Saga scribe Brian K. Vaughan and Wonder Woman artist Cliff Chiang deliver a tale of believable pre-teen girls getting pulled off their beaten rounds into unbelievable shenanigans in this ’80s inspired, double-sized debut issue of Paper Girls #1 for Image Comics.
Publisher: Brian K. Vaughan
Writer: Cliff Chiang
Artist: Image Comics
Price: £1.99/$2.99 from Comixology
Paper Girls #1 revolves around four pre-teen girls who find themselves starting out on normal paper rounds, dodging teenagers and the cops, but soon it all starts to get a bit more serious.
Vaughan and Chiang have peppered the comic with cultural references from the ’80s – from Freddy Krueger and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre to the media’s bashing of AIDs and other tidbits that really help set the scene and give the whole thing a Goonies/BMX Bandits kind of feel.
They have also done an excellent job of stepping around that tempting pitfall of making younger female characters look all the same (because they’re following some trend), or giving them very flat personalities (because that’s how other lazy media often portray them), and so the four girls have each been given very different personas.
There’s goody two-shoes “You shouldn’t call anyone the other F-word” Erin (seriously this is how she introduces herself to the others); bilingual Tiffany who saved up all of her Christmas tips to buy that second walkie-talkie; hockey stick-wielding KJ who’ll stand by her friends; and Mac who gives no flying monkeys about authority and the “first paperboy around here who wasn’t a… you know. A BOY!”
There is even mention of how girls are not taken seriously mid-way through the comic, when Tiffany talks about how the police dispatch dismisses her after reporting being followed while on her paper round, and while paper rounds may not be as prominent as they once were, this same attitude is still aimed towards young girls in other ways and it’s great that a comic book is talking about this, even if it is briefly, because nobody else is.
Visually, Chiang brings some wonderful pencil-work to this first issue which really helps to flesh out the great characters Vaughan has created. Thanks to Chiang these girls still have their puppy fat and aren’t a bunch of skinny minnies, they’re hard-working and dress appropriately for a paper delivery at 5am on November 1st – there is no weird sexualisation of minors here! He’s also dropped in little details here and there to really bring the whole comic book together – the pumpkins left over from the night before, and the debris in the unfinished houses towards the last third of the book. All of which is augmented by Matthew Wilson’s wonderful colours, which manage to better his excellent work on The Wicked And The Divine.
What makes Paper Girls #1 really work so well, is that it’s a comic about girls – actual girls and not grown-up women labelled as such – working for themselves. Everyone will be able to relate to one of these girls, they’re just that realistic and well thought out, and it’s this bedrock of realism that makes what happens in the last two thirds of the comic also much more believable.