Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
My birthday was last week and my boyfriend had been asking me what I wanted for weeks. I didn’t know how to tell him that Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel had already given me all I ever wanted.
I know that sounds dramatic, but truly I do not know how to explain to you guys what it feels like to finally (at far too old an age) hold in your hands a comic book that you have dreamed of since you were a kid. A comic book that you wanted to WILL into existence. And now, like magic (plus 20 years) I have it.
Some of you know this feeling well because you’re feeling it too. For those of you that don’t, I thought maybe a detailed breakdown of the book and what is so right about it would help. And I actually started writing that post, talking about what makes the book so great – what makes it human and beautiful, smart and funny, pointing out how exceptional the storytelling is, and why the character choices are so pivotal – but halfway through my examination I stopped because, quite simply, I don’t want to dissect this book. It’s not that it won’t stand up to it, I just find myself wanting to let it just be this beautiful thing that it is. And it really is a THING.
It’s that elusive THING that no matter how many words I write or lists I make, I won’t come close to pinning down. That rare thing that you can’t quite put your finger on that makes your heart sing a little. That coveted thing that gives you a moment of chills as you’re reading. That thing I suspect most of us adults that still love comics are forever chasing – that chance to recapture a time in our lives when things made us FEEL on a much more regular basis and with an intensity all but lost to us today.
My brother shared my love of comics growing up, having actually discovered them for us in the mall one day when he recognized a character from the new X-Men cartoon we were obsessed with. The rest was history (history I’m sure my parents wish they could undo). We fell in love with comics, and perhaps more specifically, superheroes. Eventually as we grew up, we both read less, and then he read not at all, but I remember going to see the first X-Men film with him in 2000. That was one of those things. One of those moments where I could recapture my love of superheroes and get the chills that came with it. Sure it wasn’t a feeling that lasted the entire movie, but I will never forget watching that opening scene with a young Magneto tearing up that gate, it was bliss. And it was the same for my brother. I know this because we looked at each other for just a moment, communicating that pure joy of “I can’t believe I’m seeing this! It’s REAL!”
We had, if only for a moment, rediscovered that elusive thing that feels like childhood dreams turned into reality. It’s easily recognizable when you see that joy in someone. We both had it. But it’s been a long time since a movie or comic made me feel that way, even the good ones.
In truth, superhero movies and comics disappoint me more regularly than just about anything else, maybe simply because I AM asking them to do the impossible. To be a time machine. To satisfy a lifetime of investment in superheroes, a passion that burned brighter than most other things for me but that like most other things faded as I became an adult. While I feel very strongly (obviously) that Man of Steel is a terrible film, independent of being a superhero film, it is true that I judge it a little more harshly, and that I want a little more from it than just any old film. With superheroes I’ll probably always be searching for more. Hoping I can get just a moment of that elusive bite of happiness.
So far Wood and Coipel have brought me far more than just a little “bite of happiness.”
I loved X-Men comics so much that when I was 16 and not a particularly good driver (what 16 year old is?) I got into a terrible fight with my father because I wanted to drive to the comic book store during a snowstorm to get my new comics. I just knew that X-Men was out (and if I recall correctly it was an issue with something VERY SERIOUS going on with Gambit and Rogue, my teenaged favorites). I could not wait ONE DAY to get that book. I was DYING in my very soul to have it.
It’s been a long time since I felt that way about most my comics (or anything quite frankly). I love a whole lot of comics I read and movies I go to, but they can wait a day. Or more.
I guess what I’m trying to say about this new X-Men is that after many years of faded or flickering passions I would get into a fight with my dad over it. I’d drive through that snowstorm to get it.
It’s just that good and it makes me just that happy. It’s brought back the fire, or at least reminded me what it felt like.
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