What I thought of Paper Girls #11

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Image Comics Paper Girls is I think, my favourite comic being published by the major companies today. Brian K.Vaughan and Cliff Chiang have forged a wonderful science fiction comic that on first glimpse seems it touches the same ground as Stranger Things, but it really doesn’t. This is a comic that concentrates on characterisation as much as the big SF ideas that litter the series but this issue is being pushed as a jumping on point for new readers.

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To be blunt; that’s bollocks as if you pick this issue up and its your first issue you’ll be utterly lost working out the time travel and alternate realities the girls have been adventuring through since the series started. That said, if you’ve been a regular reader like myself you’ll be lost as KJ is at the start of this issue.

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Of course this being Paper Girls all is not as it seems and we pick up the girls struggling with their travels through time.

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Though Mac discovers they may also have travelled through space as well.

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What I love about this comic is there’s no way to predict what is going to happen next, and instead of focusing on the twists and turns of the plot, Vaughan makes sure the four girls and how they deal with these situations are the focus. If you are picking this issue up having not read any previously I’d recommend getting the two trade paperbacks collecting the issue so far so you can enjoy this quite glorious comic.

What I thought of Paper Girls #4

Thoughts about #1#2 and #3.

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As this issue starts with yet another set of questions being laid out in front of us, it’s worth noting that Brian K. Vaughn’s increasingly splendid thriller/SF tale is like one of those Russian dolls that seem to go on and on, but here Vaughan creates a mystery, not to mention he has our strange armoured protagonists speak a strange yet familiar language.

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As for Mac and the others they find out part of the truth about the mysterious men promising to help to heal Erin of her gunshot wound.

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Before they can help save Erin, we find out what an Editrix is and how dangerous whatever it is actually is, though thanks to some bravery from the girls they manage to hurt it.

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Do the girls escape to save their friend? That’s for you to find out but as this progresses I’m being pulled more and more into this story and yes, the lead characters are still a bit flat, but they’re starting to develop a little bit more this issue into fuller characters but it’s the developing SF storyline that’s driving this comic. It’s drawing from a number of influences (I especially like the Moebius ones) but it’s trying to be its own thing which is great. As usual next issue I’m sure will create more new questions for us…..

What I thought of We Stand on Guard #6

Thoughts about #1#2 ,#3#4 and #5.

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I’ve totally enjoyed We Stand On Guard not as an action/adventure story (which it is and works very well) but as a piece of expertly timed political commentary about American exceptionalism, and imperialism, however this issue is the climax and that means seeing if our group of Canadian freedom fighters survive their attack on the Americans.

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The fighters are outnumbered, but manage to get out a message via the future version of the internet to the people of Canada and it boils down to a confrontation between Amber and The American.

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In these pages Vaughan turns things into an interesting debate as it doesn’t become simple and binary, but not to panic, there’s violent action coming.

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I’ve said throughout this series that this is going to have been a touch book for those raised on the idea of American exceptionalism, and indeed, if you think there’s no such thing as American imperialism then this is probably something that you’ll find extraordinarily offensive. The writing though leaves it clear that the Americans are the aggressors, even at the end when there’s some doubt as to who exactly started the entire thing, it’s clear that Vaughan leaves it clear who are the bad guys here.

It’s been an interesting story for an American comic to deal with, and indeed, I don’t think it’s entirely worked (the Canadian freedom fighters are just far too underdeveloped as characters) but it’s brave. It’s not going to have went down well with some but I applaud Brian K. Vaughan for writing it, and Image Comics for publishing it.

What I thought of Paper Girls #3

Thoughts about #1 and #2.

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This issue doesn’t reveal the outcome of last issue’s rather tense cliffhanger, but it does start by revealing a bit of whatever is going on and how it’s affected people in this small town in the 1980’s.

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This little diversion leads into the resolution of the previous issues cliffhanger and the realisation that Mac and her mother didn’t actually shoot each other. Erin was shot instead.

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It’s a shocking scene as our entry character and basically, lead, is shot so early on so the girls have to work out a way to cut through the strange clouds, lightening bolts and flying dragons to get Erin to the hospital and then hope that all the doctors haven’t been taken like everyone else. Unfortunately something gets in the way of getting to the hospital..

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From here it gets odd as more twists are chucked into a story brimming with them already, but as enjoyable a comic as this is I feel the plot is overwhelming the characters of the girls a little too much. They need a bit of time to breathe and develop off their own backs but Paper Girls is such a fast paced comic that it’s difficult to let the girls shine through as anything but broad stereotypes.

That’s a small moan though. This comic otherwise works as a fine SF/mystery comic that’s not predictable at all, which is why I’m coming back to it rather than abandoning it after a second issue which I do with so many new comics these days.

What I thought of Paper Girls #2

Thoughts about #1.

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At the end of the first issue of this nostalgic 1980’s set adventure/SF comic the paper girls of the title had encountered some very strange people, not to mention some technology that wouldn’t be on Earth for another 30 years in some cases.

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The four heroes of the comic are utterly unaware of the situation as these are just four teenage girls trying to do a paper round but they discover everyone else seems to have vanished, and they can’t call the police as the telephone is only broadcasting the emergency signal. So they do what any American probably would and go see if they can get a gun.

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Getting eventually to Mac’s house, they meet Mac’s stepmother who thinks this is The Rapture.

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Buy the comics to see what happens next…

After only two issues I’m pretty much hooked on Paper Girls partly due to the fascinating mystery Brian K. Vaughan is rolling out slowly, complemented by some nice art from Cliff Chiang, but it’s how the pair are creating some nice characterisations of the girls. Yes, there are still broad strokes, but there’s nice little touches that show that as the series rolls on the girls will develop from the 2D characters they are at the minute.

Paper Girls is a splendid comic, I’d start picking it up now if you haven’t already.

What I thought of We Stand on Guard #5

Thoughts about #1#2 ,#3 and #4.

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Things didn’t look good for our rapidly declining group of Canadian rebels as the fight off the evil American invaders. Their leader captured and their members falling one by one. Before the story picks up on that we find out what’s happened to Amber’s brother and where he is.

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Meanwhile back at the battle things start to look up for the Canadians as a mysterious ally helps kill the American troops.

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This is the point in an American action film where the music starts booming and the brave  Americans fight off the Russians/Koreans/Chinese/Aliens, but here, the Americans are the bad guys and they’re the ones being defeated by a much, much weaker force.

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This penultimate issue is fantastic. It’s marvelously done and although the political subtleties of the previous issues are lacking here it’s about our plucky band of rebels getting one back on the Americans. It all sets up the final issue next month perfectly…

What I though of Paper Girls #1

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Image continue their series of publishing comics that try to do something different to that Marvel and DC Comics do, but as is increasingly the case, this is a comic that is like X crossed with Y as this blurb from Image explains.

SAGA writer BRIAN K. VAUGHAN launches a brand-new ONGOING SERIES with superstar Wonder Woman artist CLIFF CHIANG! In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time. Stand By Me meets War of the Worlds in this mysterious young adult adventure, starting with a spectacular DOUBLE-SIZED FIRST ISSUE for the regular price of just $2.99!

So there’s the pitch. I’m normally very, very wary of comics that are X crossed with Y but Vaughan is a writer who on his day is excellent, and Chiang’s work is different enough to draw the eye, and it certainly does in the rather excellent opening pages.

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Of course this is a dream sequence but it helps set the tone of something that could just be a comic that hits various nostalgic notes just for a bit of reader recognition, though thankfully Vaughan and Chiang mainly avoid that. They do however sometimes slip a reference in that’s just to get the reader to recognise it for the hell of it and it lifts me out of the book.

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But the characterisation is good, if a tad obvious at times (the plucky new girl, the posh  girl, the smoking and swearing street kid) but Vaughan makes the thing crack along at a decent pace, though there’s not a lot of real insight into the girls themselves as the comic races to get to the next plot beat which means aliens.

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Paper Girls is a promising read, and yes, the girls are a bit cliche, but Vaughan makes them likable (even if they are mainly one-dimensional) enough so you become interested in them. As a bit of science fiction it’s alright. There’s nothing too different from what’s you’ve seen before but the last few pages are superb in not just setting up the concept of an alien invasion but it sells the comic to you (it did me) enough to make you want to buy the next issue.

I’d give this a try if you were havering about buying it. It’s a good fun read and I’ll be back next issue to find out where this story goes….

What I thought of We Stand on Guard #4

Thoughts about #1#2 and #3.

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Last issue saw our group of Canadian rebels facing retribution from the invading American forces who’ve found out their location after torturing their leader. As for this issue it starts in flashback as Amber and her brother Tommy face American troops, but to let Amber escape he surrenders to the Americans.

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Flicking back to the present Brian Vaughan slips a bit of real life commentary in that’s going to infuriate UKIP/Tea Party types, and it’s simply glorious.

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It’s also revealed as to the extent of the drought that’s affected the USA, and it’s bad for them which explains the ferocity of the American attack upon Canda to steal their main natural resource that’s useful to them: water. This really is an obvious parable to the situation in Iraq, and in that it’s going to be exceptionally controversial to those people that are ‘patriots’ but as I’ve said previously, there’s not this sort of scathing political comment in 99.9% of mainstream American comics.

This is also an action comic and this this issue has plenty of that.

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We Stand on Guard is a lovely little mix of political comment and action film tropes that slip sometime into cliche, and four issues in it’s built up an amazing head of steam. If Vaughan manages to finish this off as well as he should, then this is going to be one of the best mainstream mini-series of the year.

What I thought of We Stand on Guard #3

Thoughts about #1 and #2.

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There’s something gloriously EC Comics about the cover of the latest issue of We Stand on Guard. A burning face screaming at you is certainly an arresting image and sure and shit gets your attention but the inside of this issue is worth looking at as a series I sort of thought was trying to skim over some big issues is actually taking them on.

Before it gets to that, the story starts in flashback to 2115 where Amber and her brother Tommy are trying to get to the north of Canada to escape the invading Americans, but after a meeting with another escaping refugee they find that most of Canada is under American occupation.

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At the end of last issue, the Chief of the gang of Canadian freedom fighters was captured by the Americans, and in the 22nd century as in the 21st, the US military has no problems with torturing people. We also find out the possible cause for the American invasion and it’s a cracker…

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It seems the US invaded as they turned their country into a dustbowl after climate change ravaged them so have taken water and other resources from Canada, and in the 21st century they’ve got a more virtual way of torturing people.

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Make no mistake, the Americans here aren’t just the bad guys but they’re sheer and utter bastards, and this is a clear analogy for current world events, if if in the letters pages writer Brian Vaughan says he doesn’t declare his politics, it’s clear he is indeed trying to get American comic readers to take a good look at themselves and their country. This isn’t just a story of plucky rebels and big robots, but something else and I think it’s worth seeing out the final three issues of this mini-series to see what it is Vaughan is saying.

What I thought of We Stand on Guard #2

Thoughts about #1.

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I mentioned in the first issue that it feels like Brian K. Vaughan made the country being invaded by the USA, Canada, rather than say, Iraq or Afghanistan to make it simpler to digest for an American audience. After reading the second issue I’m sure of that and that he’s perhaps trying to do something else by making the US the clear villain in this tale of invaders and big robots but from the off here the Americans are bad bastards.

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In fact Vaughan lays on the ‘Americans are bastards’ line heavily in this issue.

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On the surface this can be treated as just an action story but it seems like Vaughan is saying something else but it’s slowly sneaking out enough for this to make me want to carry on buying it to see where it goes. This could well be not just a lot of fun, but this could be a way to tell a story of invaders that makes some in America exceptionally uncomfortable.