Paper Girls 5: fate and free will (and dinosaurs and monsters)

For two years now, Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang have been knocking my socks off with their Paper Girls graphic novel, a mysterious, all-girl, Stranger-Things-esque romp through 1980s pop culture, time travel, conspiracies, clones, paradoxes, and you know, all that amazing coming-of-age/friendship-is-magic jazz. Now, the pair have released the fifth collection, and it's a doozy.

Every volume of Paper Girls has been marked by outstanding dialog, incredible, likeable characters, and art worthy of the magnificent Fiona Staples, whose work on Saga has revived a kind of Jack Kirby/Canteen on Mos Eisley comic surrealism that Chiang is definitely dabbling in here.

In this fifth volume, we follow the paper girls into a distant-future, shiny dystopian Cleveland, where police-state surveillance rubs shoulders with flying cars and a cure for cancer. The girls are grappling with the prophecies and other shenanigans that have given them glimpses of their own futures and the futures of other versions of themselves, and this classic time-travel dilemma of free will versus predetermination makes for a great driver for a tour of Chiang's fantastic art and Vaughan's outstanding writing.

Along with Saga, Paper Girls marks out Image as the comics publisher of the moment, an undeniable example of the power of allowing creators to own their comics and take them in places where increasingly cautious comics publishers (embedded in massive media empires) dare not go.

Paper Girls 5 [Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang/Image]

Previous reviews:

* Volumes 1/2

* Volume 3

* Volume 4

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