Paper Girls #30
Writer: Brian K. Vaughn
Artist: Cliff Chiang
As many readers suspected, this last issue’s tone was much quieter than the rest of the finale arc’s. Despite it being a double issue, there was no more drama, action, or questions left to answer in these panels. I normally don’t add spoilers, but since I wanted to do more of a deep dive on this issue, this is pretty much a recap with analysis.
In the previous issue, Mac is zapped away before she can say goodbye to Erin, Tiffany, and KJ. The question on everyone’s mind at the end of #29 was whether or not the girls would remember anything they’d just been through. Their memories of time travel, death, identity, monsters, but most importantly friendship were at stake. Four years ago we read about four girls who were merely acquaintances. The three of them would meet up on Hell Morning to look out for one another and then go their separate ways the rest of the year. To quote their own mantra, the girls on the pages of our book today aren’t just paper girls. They’re friends, heartbroken at the thought of losing the bond they now share. Even though it had been foreshadowed many times throughout the series that they no longer knew each other as adults, I think we all maintained that single shred of hope that they would latch onto something, anything, so as not to forget.
Throughout the opening dream sequence, they gain a glimpse of the memories they share but don’t remember the actual experience when they wake up. In Mac’s dream, all the girls are at KJ’s bat mitzvah, and before Erin can divulge the secrets of what they’ve been through, Tiffany comes in as the Terminator and attempts to remind them of their mantra before zapping them. Mac wakes up in her messy room, and here I have to give credit to Chiang for continuing to add to the girls’ character development through the artwork. We haven’t seen Mac’s or Kj’s rooms before, but through these two scenes we can see just how different this couple really is – Mac with her tough shell, masculine outfit choices, and room in disarray and KJ with her ruffles, poodle, and clean very pink bedroom. They know they’re opposites, but as this issue goes on, they’re constantly drawn to each other. Mac even asks for KJ when Tiffany suggests they ride together again.
As expected, Erin still has the scar where she got shot, but many things differ on this 1988 Hell Morning. In the early issues of the series, Mac was extremely homophobic. As she’s donning her iconic bomber jacket, her brother calls her ‘butch’, something the old Mac might blow up at. Mac gives him a look and ignores him, though, making me think she has a better grasp on who she is now. Lucas hassles KJ this time around, and instead of calling him a slur, Mac chooses ‘fart-mouth’ which I found hilarious.
Wari showing up was a nice surprise and suggests she’s been keeping an eye on the girls and still might be for a while. It’s here that Tiffany begins to question fate vs. free will, an ongoing theme in this series and in almost every time travel movie or book ever written. She also makes a forbidden fruit reference, which was a nice touch considering just how often the apple and tree of knowledge motifs were portrayed throughout the series. During this conversation, Vaughan includes several small details that remind us just why we love him. He avoids useless dialogue and makes every last speech balloon meaningful. Mac, the only one who actually smokes, states here she’s not worried about dying but has more of the “live fast, die young” mentality. We also gain some insight into Tiffany as she states she is thinking of quitting her route after they finish.
At this point, the tone is quite melancholy, and as the sun starts to rise, the girls decide to ride off their separate ways. I love the panel of the girls leaving the intersection and literally all going separate ways. This is where I started to get emotional. Stony Stream gets smaller and smaller as it pans out until the planet is merely a blip in the universe. Then, almost miraculously, Erin calls out to her girls and they ride off together into the sunrise, mirroring the first issue. Maybe they have defied fate and remain friends after this. We can believe what we want here, and I choose to believe they stay together because subconsciously they DO remember what happened. The paper girls will ride a little longer after all.
As I close the last page of one of my favorite series of all time, I keep thinking to myself, how could I ever put into words how this story makes me feel? I don’t know if any review I could write would properly pay respects to Vaughan, Chiang, Wilson, and Fletcher, but I had to try. The art, story, lettering, and colors throughout the series have been a masterpiece every single time. So thank you to the Paper Girls team for an experience I don’t have to forget. This is a masterpiece I plan on rereading again and again, and soon we’ll get to watch it, too, thanks to Amazon.
Paper Girls #30
In its final issue, Brian K. Vaughan and his outstanding team offer closure as they deliver a cathartic ending to one of the greatest coming of age stories in comics today.