Page 45 Review by Stephen
"The present is not a gift."
I still have absolutely no intention of looking it in the mouth.
"Only time is timeless."
You may have a point there, however high one's default nostalgia setting's dialled up.
Much of my mirth in reading PAPER GIRLS VOL 1 was derived from a recognition of the 1980s which was in equal parts affectionate and embarrassed, for it wasn't the most enlightened era. Set in 1988, it starred MacKenzie, Tiffany, KJ and Erin, four twelve-year-old paper girls at a time where delivery routes were predominantly the sole province of boys. The first three had banded together a while ago for mutual protection while Erin joined them just in time for time itself to go tits-up.
The power grid failed, the sky went well-wonky, locals began to be disappeared (sic) and their quiet suburban neighbourhood was invaded by cowl-covered, incomprehensible, mutated teenage boys on the run from reactionary futuristic knights in shining white armour, riding giant, prehistoric flying lizards.
As you might imagine, no one received their Evening Edition that night.
Lastly for now, Erin found a square, palm-sized metal device with a black screen and familiar (to us) silver Apple logo which looks like someone's bitten a chunk out of it. It didn't work for her, but then perhaps it was Forbidden Fruit fallen from the Tree of Knowledge - not something you're supposed to nibble on. There were lots and lots of apples including an Apple phone which was obviously way ahead of its time even if it was one of those old-skool affairs with a circular dial and cradled handset. In this volume it will start working for Erin, but not our Erin or the space-suited Erin; it will start working for other Erin on the front cover who is forty years old.
There's no getting round it: that's who they met on the very last page of PAPER GIRLS VOL 1 and if that had us amused at how comparatively quaint the '80s look to us in retrospect, volume two will see you chortling mightily at the girls' intense culture shock upon arrival in 2016.
"There are waters in the fridge if you're thirsty."
"There's more than one kind of water now?"
Then there are our impossibly thin, gigantic television sets whose resolution might as well be three-dimensional, entire malls closed down in the wake of Amazon, the politics, profanity and just imagine you're from 1988 and heard the following news bulletin:
"This just in from our social media department, an extraordinary Vine posted by Twitter user @JoanyFootball2."
"What language is this?"
I'll leave you to discover the circumstances our Erin finds future Erin in - the direction her life has since taken - and how about MacKenzie? Her house has certainly been spruced up.
Cliff Chiang once more provides all the vital grounding a science fiction series like this one needs in order to contrast the temporal disturbances - which are once more substantial, startling, enormous and delightfully ugly - with the everyday, out-of-their depth protagonists attempting to survive them. I adore all those clothes: the shirts and the jackets and the way young Erin's jeans hang in loose folds while older Erin's hug her thighs tightly. Similarly her mouth hangs agape naturally, even when not speaking, with a certain degree of weariness.
So much of the background detail is subtle but makes all the difference, particularly in the closed-down, deserted and dilapidated shopping mall: lots of detritus, particularly cardboard, scattered on benches or blown up against shop windows and doors; the grass between its parking spaces overgrown.
The two Erins are quite credibly the same person and, as you'd expect from the writer of EX MACHINA and SAGA, the characterisation throughout is top-notch too, the relationship between the pair evolves beautifully with an endearing empathy for each other even if things haven't worked out the way the twelve-year-old would have wanted - perhaps.
Having given the game away about this instalment's temporal location I think I'll refrain from revealing anything more about the plot dynamics, but by its end you'll have a much clearer indication of the sort of structure Vaughan's working with here. I'm confident its neatness yet unpredictability will leave you with very satisfied smiles, just like the additional contractions and rearrangements our language has undergone, for the futuristic knights have followed the girls through:
"Bystand a nano, Grand Father. Ograph puts us smackmid of... 002016."
"Ah, the year my mother was born. Must be right before this nation's election. Poor bastards have no idea The Problems are about to begin."
So those two are from verrrrry different time zones, aren't they?