Pa­per Girls

Ca­reer-best art­work from Cliff Chi­ang and a un­pre­dictable script make Pa­per Girls a hit

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Pa­per Girls takes the kidsmeet-aliens aes­thetic of ’80s movies like ET and Flight Of The Nav­i­ga­tor (and re­cent homages like Su­per 8 and Earth To Echo) and turns it in­side out and up­side down.

You’ll find ca­reer-best art­work from Cliff Chi­ang, mix­ing el­e­ments of Art Adams and Michael Allred and mak­ing visual sto­ry­telling look ef­fort­lessly easy. The colour­ing by Matt Wil­son takes a lit­tle ad­just­ing to, us­ing as it does a pal­ette rem­i­nis­cent of an aer­o­bics in­struc­tor’s leo­tard col­lec­tion, but it’s era-ap­pro­pri­ate and candy-beau­ti­ful.

Our pro­tag­o­nist, Erin Tieng, is 12 years old and start­ing her first day bike-de­liv­er­ing the Cleve­land Pre­server in her Ohio home­town. She soon falls in with fel­low pa­per girls KJ, Tif­fany and rough, tough lo­cal leg­end Mac. But it isn’t just neigh­bour­hood bul­lies or in­tol­er­ant cops the four have to worry about. Af­ter dis­cov­er­ing a weird, or­ganic space­ship-like ma­chine in a base­ment, they be­come em­broiled in a con­flict be­tween op­pos­ing oth­er­worldly fac­tions, one de­formed­look­ing and clad in rags, the other tech-armed and an­gelic. But which side should they trust?

If you think you know where the story is headed, you’re wrong. As ever with a Brian K Vaughan script, ex­pec­ta­tions are over­turned. The guy de­lights in wrong-foot­ing read­ers, and read­ers should be glad to be wrong­footed so de­light­fully. In this ini­tial fiveis­sue arc you’ll find time trav­ellers, gi­ant ptero­dactyl-like mon­ster steeds, and a mys­te­ri­ous re­cur­ring ap­ple mo­tif that em­braces the Gar­den of Eden, The Beatles and Steve Jobs and a whole lot more be­sides.

The sci-fi touches are well thought through and some­times sub­lime. For in­stance, the English-vari­ant lan­guage one of the alien fac­tions speaks, a fu­sion of Shakespeare and Nad­sat. Is­sue 5’s end­ing is as time-twisty as any­thing in the Back To The Fu­ture tril­ogy and will leave you im­pa­tient to learn what comes next.

Pa­per Girls is about the cool­ness of be­ing in a gang and the con­fu­sion of be­ing on the cusp of teen­hood. Ra ting

Vaughan doesn’t push pe­riod de­tail hard: in­stead go­ing for gentle ref­er­ences to As­ter­oids, and politi­cians such as Rea­gan and Michael Dukakis.

One per­son is de­formed-look­ing and clad in rags, the other, tech-armed and an­gelic. Who to trust?

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