Volume three of the Paper Girls graphic novel continues the story of four young newspaper delivery girls from Stony Stream, Cleveland, circa 1988, and their adventure across the past, future, and an ever-changing present.
If you’re a big fan of coming-of-age stories involving a plucky band of suburbanite kids being thrust into a bizarre, frightening odyssey during the 1980s, then you’ve probably already seen both Stranger Things, and the latest iteration of Stephen King’s IT. If that’s true, then you should have been reading Paper Girls yesterday. Paper Girls is Stranger Things, but even stranger; it’s IT, but with more deep-seeded malevolence in its plot and more honesty about growing up in its narrative. And volume three of this Eisner Award-winning and Hugo-nominated series has everything and more to scratch your very specific itch.
Note: From here on out there will be some mild spoilers.
Picking up where volume two left off, Tiffany, KJ, MacKenzie, and Erin find themselves trapped in a prehistoric, post-ice age Earth. As they continue to search for a way back home, they make new acquaintances, and finally find answers as to how and why the future seems to be dropping its garbage off into the past.
Again the creative team brings it’s best to tell what continues to be an enjoyably bizarre mystery as we see giant sloths, cavemen with space helmets, and the ordinary icons of today turned into the tribal totems of prehistory.
What is fun about Paper Girls is how it plays with the concept of time travel, leaning hard into the bizarre and confusing nature of time travel stories. Much of the main plot in previous chapters, such as the identity of the possible villains from the future, take a slight back seat. Instead we’re given answers into how this whole timeline mess started by none other than the very first time traveler herself.
If there is one character among the main cast who truly stands out in this collection, it would have to be KJ. Over the course of volume three, we see her develop, both through her actions and personal (time-travel induced, of course) revelations, into a more courageous and proactive hero.
On the creative side, the ongoing team behind Paper Girls brings their award-winning talent to this latest collection. It’s always impressive to see this collaborative group retain the high standards that made Paper Girls a runaway success, and volume three doesn’t disappoint.
Comic-writing veteran, Brian K. Vaughan, continues to give us believable, natural characters, and peppers small nods to 80s pop-culture classic television and literature throughout the character’s dialogue. An ear for good dialogue is still one of Vaughan’s strongest qualities, as our heroes have casual back-and-forth moments with each other, with the occasional swear word thrown in, common among kids at that age. Vaughan captures each time period perfectly with his writing, leaving this reader to realize just how long ago the year 2000 was.
Thanks for making me feel old, Brian.
In terms of artwork, the line art by Cliff Chiang continues to look clean and sharp, with just the right amount of detail to show off the vistas and strange creatures of the latest world before delivering a one-two punch of quick and brutal action scenes. Chiang shines when it comes to showcasing variety, whether it’s putting tribal women next to futurist time travelers, prehistoric monsters mixed with fourth dimensional oddities, or flipping around the comic’s entire panel structure for a major revelatory moment. Chiang’s work is always popping off the page and is never dull nor drab.
Paper Girls’ Eisner-winning colorist, Matt Wilson, whose use of soft muted colors mixed with pastels, have become a staple of the series. Since the start of the series, Wilson’s choice in colors continue to push the otherworldliness of each panel.
What I’ve come to love about Paper Girls is it shows that even in the future, people are still people, and are still susceptible to the same mistakes of today. In Paper Girls, with every jump through time our heroes make, it’s still to them their present, and much like our present, we and they make the best of what it brings.
Paper Girls Volume Three covers issues 11 through 15 and is published by Image Comics. Print copies cost $12.99 and digital copies are priced $9.19. Both are available at Image Comics, retail and digital bookstores, and at your local comic shop.