Paper Girls #6:

The Horror of Adulting

Warning: If you haven’t read the first five issues of Paper Girls, this discussion will spoil a few things. On the other hand, if you have read those issues but not the latest, don’t worry. Nothing major will be spoiled.

If you could take a teenager from 1989 and transport them to 2016, what would be their reaction? The answer question is a big part of the latest issue of Paper Girls, which dives head first into a complex time-travel story in its sixth issue, but never loses its witty tone and narrative confidence. Brian K. Vaughan’s latest effort continues to be appealing, entertaining and well-realized stuff: a perfect mainstream comic book.

The “Paper Girls” themselves have seen some pretty odd things by issue #6. They’ve seen time-travelling teenaged scavengers, giant flying dinosaur/birds, some sort of strange-talking stormtrooper types, and at the heart of it all, some old hippie who seems to be running the show. But what they met at the end of issue #5 was the real whopper: one of their own (Erin Tieng), as a 40-year-old woman. Our four key characters (Erin, Tiffany, Mac and KJ) found themselves in direct conflict at the climax of issue #5, face-to-face with forces they didn’t understand, using the strange device with the Apple logo on it they found to transport themselves somewhere — anywhere but facing certain doom at the hands of weird time travelling overlords. When they wake up at the end of the issue (and at the beginning of issue #6, which picks right up), they’re not in any strange dimension but emphatically the here and now, and one girl (KJ) short.

Vaughan has a wonderful time situating this issue emphatically in the present, right down to the date that opens the issue: June 1, 2016 (the release date). Erin today is very much like many of our generation: still young at 40, disaffected with the narrowing possibilities of our lives, cynical and a bit lonely. When she encounters her younger self in the middle of the street with two childhood friends, she becomes the one who instantly recognizes the situation (she asks young Erin a series of rapid-fire private questions and examines the scar on her stomach from her prior wound), but she also has the hardest time accepting it. It’s much more difficult for Erin, age 40, to see Erin, age 13, than the other way around. Although, the older Erin remains a decisive leader, immediately taking action to help the time travelling girls find their missing friend and figure out what this situation is all about.

Big things are afoot…

The wonderful scenes that fill the middle part of this issue are the most charming aspect of it, particularly seeing how the 80s teens respond to things like HDTV and the iPhone. (They’re absolutely transfixed by the former, to adult Erin’s disappointment, but the latter reminds them of the strange object that brought them here, opening the door to issue #7.) There are also other plot developments it would be best not to spoil, except to say that the plot points involving time, paradoxes and alternate realities are apparently going to get even more complex.

Paper Girls still crackles with the energy that earned it an Eisner Nomination this year, and frankly keeps one guessing about where it will all lead. The main theme of youths vs adults acquires a new dimension here, as the youth and adult are literally the same person, setting in motion dramatic irony that will hopefully make this book as insightful as it is entertaining.

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Independent scholar Ian Dawe has been writing for Sequart since November 2013. Before that, he had a mixed background, initially in science (Molecular Biology and Biochemistry), where he earned an MSc from Simon Fraser University and then an MA in Film from the University of Exeter in the UK. He spent a decade teaching at the college level, delivering courses in Genetics, Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Biological Anthropology and Film History. His academic work includes peer-reviewed papers on the work of Alan Moore, Harvey Pekar for Studies in Comics and a dissertation on Terry Gilliam for the University of Exeter. He has presented papers at several major academic conferences including Slayage 2014, Magus: Transdisciplinary Approaches to the Work of Alan Moore in 2010 (in the wizard's hometown of Northampton), Comics Rock and the International Conference of the Humanities in 2012, and at the Southwest Popular Culture Association Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2014 and 2015. He has contributed to several books, including a chapter about the TV show Archer in "James Bond and Popular Culture" and two chapters on Breaking Bad for "Breaking Bad and Masculinity", both now available from McFarland. At Sequart, he has authored a chapter for New Life and New Civiliations: Exploring Star Trek Comics, A Long Time Ago and two more upcoming books on Star Wars comics. He has also contributed to books on Alan Moore and 1970s Horror Comics. He is currently planning a full-length book on Better Call Saul. Ian currently lives in Vancouver, BC.

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Also by Ian Dawe:

The Cyberpunk Nexus: Exploring the Blade Runner Universe


A More Civilized Age: Exploring the Star Wars Expanded Universe


A Galaxy Far, Far Away: Exploring Star Wars Comics


A Long Time Ago: Exploring the Star Wars Cinematic Universe


New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics


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