A group of young kids in America in the 1980’s trying to get to solve the mystery of strange things happening around them that’s terrifying and scary while pop-culture references abound. No, this isn’t about the Netflix series Stranger Things, but Paper Girls, the monthly comic published by Image Comics and written by Brian K. Vaughan with art from Cliff Chiang. Volume one collecting issues 1-5 is now available with the series itself at issue 8, and this comic is one of the very few titles I bother with on a monthly basis such is the level of quality as once you get to a certain age, you tend to not waste your time or money on buying the same crap every month.
Paper Girls is about four 12-year old girls in 1988 who work delivering their local newspaper in Cleveland in America, as opposed to the Northern England town which would have made this an entirely different strip…
Anyhow, it’s Halloween, and out of the four girls, Mac (the rough, tough-talking kid), and Erin (main protagonist and all-round decent kid), provide much of the focus of the early issues though K.J (another all-round decent kid) and Tiffany (ditto) though it’s primarily through Erin we experience the story, though the other characters are slowly built up so we see Mac’s alcoholic mother and her awful home life, or Tiffany’s realisation that she’s wasting her life on video games. At the same time the girls are dropped into a fantastically terrifying mystery involving time travelling mutants, Moebius influenced flying dinosaurs, all the while dealing with growing up faster than they’d like while dealing with unexpected pop culture references from the 1980’s and beyond.
Vaughan builds up each character perfectly while still conforming to archetypes which by the time you get to the end of #5 are well and truly thrown on their heads, but by this time you’ve been lured into something that stands heads and shoulders above much of the chaff published every month. Artist Cliff Chiang also turns out a great job throwing in expressiveness when needed, and wild, fantastic science fiction concepts when the story needs it. A special word has to be said for Matt Wilson’s colours which turn scenes into bright expressive landscapes or dark Chiaroscuros which add to not just how the plot progresses, but adds insight to the developing characters of our four leads and their emotional states.
Paper Girls is a joy. It’ll sate the nostalgia crowd, while proving that science fiction comics can be done in an American market dominated by tedious superhero comics retreading old ground ad infinitum, but most of all Vaughan and Chiang have created an original, thrilling, fun comic that should be essential for anyone with an interest not just in the medium, but of pop culture in general.