Paper Girls #4 Review

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan / Artist: Cliff Chiang / Image Comics

I once went to an intensive comic book writing course taught by a long-time writer and former editor at Marvel. At one point in the afternoon I remember him talking about the importance of an editor to independent comics. They can be expensive in the indie scene, and most of us come out of pocket trying to make our work as best it can be, but it’s essential to have an experienced, outside perspective for a well-polished product. “…Unless you’re Brian Vaughan,” he said, “he’s practically perfect, so when you feel you’re as good as him then you can save your money.” And that about sums it up.

Paper Girls continues at its breakneck pace with no time wasted between each issue. Since issue #1, only a few hours have passed in real time, and that’s included a bully fight, an alien discovery, a gunshot wound, an alien invasion, a few more weapons fired, and a bigger effing alien discovery. All the while we’ve gotten to know our four-girl squad of Erin, Tiffany, Mac, and KJ, with their personalities and home lives subtly integrated throughout each conflict.

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Much of this one is centered on laying groundwork by introducing us to two new characters – one of which will probably prove to be important, the other whom we’ll probably learn to love just enough to see them die. We met the two alien-looking teens at the climax of issue #3 when they saved our girls’ lives, and we see a lot more of them here on the “come with me if you want to live” tip. Only thing is, they’re sorta wack. At least, so far, which is obviously early, but it’s still worth noting that while Vaughan loves playing with languages in his comics by using clever translation devices, it’s hard to empathize with them when 1) you can’t understand what they’re saying, and 2) they’re so heinously ugly you’re hardly willing to find the emotion in their eyes.

However this issue does great work challenging your trust in the characters’ decisions, as informed through Vaughan’s writing. Typically when a character exclaims an idea or outcome with matter-of-fact confidence, you take it for granted as true. Someone says, “If we go into the woods, we’ll lose them,” and you take their word for it – after all, they know more about those woods than you do. Except sometimes they prove to be what they are at face-value, which in this case are young teens with moderate to poor decision-making skills, and you begin to doubt them, yourself, and your ability to weed through all the subterfuge and head fakes you expected going into a sci-fi mystery.

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What’s the best part of this book, aside from its inherent unpredictable weirdness? All the nostalgia of the 80s. It comes through everything from Public Enemy t-shirts to old school video games, and it constantly grounds us in this “effed up time” in a fun – and clearly socially conscious – way. Readers should appreciate that. Paper Girls is great.

9.1 out of 10

Reading Paper Girls? Catch up on previous reviews here!

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  • Jordan Calhoun is a writer in New York City. His forthcoming debut book "Piccolo Is Black" is a celebration of the common adaptations we made while non-diverse pop culture helped us form identities. He holds a B.A. in Sociology and Criminal Justice, B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Japanese, and an M.P.A. in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy. He might solve a mystery, or rewrite history. Find him on Instagram and Twitter @JordanMCalhoun

  • Show Comments

  • Ale Allegranzi (@aallegranzi)

    Might have to give this a try.

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