Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
You know, usually I review books just to give you an idea of what’s out there. I don’t really expect most people to be swayed by what I say about various books. It’s nice when it happens, but it’s not why I write reviews. But a comic came out this week that I’m going to beg you to buy.
The seventh and final issue of I Kill Giants came out this week. I have been raving about this mini-series ever since issue #3 (the first two issues were good, but #3 was where it really took off), and despite that, sales still appear to be not good. That’s a shame. This is one of the best mini-series of the year (yes, I have a “best-of” list cooking, and this will be on it). It’s brilliant.
As we saw last issue, Barbara finally gets to fight a giant. Throughout the early issues, it’s been a question of whether she actually fights giants or whether it’s a grand metaphor. Then, in issue #6, she gets to fight one, and it’s a stunning battle, full of revelations about the giant and Barbara herself. In this issue, we see the aftermath, and we also find out the truth about her relationship to her mother. We’ve known about her mother for a few issues, but Joe Kelly has invested so much in these characters and imbued them with such wonderful personalities that even learning more about it is an amazing revelation and gives the book a tragic/uplifting ending without being overly sentimental. It’s a marvelous story about growing up, but the way Kelly has created this so that it doesn’t feel like a tired “coming-of-age” story. Throughout the book, we’ve been concerned about Barbara’s mental state, and Kelly has done a magnificent job playing with those expectations and either subverting them or playing them up. Even in this issue, where we finally think there’s a resolution, there’s a truly awesome (in its classic sense) double-page spread where Barbara realizes there are still magical things out there, only maybe she doesn’t have to fight them anymore.
JM Ken Niimura’s art has been astonishing throughout, as well. As he writes at the end, this is his first “long” professional comic, which is almost unbelievable. He has created a fantastical world that fits in easily with the “real” world seamlessly, and in this issue, when he’s called on to draw “quieter” scenes, he’s completely up to the task. Kelly gives Niimura a lot of wordless panels, and Niimura conveys the emotions of the characters perfectly, from Barbara’s despair in some to her triumph in others to Sophia’s joy at having her friend back.
This issue is a bit longer and costly (it’s 4 bucks), but we get a longer story and a ton of back matter in it. I really can’t recommend it enough. The one quibble I have with it (some of the minor school adminstrators are a bit stereotypical) is extremely minor and has nothing to do with the main story or the art. If you can find them, pick up the individual issues. If not, please keep an eye out for a trade (if it gets collected). I Kill Giants is a stunning piece of comics art, and the kind of thing writers and artists should aspire to. It’s truly wonderful. Don’t make me beg even more!
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