Paper Girls #1: Colorful, Off-Beat Fun
“Chiang and Wilson create undeniable panel magic that is both vivid and dynamic; the visual effect of Wilson’s color work is extraordinary and will leave readers transfixed. “
(Note from Syd: As you sit huddled in your room, shivering and mumbling to yourself, waiting for the never-ending Saga hiatus to draw to a close, consider sampling another one of Brian K. Vaughan’s excellent ongoing projects. FreakSugar’s Steve Ekstrom raved about the first two issues of We Stand On Guard from Image Comics over the summer; do check it out.)
In a world where local paper routes are largely male-dominated, four heroic young girls make a stand to dismantle the patriarchy, one newspaper at a time…
Alright, that’s a total lie, but this comic is totally about suburban paper girls.
Comparing the deceptively simple thematic of Paper Girls to BKV’s more expansive projects like Saga or We Stand On Guard may create a moment of hesitation for casual readers of Vaughan’s work; but, upon finishing Paper Girls #1, expect those aforementioned concerns to be blown out of the water.
The basic premise: four 12 year-old girls with paper routes team-up one morning to cover a large section of the neighborhood. After they are robbed of a walkie-talkie, they pursue their attackers and discover some bizarrely suspicious goings-on in the quiet neighborhood. The odd events leading up to the close of the issue are just the right mix of vague and suggestive, giving it a distinctly X-Files type of feel. Before the narrative takes a dip into the far-out, it rings true-to-life with it’s familiar suburban backdrop; however, it manages to circumvent the well-worn Goonies-esque cliché of neighborhood kids getting into adventurous amounts of trouble. Instead of standard character archetypes like the token pretty girl or the goofy fat kid, readers connect with four young, independent females rising before the dawn to handle their business and earn their own money. These are engaging characters which the vast majority of female readers as well as enlightened male readers can easily identify with and admire.
I think most of us can still rally behind girl power, and if I’m wrong, who cares, Paper Girls #1 is still really badass and producing a comic without the typical white male protagonist (you know the one…the guy who has hoarded the premises of comic books for decades) deserves to be given the recognition it deserves in lieu of the ever-growing female comic book reading audience. Paper Girls, like many of Images’ iconoclastic titles, deftly deviates from the norms of the sequential medium. This shift to a broader base of lead characters has been a long time coming and every issue that features a female, a gay or a transgender leading character deserves our accolades and industry support. Regardless of their gender, BKV has created a sharp cast of young characters; they are fearlessly quick-witted and endearingly relatable. Huzzah!
That said, if you’re looking for a comic with explosions and guns and bulging superheroes rescuing distressed damsels, this is definitely not the comic for you. This a not-so-ordinary small town story that is initially endearing and yet quickly fascinating as the story turns on its ear and reaches its ominous apex. It is unclear what sorts of oddities lurk at the end of the cul-de-sac but the vibe readers will get is altogether spooky and forebodingly alien. There’s enough page-turning suspense by the end of Paper Girls #1 that it won’t be a hard decision to pick-up the second issue.
Granted, BKV is a bit of an industry juggernaut these days; it’s not hard to realize that the writing is first-rate. The really astounding aspect of Paper Girls is the artwork. Industry Veteran Cliff Chiang’s panels are cleanly detailed with a classic sequential dynamic but his style has matured to feel undeniably slick and iconic. Subtle nuances of the characters mannerisms and facial expressions give reader’s a strong sense of emotional depth and reality; somewhere between the smirks and eye-rolls, these girls leap off the pages as if they are alive.
Noting the quality of Chiang’s artwork without mentioning the incredible color-work of Matt Wilson would truly be an injustice to the overall composition of Paper Girls #1. Chiang and Wilson create undeniable panel magic that is both vivid and dynamic; the visual effect of Wilson’s color work is extraordinary and will leave readers transfixed. Readers will be awash in the variations of gentle blues and mesmerized by the bright funkadelic splashes of color when the story begins to twist.
Paper Girls #1 is one of those rare, simplistic treats that will sneak up on readers amid all the spandex and aliens and strewn bullet casings of mainstream comics that litter the shelves of local comic shops. Whether you’re a suffering Saga fan looking for something to fill the void or a curious reader looking for a fresh story that deviates from the same-old, same-old of mainstream comics, Paper Girls is a bottle of unyielding promise with its sassy, young female leads, outstanding artwork and a premise with the makings of a unique Sci Fi mystery. There is just so much here to satisfy any curious nerd with a couple of extra bucks to spend on a double-sized book sold at the low-low price of $2.99. You can’t beat that value these days. Go grab a copy while you still can.