by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, and Matt Wilson
Though Paper Girls offered little insight in its first few issues, the story has started to let readers in on just what in the world is happening to these four girls and everything around them. The creators have managed to find a great middle ground in each issue, pushing the story slightly forward, adding in just enough new pieces to balance answers with the next set of questions. Added to that the notion that the books feel like the answers may be hidden along the way, and readers have a ton of entertainment at every turn of the page.
Here, the girls have finally had some real contact with the odd beings populating what was once a quiet town, and they try to decide if they have sided with the right group. While they rush toward some device in hopes of saving Emily, the story also takes a few moments to follow-up with the old-timers. Vaughan straddles a line with the language used by these odd beings, allowing it to be just similar enough to English while just different enough to be not completely translatable. Their language makes for a fun puzzle, but also mirrors a sense that the mysteries of the book feel solvable all along the way. It’s a curious sensation, but adds a distinct dynamic to the experience of reading this story. As the girls move through the sewer with the teenagers, Vaughan’s use of the translator to unveil and obscure the dialogue from these two individual works as an excellent device. Despite this, the book feels like it is a bit more exposition here. While it is always exciting to have questions answered, deciding to tell readers rather than find more natural ways to reach the same end feels somewhat lackluster.
Chiang’s artwork throughout the series has been excellent, establishing the characters as well as the setting with excellent stylistic choices. There is a really interesting moment in this issue where one character is in serious trouble. The story flashes to what is running through her head for a series of pages that have a horizontal layout. The art style shifts slightly, including the way the panels are arranged. Additionally, Matt Wilson’s colors adopt a different presentation. It’s a very odd sequence, and though that is not unheard of for Paper Girls, it is definitely a standout moment from the issue. The combination of the way this sequence is depicted along with its length and how it displaces the reader from the pressing situation all work so well together.
Though the overall story moves only slightly forward in this fourth issue, there are still some solid pieces with the issue. Vaughan’s writing is always appreciated, and even in the smallest moments, his craft makes a difference. With excellent art throughout the series and yet another strong teaser ending, Paper Girls #4 is well worth the read.