The Virtues and Dangers of Information in Paper Girls 22

By Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Like with most of Brian K. Vaughan’s books, one of Paper Girls’ best qualities is its letter column. Issue 22’s column ends on one of the more interesting letters the series has received; Vaughan’s avatar, Dash-Dash Dot, rightly calls out the writer for his regressive politics and use of cringeworthy expressions like “beta male,” but as much as I hate to admit it, I also found the writer echoing some criticisms I myself have stated on occasion, particularly his assertion that “twenty issues in, and [the Paper Girls] (and the reader) still don’t know what is happening, or why, or what to do about it.”

I haven’t been shy in calling Paper Girls out on its nearly impenetrable lore and over-arcing plot myself — thankfully, the characters, art, and the individual stories of each arc are strong enough to make Paper Girls a must-read comic despite those larger flaws. But this most recent arc has made it more clear than ever that Vaughan — and Paper Girls itself — has a complicated relationship with information, and that no matter how frustratingly paced its doling out of information may sometimes be, it’s a deliberate, meaningful choice. Continue reading

The Fix 12 is a Perfect Revenge Fantasy Parody

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

“When I woke up, I went on what the movie advertisements refer to as a roaring rampage of revenge. I roared. I rampaged. And I got bloody satisfaction.”

The Bride, Kill Bill

I tend to struggle with revenge fantasies. The objective of the protagonist is too prescribed for me, as though the sentiment “I want the people who made me suffer to feel what I feel” is a universal impulse. That is, of course, part of the genius of Kill Bill: the revenge fantasy is challenged the second Beatrix Kiddo sees the life she’s sworn to ruin. It’s a twist on the formula, just like Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber’s The Fix 12. The motivation remains the same, but our hero’s efficacy is the variable. Roy’s complete inability to get revenge for Mac’s death makes this issue a borderline genre spoof, and it’s just so perfect. Continue reading

Paper Girls 21: Discussion

by Ryan Mogge & Spencer Irwin

Paper Girls 21

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

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Ryan M: One of the best things about living in 2018 is the decentralization of knowledge. With the internet, you are a few queries away from knowing just about anything. There are, of course, the downsides, like I now have the power to use WedMD to diagnose myself with chronic illnesses or see evidence of the good time my friends were having last night while I watched 100% Hotter and diagnosed myself with chronic illnesses. Despite those minor dangers, though, there is so much to appreciate about how much we can know in moments. The titular Paper Girls come from a world where news and information travels manually, literally carried to your door in a finite form. Throughout the series, they have been at an information disadvantage, constantly trying to play catch up to understand what’s happening. For the first time, in Paper Girls 21, the advancements of the future may be a savior. Continue reading

Grief is Messy in The Fix 11

By Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

I know this is hypocritical immediately following a spoiler alert, but I don’t believe in spoilers. They’re something I respect because I know other people believe in them (like God), but the threat of a spoiler doesn’t change the articles I will read or the conversations I’ll have (huh, also like God). If a movie or tv show or book is so slight as to have the experience of it ruined by simply knowing what’s going to happen, it probably wasn’t worth experiencing in the first place. The Fix 11 starts with a seismic shift, fully acknowledging the trope that Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber are subverting for shock value. “Surprise” reads the narration box. But the surprise isn’t the point, the fall-out from the surprise is. Continue reading

The Wilds 1: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Mark Mitchell

Wilds 1

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

They might not have done so with elaborate ritual, since there has never been solid evidence that they included symbolic objects in graves, but it is clear that they did not just dump their dead with the rest of the trash to be picked over by hyenas and other scavengers.

Francesco d’Errico

Drew: What makes us human? As with any attempt to draw hard lines around a vague concept, there seem to be exceptions to every feature we might describe as human, forcing us to consider that other species might just qualify for whatever working definition we land on. Such is the case with Neanderthals — the “they” in the quote at the top of this piece — which display enough of what we understand as culture and morality for me to be satisfied with their humanity. But were their contemporary Homo sapiens? The trouble with that nebulous definition of humanity is that our gut tends to default to speciesism, especially in the moment. It’s easy for me to rule Neanderthals in now, but what about chimpanzees or dolphins? They have irrefutably human-like use of tools and language, but they just don’t feel human — they inspire a kind of visceral “this is an animal” feeling that requires a great deal of rational thought to overcome. That confusing, blurry line between human and non-human has long been a point of fascination for sci-fi writers, whether the non-human is a robot, alien, or some kind of mutated human, literalizing the struggle Homo sapiens seem to have in even recognizing the humanity of one another. This is far from the only intriguing theme in Vita Ayala and Emily Pearson’s The Wilds 1, but it might be the most unexpected. Continue reading

The Fix 10: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Patrick Ehlers

The Fix 10

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

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You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight

Drew: If that quote doesn’t feel like it fits this issue, it’s because it doesn’t. Where The Dark Knight explores the ideas of good, evil, and the moral relativism that exists in between, The Fix is gleefully amoral, concerned less with good and bad as it is with whatever its protagonists can get away with. Which is to say, a quote about heroes and villains doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in the world of The Fix. But I wonder if we strip away the morality from that quote, if we might get something a bit more universal (if still deeply pessimistic): you either die happy, or you live long enough to see yourself become miserable. The ordering of those outcomes betrays a cynical worldview that The Dark Knight (or at least Harvey Dent) shares with The Fix, one that presumes things are inclined to get worse. Of course, while The Dark Knight spun that cynicism into tragedy, The Fix funnels it into dark humor, making any successes Roy or Mac may enjoy are but haughty spirits before the inevitable fall. Continue reading

Paper Girls 17: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner & Patrick Ehlers

Paper Girls 17

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

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Drew: Brian K. Vaughan series are hard to pin down, generically. I mean, they obviously fall into big capital-G genres like “sci-fi” or “space opera,” but the list of specific influences — which Vaughan often name-checks — can shift from issue to issue. Case in point, Paper Girls has sprinted through dozens of generic touchstones in its 17 issues. And yet, I’ve been holding onto its starting point in the Spielberg/Columbus-style suburbia of the late ’80s as some kind of essential component of its DNA, even as the series hasn’t been in that setting since its very first arc. While some of the girls may still be in that head-space (Mac sure seems to be), they’re traversing worlds that have entirely different points of reference (both for the people who live in those worlds, and the stories we tell about them), which seems to be leaving an impression on them. Continue reading

The Same World, but Two Different Realities in Paper Girls 16

By Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

One of my most vivid memories is a day in first grade when we had a substitute teacher. I opened a little tupperware container full of alphabet flash cards and it fell on the floor, scattering the cards all over. When I started to pick them up, the teacher came over and yelled at me for “crawling around on the floor,” wouldn’t listen to a word of my protest, and sent me to detention. The flash cards remained on the floor for the rest of the day.

When you’re young, it often feels like you and adults live in two different worlds, but that specific scenario was one where I quite literally felt like the teacher and I were seeing and experiencing two very different realities. That rift between generations is illustrated just as literally by Cliff Chiang, Brian K. Vaughan, and Matthew Wilson in Paper Girls 16. Continue reading

Paper Girls 15

Today, Patrick and Ryan M are discussing Paper Girls 15, originally released June 8, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Patrick: I’ve always loved the idiom “snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.” It implies such a rough and determined win against nearly insurmountable odds. Like, think about how much courage it takes to snatch anything out of a pair of motherfucking jaws, never mind that the jaws evidently belong to the personification of “defeat.” It’s dramatic, heroic, hopeful. But it’s seldom something we see in the work of Brian K. Vaughan. Closing out the third story arc, Paper Girls 15 gives us a prime example of the exact opposite — defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. Every act of bravery is punished with increasingly perplexing consequences, until the very nature of the Girls’ time travel is thrown into question.

Continue reading

The Fix 9

Alternating Currents: The Fix 9, Drew and Ryan

Today, Drew and Ryan D. are discussing The Fix 9, originally released May 10th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Previously…

Television, traditional

Drew: In this age of heavily serialized television, the humble pre-cold-open-recap has become a matter of course. It can be darn useful for keeping threads straight, especially as they may feature elements introduced months or even years ago. Of course, that very feature — the inclusion of some long-forgotten detail — can often betray the events of the episode, broadcasting exactly what threads will be addressed. It’s a catch-22 that may be even more pronounced in comics, where a monthly release schedule can equate to more forgotten details between instalments, leading some series to offer virtually comprehensive recaps on their title pages. With The Fix, Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber have developed an in-narrative recap style that manages to avoid the dangers of giving the game away by simply limiting it to the perspective of their characters. Continue reading