I grew up in the 1980s, rode my bike, hung out with gal pals, but I must say I was never a badass tweenie like the girls in Brian K. Vaughan's comic Paper Girls. Maybe given the right set of friends, or a little more courage, I would have been (and don't get me wrong--when I say badass it is more like kick ass girls who don't take any crap from others--um, monsters included . . . ). However, it is quite fun to read about them and be able to give a silent nod of recognition for small-ish town living ca. 1988 which was very much like my own.
This is a story that is very 'gulpable' (good thing for a serial comic). One or two sittings and you will fly through the very wild and weird adventures of a quartet of girls who deliver newspapers at the crack of dawn. Only one fateful Halloween something strange happens and all of a sudden everyone in the Cleveland suburb of Stony Stream disappears and strange things begin to happen. Does a parallel universe open? Time travel? Aliens from another solar system? One thing is certain, this story is like taking a snow globe and shaking it up and letting all those silent snowflakes loose. Time moves fluidly back and forth, and strange dimensions seem to take shape.
But let me go back to the start of the story, such that it is. First Erin, one of our heroines, has the weirdest dream in which Christa McAuliffe makes an appearance. A red apple. And a younger sister is missing. And Erin has the chance to save her. Maybe. Erin is twelve and set to begin a brand new paper route, but on this particular day-after-Halloween morning, boys still roaming the streets from post-trick-or-treating festivities give her trouble. She is rescued by a band of three sassy papergirls, Mackenzie (Mac), Tiffany and KJ. They decide power in numbers is the wiser choice, especially when they have super cool walkie talkies (forgive me--they are Realistic TRC-218 CBs, but it is easier to call them walkie talkies) and can split into pairs.
Okay. I'm sorry to have to say this again (and I might still yet again before I finish this post) things start getting a little weird. Is it just high school boys, or are there creepy creatures speaking some strange language none of them have ever heard? One steals one of their walkie talkies, which is so very not cool, and the girls race after him, following him (they think) into an abandoned house.
And now the refrain, one more time, please everybody: And then things really start to get weird.
In the basement is what seems to be a rocket ship perhaps? Something alien in any case. This is such a wild ride of a story that I am not sure I can even tell you more and make any sense, because two collected volumes in (I think that is something like ten individual comics) and I am as confused as ever. It's hard to tell sometimes who is on whose side? Who are the good guys and the not so good guys? There are these old-timers who look like us, and these creatures who look like us gone all wrong. There are multiple 'Erins' (imagine meeting your forty year old self when you are only twelve--yeah, I would have been pretty freaked, too). And then there are these really weird-unlike-anything-you-have-ever-seen monsters. There is this weird time slip action going on--1988? 2016? Somewhere and sometime in the future here or elsewhere?
Sometimes, though, you just have to go with the flow. Suffice it to say, this is one crazy-entertaining-pager-turner of a story and you just have to let it all wash over you and join the ride with an open mind. I am only sorry that there are only two collections available and this is a story that is in progress. Number 11 just came out and number 12 is slated for March 1. Now what? Am I going to be prodded into buying the individual comics? Or can I possibly wait until the next five or six are collected into one book? So many questions. So few answers. I am currently contemplating subscribing so I get the forthcoming issues each month (yes, indeed, this is totally appealing to my former twelve-year-old self who did buy Archie comics at the mall at that age, so this is all sort of déja vu to me).
And just to give credit the creators are Brian K. Vaughan (of Saga fame), Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson and Jared K. Fletcher--whose middle schools photos (were they twelve in those old B&Ws?) appear in the back of the second collected volume.