I’m starting to think that Brian K. Vaughan can do no wrong. Between Saga and Paper Girls, he is responsible for two of the most poignant, enjoyable Sci-Fi comics on the market, currently, as well as two of the best feminist comics. Paper Girls, on the surface, seems like yet another “coming of age” story that seems so very popular right now. Two issues in, though, and it’s clear that this is a hard Sci-Fi story that just happens to be a coming of age story, as well. Paper Girls #9 continues this weird trip down time travel alley, with our titular paper girl heroes thrown ever further into chaos.
After some confusion, we finally have all three versions of Erin Tieng in one place: 12-year old Erin, 40-year old Erin and questionable Erin. The latter of whom seems to have all of the answers and a clear understanding of what is occurring in the world around our heroes. 12-year old Erin is still having difficulty processing KJ’s mysterious field hockey stick message, warning her to not trust the other Erin.
One of the things I’ve always liked about Paper Girls is that the girls, despite their incredible adventure and journey, are still merely 12-year old girls. They think and act like adolescents, much like the characters of Netflix’s popular Stranger Things. That is to say, despite being “street wise” and recognizing they’re in a story that is probably over their head, they are still only equipped with the knowledge and thinking of a 12-year old. Which is a very long way of saying that 12-year old Erin is falling into some common, yet understandable pitfalls.
It’s fascinating that when 12-year old Erin is told to not trust the “other Erin,” she seems to assume it applies to 40-year old Erin, and not questionable Erin. Is it because questionable Erin, while possibly revealed to be a clone, is still the same age as 12-year old Erin, and that instantly makes her more trustworthy? Wouldn’t it be natural for a tween to trust another tween, even though 40-year old Erin is unquestionably the same person, and questionable Erin is only partially the same person as 12-year old Erin?
Granted, we have no way of knowing which Erin the vague hockey stick referred to, or even if KJ is, at this point, both the writer of the message or herself trustworthy, but it seems a fair guess. Especially given that questionable Erin is attempting to throw the girls far into the future, through a 5th fold, despite the warning that they need to get to the 4th fold. It’s the type of thing that we, as adults, think is clear, but to a 12-year old, it might be very difficult to process. Of course, we’re also talking about a world where time travel exists, so…
Mac is still wrestling with the realization of her impending death, though that appears to be placed on the back burner, and that is a good thing. I like that Vaughan is able to have one of his young heroines both wrestle with a deep, dark issue, while not having to consume her every thought. In the hands of a lesser writer, when faced with a dangerous monster and a clone of their friend and a portal to another time, Mac might have been tempted to wallow in her own self misery. But that’s not the character that Vaughan has created. I have no doubt that Mac will be forced to deal with this knowledge in a very real and difficult manner at some point, but today is not the day.
Finally, I enjoy Vaughan’s continued dynamic between 12-year old Erin and 40-year old Erin. Last issue provided some of the most heartbreaking dialog as the younger and older selves attempted to accept one another, and this issue carries that thread nicely, with Tiff revealing that 12-year old Erin thinks 40-year old Erin is “a crazy person.” It’s tempting to think that our 12-year old selves would be totally amazed by our 40-year old selves, but the truth is, no matter where you are in your life, your 12-year old self would probably be just as embarrassed and weirded out by this self as Erin is with hers.
Whether or not 40-year old Erin can talk some sense into the girls, and avoid stepping through the 5th fold will be seen next issue. Obviously, I hope they listen, but being headstrong 12-year olds, I have a feeling that’s a slim hope.