Paper Girls Volume 1 – Vaughan, Chiang, Wilson, Fletcher (Contains Spoilers)

Graphic novel double bill! Because it turns out I’d forgotten about three more graphic novels I haven’t read yet so I need to get a shuffle on and read them before they breed and I’m found dead among the books when they rise up and consume me.

… I feel like I’ve just had a premonition of my future.


My impressions of reading this as they happened:

Ooh, pretty!
Ninjas? Oh god is it going to go all Daredevil on us…?
Wait, is that even Japanese? I have no idea. ANYONE KNOW JAPANESE HERE?
Oh wait, there’s no one in the room.
What the fucking fuck?
Timey wimey shit?
… pterodactyls???
This had better not actually be the fucking Rapture…
Pterodactyl… laser… paladin… future… LARPers???
The fuck.


This was definitely not what I was expecting from this book. The blurb reads thus:

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 supernatural mysteries collide in this smash-hit series about nostalgia, first jobs, and the last days of childhood

With the greatest of respect, blurb-writers, THAT IS NOT WHAT THIS BOOK IS ABOUT. I was expecting a character plot focussing on life changes and growth and whatnot with a veneer of weird shit. Maybe the weird shit would exist to spur on the plot which was ultimately about some of the fundamentals of the human experience or something. I was expecting something deep and grown up and maybe not as exciting and silly as I sometimes look for. Was I wrong in this assumption? I mean, given that blurb? I don’t think so. But that’s not what I got. What I got was the ludicrousness that spawned those reactions. And I still don’t know the answer to most of the ones I phrased as questions. Particularly to “what the fucking fuck?”. But it’s ok. Because it was the fun sort of utter confusion. The sort where you’re honestly not certain if you’ll ever resolve the perplexity, but if you never do, it’ll be fine because you’ll have had a lot of fun on the way and can share some baffling in jokes with people who have also read them, to alarm those nearby who haven’t.

And this is so very much in that category. I can’t really comment on the plot, because… I’m not really sure what’s happening. Ok, hyperbole. It’s a mystery story, where the mystery involves a lot more subordinate mysteries. And where some of those mysteries are indeed “what the fucking fuck?” (one of the oldest mysteries of all). It starts off with some mysterious ninja types, and we follow them into a basement with their mysterious engine of doom… and then suddenly everyone’s disappearing and maybe the world is ending. And there are two factions fighting in the midst of all the people disappearing. Neither of them speak current English. One speaks… what sounds like drunken faux-Shakespeare. And one is written in something I can’t read that might or might not be Japanese. It’s never made clear. So you have two sets of maybe-antagonists, one of whom completely incomprehensible and one slightly. We don’t know where they’re from or what they’re fighting about, but as the story goes on, we begin to get hints and ideas of what it might be. But mostly it’s some 12-year-old girls cycling about and going “wtf??” at things.

Which, I have to admit, does a lot for giving me empathy with the characters. We and they are equally confused. That being said, they don’t get much development beyond “the rebel one”, “the smart one” and so on… in very much an early-nineties cartoon* sort of way. By which I mean, they have personalities, sort of, but mainly they’re teenagers with attitude or a variation thereupon, but it somehow doesn’t matter and you not only love them anyway but develop some sort of inexplicable favouritism that you will defend to the death and forever (Tiffany, if you’re interested).

More than Sex CriminalsPaper Girls has a strong visual style that is impossible to avoid throughout, right down to the choices of colours that really really emphasise that it’s set in the eighties, though I’m not sure how light purple manages to do that. It’s a beautiful thing, and I found I wanted to stop and look at it, especially when I hadn’t a bloody clue what the story was doing. And I then flicked back and looked at it, especially the big double page spread FULL OF PTERODACTYLS*** because it was absolutely gorgeous. The art is sketchy, but also quite clear and low-fuss, so it… ok, I don’t have a better, less pretentious way of saying this (I need to get a book on how to discuss the visual arts competently, clearly)… but it feels really quite dynamic, which is great because it is an intensely action-focussed story.

Also compared to Sex Criminals, the breaks between issues (as I assume those breaks are) are much less prominent, and present much less strong breaks in the story flow… which in the action-focussed story this presents, I much prefer. I had to go back and check there even were breaks, because I didn’t remember them. So there is a great flow to the story, and they’ve worked well to maintain this.

It’s a totally potty story that I was not expecting, and a massive contrast to Sex Criminals and indeed everything else I’ve been reading recently… and I think I love it. I certainly like it enough that I’ll be purchasing the next volume (Flatmate doesn’t own it, because he’s a loser). And it just has that irrational appeal that the best things have. I can’t tell you what it really is that makes me so keen on it, but I am, joyously, gleefully, perplexedly keen on it and will happily argue this with anyone who tells me it’s no good.

Thus ends today’s graphic novel-fest… I would read and ‘blog about another but I do have work tomorrow.

*This impression possibly fueled by me having watched a YouTube video of the “Top 15 Nineties Cartoon Intros”, and having the theme from TMNT** stuck in my head for the last three hours.
**Like Raphael, Mac is definitely cool but rude.
***They’re probably not pterodactyls. I’m sorry. I don’t know about dinosaurs… they might not even be dinosaurs. I’m sorry. I don’t know about extinct large flying animals.


About readerofelse

A student of a redundant, useless and thoroughly interesting subject and reader of many books, particularly fantasy, science fiction and plenty else besides.
This entry was posted in All, Fantasy, Graphic Novels & Comics, Science Fiction, Weird and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Paper Girls Volume 1 – Vaughan, Chiang, Wilson, Fletcher (Contains Spoilers)

  1. A Flatmate says:

    It’s not out for a month you fuckwit.

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