by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang and Matt Wilson
The first issue of Paper Girls simultaneously acted as a snapshot of the life of a teen girl in 1988, and a very strange fantasy tale including otherworldly beings and the afterlife. Readers had an incredibly strong sense of the four girls at the center of this story, but only a hint at what might be in store for the crew. In the second issue, Paper Girls heads further into the strange as the girls try to find their way to safety. It’s another rather intriguing piece of the puzzle that has some serious high points.
When first diving back into the universe, readers see one of the wrapped individuals on the run before a very sudden and striking event transpires. Consistent with the first issue, the story only offers a hint of what is occurring before shifting gears. The sequence is not terribly long, and little information is provided as there is no dialogue over these pages. Still, Chiang and Wilson do an excellent job with the pacing and mood of these pages. The decision to set this story in the morning hours following Halloween continues to have a lasting impact on the tone.
Another very important choice that the creators have made is this sense of “real time” that the events seem to have. While another book might have covered more ground, with regard to how much time has passed, Paper Girls takes a very different approach. From the first glimpses of the small town to the events in the second issue, there is a sense that very little has transpired outside of what is shown on the page. This could certainly make a book feel tiresome and drawn out, through a lack of momentum. Instead, the exact opposite sensation is captured by Vaughan’s script. The decision to stay in the moment as things transpire further highlights just how much is happening and how quickly the world around the girls is changing. It’s a risky decision, but an excellent one as the choice certainly pays off.
The girls stand around in Erin’s house and try to make sense of what they are seeing. Vaughan’s establishment of each character in the first issue allows for such a sequence to have more impact here. Each of the four feel like developed personalities, rather than caricatures meant to serve the plot. Their reactions to the events outside feel authentic and believable for the age they are each meant to be. None of these characters are too clever or too capable. Vaughan’s writing, with excellent expressive art from Chiang ground each one of them, furthering the investment readers will have in their well-being.
As the group ventures towards Mack’s house in search of safety and protection, they face a situation that they and the reader won’t quite expect. The creators continue to drop in small teases about the universe and these events, each one pulling the reader in just a bit more. With such fantastic attention and care, the book reaches an ending that is brutal and affecting. After just two issues, this team has a grasp on their universe and characters that would be expected from a series much further along. With that in mind, there is so much promise for where this story will go next.