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So I should probably start with a confession: I wasn't actually sold on the first volume of Paper Girls. Not until the last page, at least. For readers familiar with Brian K. Vaughan's writing style, the fact that the first volume of this new-ish series ends on a cliffhanger should be no surprise. [SPOILERS AHEAD] And when that cliffhanger includes your protagonist being randomly met by herself from the future...well, you know shit is about to get weird(er).
In retrospect, I think my apprehension with the first volume of Paper Girls was probably the result of 80's-nostalgia fatigue. Between Stranger Things, the resurgence of synthwave, a million reboots/revivals of 80's tv shows and movies, and the return of ((shudder)) both hair scrunchies and stirrup pants, I'd had just about enough of the 80's. The good news is that Paper Girls volume 2 gets (as one character puts it) "backed to the fucking future" - in this case, 2016. I'll also admit that I was less than thrilled with the fact that this seemingly feminist comic about tough-as-nails young women fighting ~The Man~ boasts an entirely male creative team. To be clear, I'm still not thrilled with that, but I do think that the work done in this book is exceptional. Vaughan's writing is as sharp as ever, Cliff Chiang's art handles nuanced facial expressions and gestures as deftly as it does eldritch horrors and future-tech, Matt Wilson's candy-coated colors add panache and make the art pop, and Jared Fletcher adeptly meets the challenge of lettering in not just standard English, but also in the 'future language' spoken by clone-Erin. Still, hire some damn women, y'all.
All that being said, I really enjoyed reading volume 2 of this series and I look forward to volume 3. Throughout this volume, the scope of the narrative is slowly revealed (while still maintaining a focus on the titular paper girls), and its clear that time-hopping, intergenerational conflicts, and treacherous clones are just the tip of the iceberg here. But honestly I think that Paper Girls really shines in the quiet moments when characters have to face knowing things about their future selves that really *shouldn't* be known. When the 1988-version of Erin meets the 2016-version, I had certain expectations for how that relationship would play out. But I was pleasantly surprised when kid Erin ends up reassuring the neurotic and self-deprecating adult Erin. It's always nice to imagine that a younger version of yourself would be proud of who you became as an adult, rather than horribly disappointed. This moment and Mac's discovery of her eventual fate are probably the two most poignant developments in Paper Girls volume 2, and I hope they will be expanded on as the series continues.
Overall, I'd give this volume of the series an 8/10. I found myself wishing that Vaughan would reveal more than bits and pieces and frustrated that the overarching narrative is moving so slowly, but I do appreciate the character development going on and know that that can be a really difficult balance to strike.
[Where I share upcoming and ongoing SF-centric events in the Metro Detroit area]
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