Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Brian K Vaughn
Artist: Cliff Chiang
Release Date: 7th October, 2015
[WARNING: REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS]
I had to pinch myself at BCP HQ when I saw this unclaimed on the “baggsy list” this week. I’d read about this title several weeks ago and immediately filed it under ‘must read.’ Not only another Image title from BKV (his third current run alongside Saga and We Stand On Guard), but one that was drawn by Cliff Chiang of Wonder Woman fame. I expected big things. Yes, it’s aimed at the Young Adult audience, but so was the Hunger Games and I read that particular trilogy in a weekend.
Things start off totally weird; it’s a crazy dream sequence that is themed around Eve eating an apple from the tree of knowledge, and you score bonus points it you catch the Saga and Y: The Last Man Easter Eggs. Six pages in and I already know I’m going to enjoy this series.
Set in the eighties we meet Erin, a young girl who is just starting a paper round. It’s her first morning out delivering and she almost runs afoul of some of the neighbourhood kids, being ‘saved’ by another group of papergirls that come to her rescue. After introductions they decide to team up to deliver to the area. Safety in numbers, right? So now we have our main cast, Erin we’ve met. The papergirls are led by Mac, the first papergirl on the block and neighbourhood bad girl by reputation. Tiffany seems to be the gadget girl of the crew (on my second read though I literally thought to myself: “Oh my God, she’s Data from the Goonies”), and that leaves KJ who seems to be the enforcer (she carries a hockey stick strapped to her back).
Deciding the best and fastest way to get the morning delivery done they split into two teams and keep in communication by way of Tiffany’s Walkie-talkies. Mac and Erin go one way, and Tiff and KJ the other. Mac has a run in with a local Policeman that knows her by reputation and accuses her of smashing windows, giving Erin the chance to vouch for her and, I guess, cement her friendship to Mac and her place in the group. Meanwhile KJ and Tiffany get attacked and robbed.
Going to their aid the four new friends meet up and decide to go after the three men in ‘bad ghost uniforms’ that attacked the girls and stole the Walkie-talkie. They track them to a part of the estate still under construction and find a house with a ground floor window open and check this out. The house has a strange smell and an even stranger sound coming from the basement. Well, this is an eighties comic, so strange smell and weird basement noise – what else is there to do but to go and check it out?
In the basement the girls find a strange machine, not knowing what it is they start to joke that it’s from the Apollo mission, or a tribute built for the 50th anniversary of War of the Worlds (I love that when telling the girls about it KJ only vaguely knows of the radio show and refers to Orson Welles as Orville Wright). While joking over what this thing actually is the machine activates and emits some kind of beam that all four girls absorb, frightened by this they run from the house outside. Outside the girls notice the night sky very differently, it’s a vibrant colour and they can see many stars and planets (although they are still clearly on the same housing estate).
They’ve no time to discuss the stars as they spy the three characters that robbed them earlier. The girls go after them, catching up to one of them they get in a fight and Mac managed to rip of the headscarf the ‘ghost’ has covering his face, revealing some kind of warp human with plugs and implants in his (?) head garbling in some strange language. The strange man grabs Mac and chants something that has a strange effect on her before the other girls come to her rescue. As the assailant makes his escape the girls help Mac who is puking away wondering what is happening to her. Just then Tiffany notices that the mugger had dropped something, and ….. well ….. you remember the story opened with Erin dreaming about an Apple?
Yes, this is a Young Adult comic, the construction of the narrative is clearly focused on that genre, but there is lots here for a more mature audience to feast on. This story is definitely in two layers, one for the YA reader, and another for people closer to my age. There are far too many references here that I picked up on that someone 20 years younger would skim over; Freddy Krueger, “It” and Ninjas (how many films were there in the 80’s about Ninjas)? Our four protagonists seem to be made up of classic 80’s archetypes that you would find in The Goonies or The Lost Boys, oh, and there is a frikin’ Monster Squad poster in Erin’s room.
I’m way over my regular word count here and I’ve not even got to the art; needless to say it’s brilliant. Chiang’s distinctive ink work is distinctively bold, and yet precise and sharp. The framing is clever and the perspectives used are quite clever naturally containing high detail in the drawing and leaving enough naturally blank space in the frame for speech bubbles. It’s quite crafty, you have to look for it to notice it, which shows someone knows what they are doing, the colour palettes Matt Wilson has chosen is restrictive to three or four colours per frame, mainly blues to convey that this story happens before sunrise. It just works together really well.
The script may be young adult, but the story I think will satisfy all ages and the art suits the genre perfectly.
The writer of this piece was: Andrew McGlinn
Andrew Tweets from @Jockdoom.