By Brian K Vaughan, Cliff Chiang and Matt Wilson
October 31st, 2015. I sit on the couch watching a hockey game, while giving out candy to the 10 kids that ended up trick or treating at my door. Obviously my complete focus was occupied keeping up with the sugarcane supply, but after the candy bar craziness died down I was able to watch a horror flick and pack it in early. Is this the way Halloween has always been? I remember it being so much more eventful. It used to be epic. Magic. A night where I dressed up like whoever I wanted, or more accurately whoever my mom could sew together. The possibilities were endless, anything could happen. As I enjoyed my relaxing Halloween evening, I wistfully reminisced my youth on the crazy Halloween streets. A few days later Paper Girls #2 hits my finger tips and I am again transported back to my childhood as Vaughan and Chiang have captured my youth. Aside from the future zombie ninjas, the giant pteranodons, the futuristic devices, the time travel machines, the wandering werewolves and the mentally fragile stepmothers. Not to mention I was 2 years old in 1988. However, I had brothers who were 8 and 10 years older than me; here lies my legitimate love for the 80s. If you are like me you will be hooked from the first neighborhood watch sign you see in the pages of Paper Girls.
There is no question, I have not experienced the events of Paper Girls #2. Erin and her paper girl crew were jumped by futuristic zombie looking ninjas before the monsters were spooked by something. The girls are trying to figure out what to do and as any self respecting paper girl would do, they decide to ride head on into danger throwing caution to the wind and leaving papers on the grass. The thing is, they don’t get very far before looking up and seeing the sky full of very large flying animals that resemble pteranodons. This is enough to drive the paper girls to take cover in Mac’s house, which ends in the most intense scene of the issue. Mac’s stepmom enters with cigarette in one hand and a bottle of booze in the other. This scene turns from dismal to horrific to sad in a matter of seconds. A powerful moment that ends with a bang. So, if none of us have experienced this, how come this comic feels so familiar? That is the work of Chiang transporting us to the 1980’s and Vaughan using the 80’s tropes in a mash up of madness.
Vaughan has smashed together all of our 80’s favorites to deliver us a truly unique and fantastic comic. If you look hard enough you will find pieces of The Goonies, The Breakfast Club, Back to the Future, Stand By Me, Weird Science, Ghostbusters, Gremlins, E.T. and Terminator. Some of those might be a stretch, but I can see the influence from every one of those movies that screams 1980’s. Not to mention Erin is the epitome of 80’s child, jean jacket and all.
The strength of Paper Girls is in Vaughan’s dialogue and character work. It is a master class of Vaughan doing what he does best, making me yearn for more time spent with these fantastic characters. The dialogue feels so natural and real, the jokes rolling off the tongue instead of feeling set up. He is able to create moments of emotion that feel spontaneous and therefore catch you at an unsuspecting time. While Vaughan is connecting us to the characters Chiang is making a fantastical wild world feel real and lived in. This could have been my street when I was a kid. He makes the scenery and the situations believable amongst a plot that shouldn’t be. Not only does he execute on the macro level but also on the micro level, focusing on the detail in each of the main characters. Vaughan can invite us into the emotional moments with his dialogue but without the proper artistic execution those moments will feel flat. Chiang executes the deep character emotions to bring them to life.
Paper Girls is off to a great start grabbing two week’s finest in it’s first two issues. I didn’t even mention the huge cliff hanger at the end of the issue… or did I? I have no idea where this book is going and that is a beautiful thing.