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Image Comics’ Paper Girls: The Complete Story Comic Review

Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s Paper Girls takes four young heroines on an action-packed journey from the ancient past to the far future.

Author Brian K Vaughan might be best known for his and Fiona Staples’ comic Saga and the DC Vertigo he created with Pia Guerra Y The Last Man. But the vast majority of the prolific author’s work is just as entertaining. Between the upcoming Amazon Prime Paper Girls series and the recent publication of Paper Girls: The Complete Story, he and artist Cliff Chiang’s spectacular series is beginning to receive the attention it deserves.

Paper Girls begins in 1988 in the early hours of the morning after Halloween. The story follows a group of young paper girls along their route. Erin, Mac, K.J., and Tiff stick together, navigating the streets filled with late-night chaos. When they run into a gang of futuristic teenagers and militant dinosaur-riding  “elders,” the four friends are forced to abandon their paper routes and embark on an adventure that will take them into the ancient past, the distant future, and a strange new understanding of the nature of reality.

Related: Amazon’s Live-Action Paper Girls Series Casts Its Title Heroes

Brian K Vaughan masterfully juggles the various timelines that the paper girls travel through, without abandoning any plotlines or bogging the plot down with tedious explanations of the situation. At times, the mechanics of time travel feel both confounding and convoluted, but an explanation is always right around the corner. Vaughan forces the audience to empathize with the four young heroines by keeping the reader as disoriented as the characters, which makes moments of clarity all the more rewarding. The story’s fast-paced nature of time travel makes for an idea-packed story that will fly by in spite of its substantial page count.

As compelling as the chaotic mad-dash through time is, Mac, Erin, K.j., and Tiff steal the show. Vaughan makes sure that all four characters are flawed and fascinating young women who embody both the folly and the inspirational flexibility of youth. The scenes when they meet their future selves are at once heartwrenching and humorous. The girls see both the amazing changes their hometown goes through over the years — even as some things appear to be in decline. Audiences see them become wise beyond their years over the course of one hectic mourning.

Related: Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s Paper Girls is the Anti-Stranger Things

The paper girls ride their bikes

Cliff Chiang’s art brilliantly captures the aesthetics of a 1980’s teen adventure story and then proceeds to incorporate futuristic time machines, soldiers on dinosaurs, and a fantastic array of wild characters and contraptions. His artistic range is put to the test through Vaughan’s time-traveling narrative. Chiang rises to the occasion on every page, perfectly rendering the fashion and architecture of various eras, and inventing captivating images of the future. Chiang’s eye for detail and tone makes the outlandish story more believable and gives credence to the girls’ experiences. Matt Wilson’s bold colors are as vibrant and inventive as the rest of Paper Girls. His use of blues and pinks gives an otherworldly feel to even the most mundane story moments.

Paper Girls is a beautifully crafted adventure story that sustains a fast pace without missing a beat. Vaughan’s writing is as thrilling and surprising as ever. Chiang’s artwork is breathtaking. The entire creative team brilliantly balances a realistic approach to the emotional lives of adolescents with an appreciation for mind-bending time-travel antics. Paper Girls: The Complete Story is an absolute joy to read.

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