Comics Beat: Paper Girls # 12 Review

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Paper Girls 12 cover

Welcome to Comics Beat, in which we review comic books a few times throughout the week. Individual issues, collections, graphic novels – they’re all good enough for our comic geeks to cover.

Paper Girls #12 (Image)

Series Description: In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time. Suburban drama and otherworldly mysteries collide in this smash-hit series about nostalgia, first jobs, and the last days of childhood.

Issue 12 doesn’t seem to have a title. In fact, none of this book’s issues seem to have titles.

Protagonists KJ, Mac, Erin, and Tiffany are stuck in the prehistoric past, beneath a mountain with a goat man’s image and the Apple icon carved into its side. While making their way toward a possibly crashed time machine, a river separates the group. Erin and Tiffany are saved from a giant sloth by a young woman with a bow, a baby, and some strangely futuristic-looking objects worn as jewelry. Immediately after killing the sloth, their rescuer faints, leaving Erin and Tiffany to watch over her and the baby.

Downriver, KJ drags Mac and herself from the water. Mac is still angry over learning of her future death, and lashes out at KJ.  But the sound of the animals in the woods makes them huddle together in fear all night.

The next day, Erin uses the choker necklace translator (which they got off Future Clone Erin) to speak with the young woman who rescued her and Tiffany. She claims a woman in her dream, using familiar future details and vaguely biblical plot points, told her to follow the falling star (the possible crashed time machine) and find the girls.

At that moment, deep in the woods, future explorer Doctor Qanta Braunstein runs into three men, and it doesn’t go well for her. The men are primitive, slathered in mud, each wearing a different familiar symbol: the square for Stop, the sideways triangle for Play, and the line within the broken circle for Power. They take Doctor Braunstein’s futuristic pistol. Meanwhile, downriver, Mac notices that KJ is bleeding. KJ has just gotten her period.

For me, Paper Girls is the best comic out there right now. I’m a huge fan of Cliff Chiang’s art, but the big hero is Matt Wilson’s bold, eye-popping colors. I mostly follow writers. But even if I wasn’t such a fan of the story, I’d still buy it for the art. There’s simply nothing else on the shelf right now that looks like this book.

Paper Girls Issue 12 Page 20

The story offers a great mix of eighties nostalgia (invoking the classic Amblin feel of movies like The Goonies, or E.T., or Back to the Future) and a wildly imaginative vision of the future – one where Apple apparently dominates. I can’t tell if Apple is the bad guys, or if it’s just a pervasive reality in the future, but either way, the iconography, terms, and that shiny chrome and smooth white plastic look figures in heavily.

Our protagonists are newspaper girls: relatable, regular-ass kids, just riding their bikes and delivering papers in the early morning hours after Halloween in 1988. People used to let kids do that in the eighties, at least until a few got kidnapped. Nothing like that happens to the girls. Instead, they stumble into some kind of temporal war.

The people involved with the war, and their motivations, are vague at best. Brian K. Vaughn is really talented, with a knack for bringing strange and interesting cultures and technology to life. But he doesn’t explain any of it, or even provide much context. This often leaves readers as confused as the girls themselves while the story unfolds and rushes them along. Some readers get mad about this, presumably craving more information up front. I don’t understand those people. Me, I love the deliberate pace and the mystery.

Paper Girls is a book I can’t wait to read each month. If you’re not reading this series, you should. I wouldn’t recommend starting here, of course, because it’s a bit of an involved story. But don’t get discouraged; this is only issue 12. Jump on.

Author: Jonathan Hansen

Last of the V-8 Interceptors. Writes stories for free, and works day jobs for money. Always trying to ice skate uphill. Occasionally surly.