Today, Ryan D. and Michael are discussing Paper Girls 3, originally released December 2nd, 2015.
“Don’t trust anybody over 30.”
Ryan D: The Free Speech Movement, originally born out of the turmoil roiling in the belly of an America committed to both the Vietnam War and the tumultuous Civil Rights Movement, gave youths protesting a mantra regarding who is trustworthy and who is not. The original quote, spoken first in 1964 when an interviewer accused Weinberg and the Movement of being backed by Communists or some other nefarious group, asserts that people over a certain age always have an agenda. Though Paper Girls takes place twenty years after the FSM, this most recent issue’s reveal proves that the saying holds true, even in the far future, or alternate universes, or wherever it is that is invading the Earth in this ripping read.
Before we receive answers about the cliff-hanger ending of last issue, readers are treated to a stunning opening page.
As the curtains rise, Cliff Chiang gives us a beautiful stage which perfectly captures the atmosphere of the upcoming issue: the every-day and banal artifacts of our common lives are now mired and subverted by something otherworldly and vast; the foreground and background are so different that they could belong to different stories. Colorist Matt Wilson offers this issue a wonderful, electric palette reminiscent of the most excellent neons becoming popular in clothing in the late 80’s, and those bright tones highlight Chiang’s imperfect line style with aplomb. Also important to note is that the moment between two teenagers there on the field involving some unsolicited and unwanted romantic advances continues the theme pervading this comic: no matter how weird things get, human dynamics and emotions still need their space for expression.
Once the focus returns to our main crew of heroes, the struggle from issue two resolves in a bit of a hackneyed fashion, though BKV turns even this tired plot device into a very memorable scene. Reminiscent of Reservoir Dogs, Erin is in a bad, bad way in the back seat.
Again, BKV does not waste an opportunity to include some wonderful humanity and characterization, even while moving the plot forward. Erin constantly worries about the stresses which haunted her day before a glowing rift appeared in the sky and began spewing pteranodons and abducting people, and her anxieties about Social Studies and Science class root her back into the truth that our characters, for all of their daring and heroics, are teens/tweens. I love when writer can walk this line, much like Card does in Ender’s Game, wherein it takes subtle reminders for the audience to notice again that the protagonists, dealing with mature, complicated, and life/death issues, are kids at the end of the day.
The bullet wound and loss of blood eventually sends Erin into another one of her wonderfully entertaining and portentous hallucination/dreams, which have featured, thus far, astronauts and demons. This time, an integral character of the epoch makes a surprisingly charming cameo for such a polarizing figure:
This page, though. Here, we have an ice-skating Reagan, who survived a gunshot wound featuring a punctured lung and heavy internal bleeding in an attempt made on him just sixty-nine days into his presidency, giving life advice to the also-wounded Erin. The Charlie Brown Christmas Tree (1965) also makes a cameo, but the best reference comes from the visual mashup in the sky. The space shuttle firing at Soviet missiles refers directly to Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (known casually as “Star Wars”), wherein a sophisticated grid including “space- and ground-based nuclear X-ray lasers, subatomic particle beams, and computer-guided projectiles fired by electromagnetic rail guns—all under the central control of a supercomputer system” was proposed (and put aside after 30 billion dollars yielded no system) to counter the inter-continental ballistic missiles and Mutual Assured Destruction which defined the Cold War. These images are superimposed onto the 8-bit glory of the popular Atari video game classic, Missile Command (1980). The inclusion of this really makes sense to me, as video games as a medium and pop cultural asset began spreading quickly during the late ’80’s (Super Mario 3 was released during the year in which this comic is set!), finding their spot in the zeitgeist and thus Erin’s subconscious. On top of all of that, it’s just plain fun watching Ronald Wilson Reagan tell a middle school student that she does not have any friends.
Michael! I have admired the creative team’s patience with revealing what is actually going on with this comic, plot-wise. Do you think the pacing is working for Paper Girls? And are you excited about our big reveal this issue?
Michael: Full disclosure, “Don’t trust anyone over 30” makes me think of the advice Charlton Heston’s character gave to a young ape near the end of The Planet of the Apes. But hey, that’s an alternate future so it kind of vibes with what Ryan was saying! As far as pacing goes, I don’t mind not knowing the exact situation that the characters of a story are in. As long as that story is engaging and the characters are interesting I can be okay with slower pacing; my continued diehard defense of Lost (another project BKV was a part of) can attest to this. While we have more revelations in Paper Girls 3 it’s still a toss-up as to what all of this is leading to. A combination of my top three guesses has Paper Girls amounting to a group of time-travelling mutant teenagers battling dino-riding rapture adults.
Ever since I started reading Paper Girls I thought of the family-edgy Spielbergian movies of the ‘80s and those they inspired: E.T.,The Goonies and Super 8, to name a few. Since Paper Girls is a 2015 comic book told through the lens of 1988, it’s a little more Super 8 than E.T. While my fellow millennials continue to reheat the half-baked ideas of our childhood to an increasingly excessive effect, anything pre-‘90s seems to remain nostalgically acceptable. As an era full of such ripe ideas as the ones that Cliff Chiang illustrates in Erin’s fever dream, the ‘80s seemed to have aged well. The Cold War provided a whole new level of paranoia and fear that gave way to awesome pop cultural touchstones. Brian K. Vaughan loves his pop cultural touchstones.
Like any ‘80s adventure, Paper Girls 3 has no-nonsense kids who are forced to take on incomprehensible circumstances on their own; no adults. Even when there was an adult (in the form of stepmom Alice), she wasn’t really present and she was about to take herself out of the equation all together. To reinforce that absent parent notion Alice is straight-up ripped out of the story; maybe we’ll find out how/why later, maybe not. It’s been clear from the get-go that this is a book about the girls, so they’re just gonna have to sit up straight and peer over the dashboard to drive their friend with the gunshot wound to the hospital. Initially I totally misread the first page of Paper Girls 3, which Ryan has posted above. At first glance I didn’t realize that Terry was wearing a mask. I thought that Terry was looking into that “gateway” in the sky and another cyborg/alien was looking into it from the other end. Maybe it’s just my brain trying to fill in the blanks, but I feel like this misread kind of works with the revelation at the end of the issue. The unmasked ninjas reveal themselves to be teenagers with some kind of cyber implants. Could Terry’s mask be a smidgeon of foreshadowing?
Paper Girls 3 dedicated several pages to Erin’s dreams; a device that introduced us to the Paper Girls series as a whole. Despite Erin being shot in real life, this fever dream was relatively light compared to her initial nightmare. One thing both dreams share however is the apple – more specifically the apple from the Tree of Knowledge. In her nightmare in Paper Girls 1, Erin takes a bite out of the apple and is sent to hell. Erin’s fever dream in Paper Girls 3 has that apple oozing with blood as Reagan tells her that she has an important job to do: “Remember your papers.” I do so love trying to dissect the dreams of fictional characters. Based on that particular set of imagery I’d wager a guess that somehow Erin – being the delivery girl that she is – will return from near death to provide some life-saving knowledge. Even if I’m wrong, I like that Vaughan and Chiang gave us the tried and true dream scene where the hero can’t die yet because there’s still work to be done. I still have no idea what that work is, but I’m okay with that!
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?