (they really can’t catch a break) and decide to pursue them into an abandoned house. What follows from this point is an acid trip of epic proportions as the girls are transported into other dimensions containing future tech (shiny new apple products), dinosaurs and time warriors. It’s an incredibly brave approach to a first issue as it throws a hell of a lot at the wall in terms of subject matter. Part Twin Peaks, part Stranger Things, part X-files, Paper Girls borrows a lot of elements from pop culture. It’s difficult to see whether or not the series will be able to carve out its own path just from these first few issues but the direction it’s going in is certainly intriguing. Brian K. Vaughan has proved in the past that he can effectively blend disparate elements from different genres so hopefully this is the case here.
Our boy Brian can’t take all of the credit though, as so much of Paper Girls’ identity lies in its gorgeous aesthetic. Composed of bold blues and pinks, the pages of this comic burst with colour and the character designs are rough but wonderfully realised. Given the wildly varied subject matter it’s impressive that artist Cliff Chiang manages to nail every single character and creature spread throughout the volume. Dinosaurs, aliens and sewer creatures are all sufficiently formidable and imposing in comparison to the hardy yet innocent gang of Paper Girls.
Starting Paper Girls off in the late 80s is a stroke of genius as it allows a sense of dough-eyed nostalgia to permeate throughout. Some panels evoke E.T while others play on the titular girls’ amazement at future tech which we take for granted. The main characters are also your classic 80’s misfit kids. They’re scruffy, wild and achingly likeable, portraying an ignorant bravery and ultimately an innocence that only kids of their age could exhibit. The comic certainly doesn’t treat them as kids though, they give as good as they get, taking full punches to the face and handling themselves well. These girls are badasses, weathered by their time dealing with people’s shit during their always eventful paper routes. And they’re all the more likeable as a result.
So much Of Paper Girls‘ charm lies in the fact it’s, at this point at least, so damn hard to pin down. There are a a literally infinite number of directions it could go in and trying to second guess it is a real joy. This first issue does a great job at establishing the main four girls as the backbone on which the series will revolve around and raises a number of questions which beg you to read on. It’s unfocused as hell at the moment, but boy is it interesting. The final page ends with an incredible cliffhanger which changes the group dynamic while offering up several new plot lines. If Paper Girls can start to focus its sights on a coherent narrative sooner rather than later, it may very well be the next big thing from this veteran author.