After what seemed forever, Paper Girls is back, with Paper Girls #11, and even though this isn’t the strongest issue, I’m just so damn happy to see the girls back in action. Last issue, the girls finally reunited with one another — after bidding farewell to future Erin — but in a time and place unknown. Many questions were raised, such as where is the KJ who sent her field hockey stick through with a warning about one of the future Erins, and how did the Evil Sci-Fi Erin seem to know of KJ? I’m a little sad to say that not only does Paper Girls #11 not answer those questions, it doesn’t even hint at answers.
The issue begins with a dream of KJ’s, in which her fellow field hockey teammates call her a “kike.” The scene is very heated, and seems real enough until KJ’s grandmother visits her and reminds her to pity those who hate. She then shows her concentration camp registration number to KJ, who recognizes the number is incorrect, thus signaling this as a dream.
On one hand, the scene is a nice reminder that the girls are all handling their current crisis in different ways. KJ is experiencing a series of symbolic dreams, expressing her fear, her alienation and her lack of control. Mac, meanwhile, is still withdrawing deep within herself, away from the support of her friends. On the other hand, it feels very shoe-horned into the story. It’s political commentary with little tie to the rest of the story. It almost feels as though Brian K. Vaughan is leaning through the panels saying “Remember this? This was a thing. This thing was bad.” It feels like an oddly heavy-handed move from an author who is renowned for his subtle, and far more powerful political commentary.
All of that aside, this rabbit hole is getting curiouser and curiouser, as it’s revealed that the girls are not in any type of future, but rather a very, very distant past. In fact, if a time-traveling woman is to be believed, it’s nearly 11,000 B.C.E. But, from some context clues, I’m not certain if it’s the actual “for realsies” past, or some alien, altered past.
Evil Sci-Fi Erin did insist, in the last issue, that there are no alternate time lines. That everything just is or isn’t, which means it’s possible that the girls (or someone else) are unwittingly rewriting history as they hop about through worm holes and other machinations. Though the presence of a woman claiming to have invented time travel suggests that there are far more players in this time-traveling drama that we initially expected.
Despite an odd tonal shift that feels cheap, by Vaughan standards, Paper Girls #11 progresses the story nicely, and continues to remind readers that Vaughan is one of the premier Sci-Fi comic writers. It’s not just that his dialog is fantastic — it is — or that his characters feel so human and realistic — they do — but that he seems to be very aware of genre tropes. I imagine he is quite familiar with complaints and pitfalls because, as with Saga, thus far, he’s avoiding every one of them, and making yet another phenomenal Sci-Fi series.
Author: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Cliff Chiang
Publisher: Image Comics
Acquired via Purchase
Publish date: 02/01/17