So, this whole thing with comics being in issues…ANNOYING! When I just want to keep reading and reading and then the issue ends and I’m like “what? what happens?” but then the next issue or trade isn’t on our Kindle (we read a lot of comics digitally) and I swear under my breath that I NEED MORE! I guess it’s akin to a good TV show or even movies in a series where cliffhangers leave you balanced on the edge of your seat, hating that you have to wait for next weeks episode (or the next season coming in a year and a half! Damn you GoT). But dang it all if I don’t want to just open the next issue and keep going.
These were my sentiments as I finished the first trade collection of Paper Girls, by none other than my first comic book love, Brian K. Vaughn. When my husband (aka GhostAndy) was trying to recruit me to participate in the podcast, one of the first books he wanted me to read was Saga. Come to think of it, he wanted me to read it long before the podcast even started but anyway, he thought I’d dig the strong female character and particularly that she literally has just given birth to a baby and is openly nursing half the time. He was right and when I finally read it, I fell in love with Alana and Marco along with their daughter Hazel. I speedily read through the first 3 trades before eventually life distracted me from the series. (Note to self–must read more Saga.)
Anyway, on one of the very first pages of Paper Girls I immediately had a Saga flashback–there was a strange being with a television for a head! And I thought–here we go again with the quirky Brian K. Vaughn stuff that I love for the most part. While it turns out Paper Girls, at least so far, is not quite as weird, I still fell hard for the characters and his story telling.
Side note: I just looked BKV up on Wikipedia and it all makes so much sense! He was also a writer and producer of Lost (which btw premiered 14 years ago this fall!!!!, where does the time go) as well as the TV adaptation of Stephen King’s Under the Dome (which I read non-stop while our daughter Johanna was in the NICU back in 2014–GREAT BOOK albeit a little violent).
Paper Girls is the story of a group of teenage girls living in the suburbs of Cleveland in the late 80s, who as you probably guessed, are paper girls. The story begins in the early morning hours of All Saints Day, the girls team up to run their routes to avoid any lingering Halloween a-holes.
Erin, who is new to the area, reluctantly teams up with the bad-ass Mac and split the routes with Tiffany and KJ. Their daily task quickly gets side-tracked when one of the walkie-talkies they use gets stolen by some weird dudes all dressed in black. When their pursuit to recover their talkie (which one girl, Tiffany has spent months saving up to buy) leads them to a hidden time machine which of course, starts humming and emitting some crazy energy and knocks the power out of the whole neighborhood.
As the girls run out they run into one of the cloaked men and after a close encounter (where they get a glimpse of his not-normal face) he escapes–right until he gets stopped out by what appears to be a giant chicken leg. Turns out he is carrying all sorts of electronic devices including cell phones and a small device with a certain iconic fruit emblem on it.
When the girls retreat back to Erin’s house to find it empty and no way to contact authorities, they take matters into their own hands and go back to the streets. Now her comes some crazy BTV stuff, the sky fills with pterodactyl-chicken creatures and the girls have to high-tail it to Mac’s house. They find her alcoholic step mother at home who informs them that Mac’s dad literally disappeared into thin air when “that awful sound woke” them up.
It’s at that point that things go from bad to worse as Mac’s step mom decides to commit suicide due to all the crazy things happening and in attempting to wrestle the gun away from her, Erin, gets shot in the stomach. To complicate things even further, the remaining girls decide to try to get Erin help themselves, which leads them into accepting the assistance of the cloaked weird faced people, who end up being teenage boys from the far future who have traveled back through time to steal technology.
This then leads to a race through the sewer systems where the band is waylayed by a nasty looking eye ball monster, and Tiffany has a near death experience which ultimately is nothing but all the time she wasted playing Araknoid on the NES (I hear you, sister, I wasted tons of time of Tetris as a young woman myself).
But to coin a phrase from my husband, long story short, eventually Erin gets transported into the future where she’s healed by cockroach like bugs, and we learn that our teenage boy time travelers, Heck & , are actually pretty nice guys fleeing from a group they call the Old-Timers aka people riding those pterodactyl-chicken things I mentioned before. They are killed in the process of bringing Erin back to our time which ends up being back in the basement where the girls first found the time machine (because it was the same time machine…ah…tricky tricky Mr. Vaughn…your “Lost” roots are showing).
Speaking of Lost, the whole first volume ends in a way very fitting of that show in which the time machine explodes hurdling our heroines through time, to a point where Erin ends up meeting her own future self! Again, I love…love..LOVE this stuff! It’s the same reason I ended up getting so sucked up into Lost in the first place, this wibbly wobbly timey whimey nonsense. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t understand most of it and often have to complain to Andrew about it, but it still doesn’t mean I don’t absolutely love it at the same time.
And I guess that really sums up my thoughts on this book. I really did love it. Loved it so much I immediately had to go out and pick up Volumes 2 and 3 (which I might also do a blog on in future). That says a lot about Brian K. Vaughn’s ability to suck me into a narrative. He did it with Saga, he did it with Lost, he did it again with Paper Girls, honestly this guy might as well be called “Big Papi” David Ortiz because he’s batting 1.0000!
I mean it didn’t hurt that this series reminded me so much of other great series that I also was a huge fan of. I mean the notion of everything being 80s based and inter-dimensional travel and all that, that’s straight up Stranger Things right there, and I loved that show. On that 80s tiff, there’s nods and influences to such great movies as Stand by Me, Back to the Future, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and even Flight of the Navigator what with the time travel capsule insides reminding me a bit of all that.
Yeah, as a child of that decade, this book really did scratch an itch and coupled with the incredible dialogue and compelling characterization of all the girls, it made for one of the best reads I’ve had this year (maybe even more than Sex Criminals…but I won’t go that far…yet)
Oh did I mention the terrific art by
Final Grade: A+
Yeah, this is a no brainer. Thank you once again Mr. BKV for delivering a wonderful story that was so difficult to put down that I in fact still haven’t (as in again I’m well into the next volumes at this point).
You, sir, are on my short list of all time favorite comic book writers.