Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Graphic Novel Review: Paper Girls Vol.1 by Brian K. Vaughn

Title: Paper Girls Vol.1
Creator(s): Brian K. Vaughn, Cliff Chiang (illustrator), Matthew Wilson (illustrator)
Genres: Graphic novel| Supernatural| Science Fiction| Mystery (sort of)
Print length: 144 pages
Publisher: Image Comics
Publication date: April 5, 2016
Source: Purchased
Format: Trade paperback

In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time. Suburban drama and otherworldly mysteries collide in this smash-hit series about nostalgia, first jobs, and the last days of childhood.
Collects Paper Girls #1-5. Goodreads
The plot: Hoo boy, the plot. Let me take a stab at it.

It's the late 1980s. 12-year-old Erin is the newest newspaper delivery girl in town. On the morning of her first delivery, which happens to be the day after Halloween, she gets hassled by a group of teenage boys and is saved by the appearance of the other Paper Girls, MacKenzie, Tiffany, and KJ. They explain to newbie Erin that it's best to stick together on their routes since all kinds of craziness can happen at 4 AM (seriously, who let kids have a job that required them to be out and about at 4 AM?)

They split into groups of two, and Erin is paired with Mac, the rough-and-tumble leader. They soon get a call on their walkie-talkie from the other girls, saying they were attacked and robbed by some freaks in crappy ghost costumes. They reconvene and go on the hunt for their friend's stolen property, but they are NOT prepared for all that awaits them on their journey.

I would dearly love to explain more, but that would entail massive spoilers. Let's just say that things jump up a notch and get really crazy, really fast.

The character(s): MacKenzie (Mac), the leader, was the original paper girl and is brash, foul-mouthed, and tough. She's also a total homophobe, and she is first introduced to us hurling a homophobic slur at the teenage boy accosting Erin. So uncomfortable. 

Brian K. Vaughn has talked about this moment in interviews, stating, 
"One of the girls in the first issue uses a particularly hateful, homophobic slur. A lot of readers found that horrifying, rightfully so. It is something that I look back on, with my own childhood, with horror. The ubiquity of how casually kids used that word and unthinkingly. And how sort of rapidly it feels like it's changed for the better. Even though these kids are protagonists, they're who we're following. I didn't want to sugarcoat them and make them all contemporary, 21st century kids, because they're definitely not." Interview
I had to remind myself that this is a period piece, and unfortunately, that kind of casual hate speech was very much a part of the times. Another character calls her out for it, which is commendable, but does nothing to ease that tension.

Erin is the newbie, and has had some very unsettling dreams as of late. She also tries to be the voice of reason, but it's tough when the world is basically ending. 

Tiffany and KJ round out the group, but there hasn't been enough characterization for me to say much. It's still pretty early in the series, so I'm sure there'll be plenty of time to flesh them out. 

Erin and Tiffany (who seem to be Asian and Hispanic, respectively) talk about being in Catholic school, and KJ (who Tiffany jokingly refers to as a heathen, since she's Jewish), goes to a private academy. Mac seems to be the typical white-trash kid, who lives on the wrong side of the tracks with her dad and alcoholic stepmom.

The art: I first learned of Cliff Chiang during his run on the New 52 Wonder Woman series and I love his art style. The art and the coloring in Paper Girls is gorgeous. Even when everything on the page was chaos and confusion, my eyes were still drawn to the lovely art.

Final bite: I had such high expectations for this series but, to be honest, I have no idea how to feel about it. It started off great, then went from 0 to Coo-Coo Bananas in 60 seconds. I really, really wanted to love it, but the best I can say is that it has lots of potential and gorgeous art. I plan on picking up the second volume in the hopes that things will become clearer (and also because it ends on quite an interesting cliffhanger), but it is not high on my TBR list.

Rating: 3.5/5

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