Updated: Jan 25, 2020
PAPER GIRLS VOL. 1
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Cliff Chiang
Colorist: Matt Wilson
Publisher: Image Comics
PAPER GIRLS V.1, written by Brian K Vaughan (SAGA) and drawn by Cliff Chiang, filled a hole in my heart I didn’t realize that I had. Set during the early morning of the day after Halloween 1988, 12-year-old Erin wakes up to bike around her town delivering the local paper. I wish I knew how to ride a bike so that I could fully empathize with the feeling of biking around. No doubt, this is supposed to remind us, as adults, of those carefree days of getting on your bike and going. However, Erin gets interrupted by a group of hooligan boys and three other paper girls come over to get rid of them. We meet a group of brave, spunky, girls who came together to protect each other on their paper runs; Mackenzie is the most hardcore of them who has some home and parental issues; Tiffany is a hard working, tech savvy girl; Kj is the only one who is Jewish and doesn’t go to the local catholic school like the other girls.
As they are biking around they run into a myriad of unusual things. Alien teenage boys speaking a different language, a time traveling machine, and even dinosaurs. It seems like a lot but Vaughan is such a great storyteller that it works to his advantage. On the surface, it’s just the paper girls running into a alien group trying to kidnap all the teenagers while the adult population is nowhere to be scene. On a more metaphorical level, it feels as though Brian is trying to tell a story about how these girls are going to come of age by fighting these adults. There’s a lot of evidence that nods to this. Everything from Erin’s dream about the Fruit of Knowledge to the mistreatment of the girls by all the elders in the story. The only criticism I have is that I feel as though all the Paper Girls had a moment to shine through their characterization.
However, I feel as though it wasn’t divided equally amongst the Tiffany, Erin, Mackenzie, and KJ; Kj didn’t have any special or unique moments just for herself. Tiffany had a near death experience where we got to see a very cool montage of her life flashing before her eyes. Mackenzie interacted with her step-mother with the girls which showed us why she is a bit rough around the edges. Erin is our main girl and we, as readers, spend the most time with her. So, when I finished this first trade without more KJ, I felt a little disappointed.
I don’t think we could fully talk about this story without discussing the color work done by Matt Wilson and art by Cliff Chiang. This story takes place in the early morning and the color scheme reflects that with beautiful, dreamy purples and blues in it’s scenery. As the sun starts to come out, it shifts to these light pinks and magentas. It really is stunning to look at. Every time we have a panel with just Erin talking, her background is a delicate soft pink. Any panel with single danger have this electric banana yellow background. Some scenes that feature people older than the girls have a bright, white backdrop. I absolutely adore this sort-of color coding that helps the flow of the book. It’s superiorly aided by Cliff’s heavy and crisp line work. The characters are all drawn expressively and diversely. The way he draws characters is nicely juxtaposed by the more loosely drawn creatures and monsters of the comic.
This is a good, fast paced story. Everytime I read a Brian K Vaughan book, I’m always so fearful that it won’t live up to the hype people throw his way. PAPER GIRLS knocked it out of the park for me with it’s main strength being the coloring done by Matt. It’s very moving to see a coming of age story about a strong group of girls on their bikes as opposed to the many ‘80s adventures that centered mostly around groups of boys. It’s also exciting to see this story not fall into the nostalgia trap. In a world where so many stories are heartless cash grabs, PG stands out by making the character
interactions with it’s references feel organic and natural. The art and colors really did it for me. I am excited to see the Paper Girls off on their next adventure soon.