It’s probably safe to say that the first issue of Paper Girls is one of the most anticipated comics of the year. First announced at Image Expo back in January, the new series teams up writer Brian K. Vaughan –arguably at his most popular with the massive critical and commercial success of Saga— with artist Cliff Chiang, fresh off a much-lauded run on Wonder Woman. Obviously, a comic with that caliber of creative team is going to demand attention, and the arrival of this first issue –a double-sized one at that– feels like an important event. Luckily, Paper Girls lives up the hype, and Vaughan and Chiang deliver a solid introductory issue with an intriguing twist ending.

On the surface, the premise for Paper Girls is pretty simple: four teenage girls are delivering newspapers in the early hours of Halloween, 1988 when they make an Earth-shaking discovery. Of course, like Vaughan’s other series Saga or Y: The Last Man, the real appeal of Paper Girls is the way the story unfolds. In this case, Vaughan and Chiang channels the adventurous tone of late-’80s kids films like E.T.The Goonies, or Stand By Me that makes sense given the story’s setting. The pre-internet era when newspapers –and rumors– were the best source of information also plays into the big reveal on the final page, which I won’t spoil here, of course, but suffice to say I can’t wait to see how the creative team explains it as the series continues.
PaperGirlsAA young, diverse cast and a mysterious hook are obviously right in Vaughan’s wheelhouse, and the issue unfolds at a familiar pace. The main character, Erin, is approached by some Devil’s Night troublemakers while on her paper route, and is rescued by a trio of fellow paper girls. The group decides to team-up, and end up discovering a mysterious artifact, which appears to be alien in origin, and some new, not-so-friendly neighbors. It’s a simple story, but the relationships between the characters and the strange, ominous feel of suburbia help give the book a nuance that makes it engaging.

The set-up and setting play well to Vaughan’s strengths of characterization and dialogue. Capturing the speech and personalities of teenagers can be difficult, but Vaughan does a great job by giving each character a unique voice. Erin is clearly somewhat shy and a bit awed by MacKenzie, the worldly de facto leader of the group. Although the issue largely serves to set up the premise of the story, there are hints of deeper backstories for Erin and MacKenzie: Erin has a seemingly prescient dream in the issue, and MacKenzie’s terse interaction with a police officer suggests that her tough persona is not just a facade. Much like his work on Runaways, Vaughan is focused on making the characters the focus of the story, and we see their world though their eyes in a way.
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Knowing that Vaughan is comfortable with this sort of character-driven story, what really makes the issue feel special is Chiang’s artwork. After working on superhero series for a few years, Chaing seems to relish in the ability to design each character from scratch. His attention to facial expressions and fashion help give each character a distinct look and personality, and he even makes the dull conformity of suburbia look lovely. The clean and clear line work is an interesting contrast to the mysterious elements of the story, and Chiang is equally adept at showing the subtleties of dialogue-heavy scenes and the more bizarre opening pages showing Erin’s dream. Along with Matt Wilson’s colors, which capture the light of early-morning beautifully, Chiang’s artwork is as essential to the book’s feel as the story and dialogue.
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Obviously, a story about teenagers in the late 1980s on the edge of a strange adventure calls to mind similar movies of the era –there’s even a Monster Squad poster on Erin’s wall to make the connection clear. However, rather than simply mimicking them, Vaughan and Chiang channel the heart of those films, and their honest portrayal of kids. Not unlike J.J. Abrams’ Super 8, Paper Girls is an homage to the curiosity and imagination of childhood that filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Richard Donner tapped into. That sense of wonder and possibility –where even a sleepy suburb can be filled with mystery and adventure– is captured expertly by Vaughan and Chaing in this comic book, making it one of the most exciting new books on the stands. If this first issue is any indication, Paper Girls is about to become even more interesting as the story unfolds.

Paper Girls is available at your Local Comic Shop, Image Comics, and on Comixology.

Overall Score
90 %

A fantastic first issue from two of the best creators work today that captures the spirit of late-'80s kids films and offers a highly intriguing cliffhanger.

About The Author

Paul R Jaissle is a philosopher, collage artist, and musician. In his free time, he enjoys reading comics (especially ones with Batman in them), listening to power pop, and watching wrestling.

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