Admittedly, I only got clued into this title because of (1) the Eisner Award nomination for Best New Series and Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team and (2) the fact that Image put pretty much all of their Eisner nominee comics on sale over on comiXology. And I already had a healthy respect for Brian K. Vaughn given the brilliance of Y: The Last Man and more recently Saga. The man knows how to write a great story.
Plus hey, it's rare that we see a title get nominated for both art and pretty much story and that's a pretty compelling thing. Plus I'm all for more titles that show strong representation of characters other than straight white men without resorting to turning them all into men in drag or something.
Synopsis: Paper Girls is you could call a science fiction adventure title set in 1988 (mostly). The is book written by Brian K. Vaughn with art by Cliff Chiang. Volume 1 of the series covers the first five issues of the comic.
It is in the wee hours of the morning right after Halloween 1988 and people are still finding their way home in quirky costumes as the sun begins to rise. Erin goes out as a paper girl as a part time job but is harassed by some local kids while on her way. That changes of course once a posse of other paper girls arrives and strongly dissuades the Halloween party goers to back off. It probably helped that the likes of Mac, KJ, and Tiffany also come armed with hockey sticks and other tricks of the trade from their various routes.
At first the title feels like your classic comic of age story set in the 1980's. But then there's the fact that alien invaders riding dinosaurs are part of the plot along with what appear to be ninjas with iPods and maybe the end of the world? Things start to get really bad really fast and yet it becomes up to this little group of girls to come together and try to figure things out or at least find a way to survive whatever it is that's happening to the world.
What I Liked: Brian K. Vaughn is a great storyteller and one who knows how to pace things such that each issue can go by so fast based on how involved you get with the story while at the same time manages to end things on a high note that also acts as a serious cliffhanger. We saw this time and time again in Saga and it looks like he managed to bring that pattern here to very good effect.
Chiang's art is perfect for giving you that nostalgic feeling of every panel possibly belonging on an album cover or even a magazine feature from the time. And yes we have a rich appreciation for the time period as once again centered on the fact that you have young people getting around on bicycles with no way to call home apart from the odd payphone. But with all the action, you don't get too lost in the old time feels and that's a good thing.
What Could Have Been Better: There are times that things do feel a little too over the top and you can only wonder what might happen next. Sure, we all love a good mystery, but we also like things to make sense. Some of the twists are a little odd and leave you more annoyed than amazed. But don't worry, more of than not he kills it and we get some really good stuff indeed.
And while Vaughn knows how to create great characters, it takes some time before he can really flesh out even just our core group of girls given the plot takes over really quickly. In the beginning you definitely get that feeling of the girls just getting washed away by the events of the story and generally unable to respond. And while they are teenagers and they can only do so much, but you do expect them to have a bit more agency in a comic.
TL;DR: Paper Girls is still a brilliant comic and a great example of how female characters can be written well without making them hyper masculine or something. The five issues of this first volume will blur by a lot faster than one would like, but those are the kicks of life I suppose. But this first volume still gets a well-deserved 5 alien invaders from not too far away out of a possible 5.