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Science fiction comic "Paper Girls" : Back to the Future

Like the milkman and the owner of the drugstore around the corner, the "Paper Boys" are standard characters in classic American everyday culture. When everyone is still asleep, they are already on their way and swing the newspapers in front of the houses as they cycle past. In this way, you can supplement your pocket money or, if necessary, contribute to the maintenance of the family. This is a classic job for boys because of the adventure factor; here, however, there are four 12-year-old girls who put a heavy sack over their shoulder at dusk in order to drive out the “Cleveland Preserver” in the small town of Stoney Stream.

Pterosaurs and alien fighters

Brian K. Vaughan - known as the author of "Y - The Last Man" and "Saga" - quickly and skilfully characterizes each of them with a few lines in order to mark their social and ethnic diversity, despite all similarities. Mac, from a difficult background, is a cool, latently aggressive chain smoker. Tiffany, a Latina, and KJ, a Jew, come from better families. Erin is the average American girl - but she has strange nightmares in which she meets a dead astronaut in space and has to watch the devil torment her little sister in hell.

On this early morning on November 1st, 1988, the girls decide to complete their route together. It's Halloween, after all, and it's possible there to come across guys who, inspired by their horror masks, have an uncomfortable understanding of fun. But then far more dramatic things happen. The sky turns apocalyptically red and literally tears open. Stars and galaxies that were previously invisible appear; Flocks of pterosaurs with aliens on them hunt other aliens. And all people except the “Paper Girls” have disappeared or are literally vanishing into thin air.

Like J. J. Abrams' film “Super 8” (2011) or the current Netflix production “Stranger Things”, this SF series also treats itself to a good dose of retro flavor. Vaughan is smart enough, however, to avoid the pitfalls that such a project can hold. The story is always more important to him than the references, of which he also avoids the obvious. In Erin's room there is no poster of "E.T." or the "Goonies", but rather the less well-known horror comedy "Monster Squad".

Ice skating with Ronald Reagan

Other things that are typical of the eighties appear only in very brief allusions or in encrypted form. Erin, for example, is delirious, hit by a bullet in the stomach, that she skates with Ronald Reagan on an icy lake. The jovial, good-humored president points to a bleeding wound under his jacket and assures the girl that you won't die of every gunshot wound - just as it was not the case with him when he was assassinated in 1981. Meanwhile, a kind of space shuttle destroys Soviet nuclear missiles zooming in on them with the help of laser beams - this is exactly what Reagan planned with his utopian "Strategic Defense Initiative", commonly abbreviated as SDI.

Very good too: Vaughan does not comply with the obvious temptation to equip his heroines with the consciousness of today's youth. They are all strong girls, of course: Mac was the first “paper girl” in their town, and none of the four have a male “love interest”. They all stand for themselves, are not defined by their relationship with a boy. But they're a little more naive than they would be today - and more heavily prejudiced: When Mac drives away a disgusting, aggressive hooligan in a Freddy Krueger costume, the worst swear words that apparently come to mind are, "Fagot "And" AIDS patient ".

The small town meets the cosmic

The greatest attraction, however, is that extreme opposites meet here. The small town is combined with the cosmic, the everyday with the mind-blowing, also in the excellent artwork. The two-dimensional drawings by Cliff Chiang (“Wonder Woman”) and the unusually successful coloring by Matt Wilson, who works almost exclusively with shades of blue, pink and purple, are on the one hand again indebted to the eighties. On the other hand, the dream and invasion scenes have a hallucinatory quality that is reminiscent of the best moments of Charles Burns.

So far, 13 issues of “Paper Girls” have appeared in the USA; the book edition gathers the first five of them. It ends with a jump into the year 2016 and a cliffhanger that is not only spectacular, but also leads to the expectation that the plot will gain another, human dimension in its course, which so far was only hinted at.

The hype surrounding this series may be great - but, unlike in many other cases, it is completely justified.

Brian K. Vaughan & Cliff Chiang: Paper Girls, Volume 1, CrossCult, 144 pages, 22 euros.

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