This graphic novel revolves around make-shift friendship in adversity. It also is heavily a science fiction read. It contains elements that would also be considered shock horror at moments. The main characters are all female, so there is definitely a theme of female friendships. There is a sense of urgency throughout this book because of the science fiction elements contained within it and these elements also link-up with mystery undertones that drive the story forward.
I decided to finally pick it up when I saw the first volume sitting on my local libraries shelves. I was perusing the shelves looking for graphic novels, since I still try desperately to cling to my old love of comic books. I saw this sitting there and said, “Okay it is time for you to get read since I have heard so much about you.” I had heard of this book through various channels (recommendations from friends, other book bloggers, and it also was up for some awards that I am not sure if it won or not). I took it home and started reading it pretty much that night.
Due to all the hype about it I wanted to love this graphic novel and be like “look see, there are some great non-superhero books”, but that just didn’t happen for me. I started being taken aback at the characters and how they were being portrayed for some reason. I felt very much disconnected while reading the entire thing and my brain kept sending the signal of “this graphic novel is not for you.” I pushed through this feeling because I thought it had to do with a singular moment near the beginning when a major character (one of the paper girls) utilizes language that I found to be offensive (alluding to someone as a faggot and aids patient). This language just rubbed me the wrong way and I do not think I ever truly got over it and it tainted that particular character for me, which is bad considering they are one of the major characters throughout the entire volume. I felt like the author tried to redeem the character by giving her a moment (not gonna spoil it) that gives her a little more empathy and tries to connect her with the reader, but it just felt forced and stilted for me.
There is another moment where I wanted to smack Brian K. Vaughan a little bit because the use of language mentioned and then there is a moment where we are introduced to a gay character only to have them utilized as a death (sorry to spoil a death a bit, but it peeved me off). This series started to come off a bit homophobic, which I do not think was the intention of Vaughan and is why I am only judging it on how I took what was being done in the series. Someone else may read this and think that these issues are fine. You are entitled to that feeling and opinion, just as I am entitled to feel that there were moments that got under my skin.
Just because I had a vehement reaction to particular moments that were contained within this volume does not mean that I did not see the merit of the work. There are moments you are drawn in deeply into the story taking place. You want to figure out what is going on and why. This feeling of urgency, mystery, and wonder pull you further and further down the lane of “Paper Girls.” The problem is for me it wasn’t something that drew me into it like it should have. I will probably blame this mostly on the sci-fi elements that I am learning simply are not my thing in a story. The story is heavily rooted in sci-fi and at moments I felt like I was watching elements of what could have been a future season of “Stranger Things” on Netflix. I love “Stranger Things”, but this just did not engage me in the same meaningful way.
One thing that I said throughout reading this collection was that my partner would enjoy this much more than I am enjoying it. The reason I thought this was because of those deep sci-fi roots that are contained within it. If you love that type of thing, that “Stranger Things” eeriness, this book is going to be something you devour and want to immediately find the next volume. Also if you are the type that likes a fast-paced story that doesn’t leave you with a lot of breathing room in regards to the plot then this is for you because there are so many “big” moments that you are left going “OMG, Can I catch my breathe?”
The stark reality of this series is that not everyone will enjoy the random sci-fi moments that are contained within it, if you do not like shows like “Star Trek” then this collection is going to be a bit much for you. You are going to be wishing you were reading something else pretty quickly. Also if a lot of “shock value” annoys you then this will start to rub you the wrong way. This, however, was an element that I enjoyed because the shock moments were more moments that kept the reader engaged with what was occurring. This being said though I can totally see this rubbing some readers the wrong way to the point that they will want to put this book down.
This is the first collection of an ongoing “Image” series, so you will not get all of the answers within this volume. You are left with a cliffhanger at the end of this one that will have you wondering what is next if you end up enjoying it. Even though I did not enjoy it as much as I would have liked this ending actually has me wanting to read the next volume just to see how it resolves.
Brian K. Vaughan (minus the artwork of Cliff Chiang and instead with Fiona Staples) is also known for his series “Saga.” It is also published by “Image” comics.