Paper Girls #10
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Cliff Chiang
Colors: Matt Wilson
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Publisher: Image Comics
A review by Stephanie Pouliotte
Brian K. Vaughan reveals a little more about the two futuristic factions that are locked in interdimentional warfare in Paper Girls #10, as the Oldtimers relentlessly pursue our delivery girls across present-day Cleveland. Yet it seems like the more we know, the less people we can trust and Vaughan plays up that tension throughout the issue, keeping the reader mystified and undeniably hooked. Seriously, I couldn’t put this one down and I immediately read it again to catch any subtle clues I may have missed. Well, also to admire the marvelous work of Cliff Chiang and Matt Wilson, who just keep upping their game.
In the first few pages, we get some much needed context from the leader of the Oldtimers, who muses that his mother was born in 2016 (potentially placing their native time ten or so decades into our future) and that “The Problems” began in the aftermath of this year’s contentious US presidential election. This may just be some sly political commentary on Vaughan’s part, but I’d say it was also a significant nod to the overall plot. That being said, from Mac’s controversial use of homophobic slurs in Paper Girls Vol. 1 to a black teen girl wearing a “Justice for Tamir Rice” t-shirt in this latest issue, the story’s undercurrent continues to reflect impassioned and deeply debated topics that are embedded in our current sociopolitical climate.
I was also intrigued when the elder leader invoked the name of Kālī, referring to the Hindu goddess due to the long inflection on the A and I. Kālī is a goddess of time, creation, destruction and power, all of which are clear motifs of the story. A destroyer of demons with a voracious bloodlust, Kālī was also seen as existing beyond the concepts of good and evil and the leader’s appeal to her embodies the ambiguity surrounding the Oldtimers. They certainly come off as futuristic overlords, spending most of the issue transporting teen girls off the streets for “processing” as they search for Erin, Mac, Tiffany and KJ. They may very well be on a mission for ‘the greater good’, but what that greater good might be remains to be seen. Yet even through his cool detachment the leader of the Oldtimers seems almost concerned for the paper girls, praying that they’re able to find them before their enemies. Vaughan continues to skirt around who really are the bad guys in all this, but despite so many players on the field, the plot never feels muddled or over encumbered.
Meanwhile, the girls are still wondering if they should follow alternate-Erin into her future dimension despite KJ’s instructions that they should head to the fourth folding. Only Erin knows that either her future or her alternate self isn’t to be trusted and tensions come to a boiling point when alternate-Erin blasts the adult Erin Tieng with her energy beam. Vaughan keeps the reader in the dark about her motives, as her actions are both at odds and in line with what we know about this group of futuristic rebel youth. After all, two of these teenagers are responsible for saving the paper girls from the Oldtimers at the cost of their lives, reviving Erin from near death in the previous story arc. Yet alternate-Erin’s unprovoked attack, even if it was directed at a notorious adult, really doesn’t cast her in a trustworthy light. Eventually the girls send her packing to her own dimension and decide to get to the forth folding to find KJ before the Oldtimers beam them to the mothership.
The rest of the issue is a tense flight across the twilight skies of present-day Cleveland, showcasing some really stellar artwork by Chiang as the girls are beset upon by otherworldly creatures. The pace is frenzied, but Vaughan still takes a beat or two to explore some heartfelt emotions between the girls before they are forced to take the ultimate leap of faith.
Buy it! I continue to highly recommend this series, the story really begins to pick up momentum in Paper Girls #10 and even though things seem chaotic, Vaughan keeps us grounded by the friendship that ties this intrepid group of 80s girls together. As usual, the ending begs more questions than it answers in this irresistibly bizarre sci-fi title that is setting itself up to be the one of the strongest and most socially relevant series of 2016.