PAPER GIRLS #8 is fresh off winning Eisner Awards for Best New Series and Best Penciller/Inker, so how can the creative team of Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang live up to the hype? Well, they inserted a pair of fantastically large tardigrades into the mix, which duke it out in the middle of the Cleveland highway system. The tardigrade, also known as a water bear or a moss piglet, is a fascinating little micro-creature that oddly represents this series really well. It’s odd, it’s fun, and it’s a hell of a unique adventure!

READ: See what we thought of issue #6!

The first arc of PAPER GIRLS was a nostalgic blast. The series has the same vibe of the sensational, retro-style Netflix series STRANGER THINGS, but replaces inter-dimensional travel with time travel. When issue #6 arrived, I became worried that the time travel story-line was becoming overly convoluted. The fixation on time-travel intricacies distracted from the strengths of the comic, but those small fears now seem to be diminished. Fortunately, another frequent aspect of PAPER GIRLS that has picked up steam again was a particularly strong cliffhanger.

Water Bear Fight Night

As for the story, the emergence of the tardigrades, which actually popped up in issue seven, is quite enjoyable. Their battle for giant water bear supremacy boils over into this issue and is used as a backdrop for future Erin (not to be confused with older Erin, as there’s three of them now) to explain how future scientists in the PAPER GIRLS universe debunked parallel realities. There is only one timeline in this story, however, it can and has been altered. I’m fond of this revelation because it simplifies things and addresses aspects of the series that bothered me.

READ: 5 Themes of STRANGER THINGS that may also be reciprocated in PAPER GIRLS!

Issue #8 also continues to make comments on societal issues, specifically on problematic cop procedures. Old Erin specifically states cops in Cleveland aren’t to be trusted. Clearly, Brian K. Vaughan isn’t afraid to speak out about these issues through his characters and I commend him for it, but it’s kind of an odd aspect of the series. I wouldn’t say these views shouldn’t be expressed, or that they don’t belong in comics, but I think making them a continuous theme would be more effective than sprinkling in bits and pieces here and there. It would add more clout to the message.

paper girls cops

The dynamic of the Paper Girls is the true gem of this story, so that’s what I’m looking for. Any interjection of social commentary is a little off-putting for me. Sometimes I just want the comics I read to be a distraction from real world problems, especially specific conflicts that are increasingly heated at the moment. I say go all-in with the message or move on. These moments don’t dissuade me from reading PAPER GIRLS, yet I can’t help but be displaced by them.

Award-winner Cliff Chiang proves worthy of winning Best Penciler/Inker. There’s an 80’s touch he gives which engrosses you in the PAPER GIRLS universe. He utilizes a spectacular array of techniques to convey character expressions, and the landscapes have just the proper amount of sci-fi grit. He effectively balances strange creatures like a giant water bear with backgrounds that replicate abandonment and uncertainty like the rundown mall, creating a sense of wonder.

Fortunately, because of the water bear blood bath, the mysterious nature of the three Erins, and the continuous development of all the characters, PAPER GIRLS #8 is a treat. This issue really got me excited for upcoming issues again. The characters are so open and their growth seeps out of the panels. This book is also great for any new readers looking for similar content to STANGER THINGS, as well. The urge to see the gang overcome their perplexing situation is as strong as ever, so go and grab yourself a copy.

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