Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Every day this month I reviewed a different independent comic book, based on submissions from the creators of the comic books themselves.
The month concludes with Jason Crayton’s Grade 5, a story about a group of kids enjoying their last year when they can still be considered “kids” (as Grade 6 and the road to High School looms ahead of them).
Jason Crayton’s Grade 5 examines the everyday adventures of a boy named Jason and his small group of friends as he and his best friend, Steve, vow to have as many off-the-wall experiences that they can while they are still ostensibly “kids” before they move to the other part of the school the next year for Grade 6, where recess disappears, classes get harder and “kids” evolve into teens and high schoolers.
Crayton’s work is quite charming and perhaps the leading cause of that charm is the blatant love and affection he has for this project. It oozes out of the pages – he is devoted to the story of these kids.
Here are a few sample pages…
There is a lot of energy in Crayton’s artwork, although at times that energy almost seems to override the storytelling (particularly in a bit towards the end of the first issue where Jason and Steve encounter an especially odd fellow fifth grader).
As all of these characters are clearly based on people that Crayton met over the years growing up (although I presume few are just literal analogues), their personalities are very well defined. That is a strong plus about the comic. However, because they are so defined, I really don’t think we needed a number of pages for Jason to describe each kid and his personality traits. Especially since most of the personality traits were so broad that they would be pretty evident as soon as they kids began to interact (and it’s not like any of the kids look alike – they’re all quite distinct, so there was no danger of confusing them). And ESPECIALLY since each of the other three friends (Pete, Tim and Dave) are first broadly defined on an introductory page, followed by each kid getting their own solo page that repeats the info we got on the first page (which was more than enough information). I think those pages really slowed the narrative down. Did we really need to know that Pete is good at geography?
Meanwhile, because so much time was spent summarizing their personalities, we only got to see Jason and Steve interact with the other three for less than two pages! Four pages introducing them – less than two pages actually having them do anything? That seemed like a waste.
Jason and Steve, though, got ample opportunity to shine in the story, and they did shine, as Crayton had them get into some interesting situations. First, by taking a stand against a teacher over protesting having to do an assignment over the summer, and second, by the aforementioned encounter with the strange fifth grader (who they come across while on an adventure to try to find the school’s janitor, who no one seems to have ever actually seen).
All in all, this was a pleasant and engaging look at a very interesting time in the growth process of kids.
You can buy a copy here.
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