Thursday, December 29, 2016

Comics with that 80s & Stranger Things vibe
by rick olivares

Still cannot get enough over “Stranger Things” and the whole 1980s retro vibe? Then you might want to check out a pair of comic book trade paperbacks (or back issue singles if you prefer) of “Paper Girls” and “Plutona”.

“Paper Girls” is written by the brilliant Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Cliff Chiang and is colored by Matt Wilson. Vaughan is best known as the writer of such epic stories as “Y The Last Man”, “Ex-Machina”, and “Saga” to name a very few of his lauded and popular works.

The book is about four girls from the fictional Cleveland suburb of Stony Stream and who come face to face with an invasion from the future while out delivering newspapers one morning. “Paper Girls” recently won an Eisner Award for Best New Series of 2016.

“Plutona” is by the talented new wordsmith Jeff Lemire (“Essex County”, “Sweet Tooth”, and “Descender” that has been optioned for a film) and drawn by Emi Lennox with colors by Jordie Bellaire, one of the best in today’s comic book industry. The story, while contained in five issues and one trade paperback finds five kids accidentally discovering the body of the world’s greatest superhero Plutona in the woods one day. The startling discovery finds all of them making decisions that would alter their lives forever.

Both titles, published by Image Comics, have this feel of watching that seminal coming-of-age film by director Rob Reiner, “Stand By Me” that starred the late River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell, where on a hike, they find the body of a missing child.

While “Paper Girls” draws from the aforementioned sources, that’s as far as it goes. The story boldly strikes out on its own and hence, an unpredictability. But there are moments when you think, “Ah, that’s from ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’, or ‘Twilight Zone’ or ‘Back to the Future’”. And if you want to take it further, “The Final Countdown” because of the paradoxes. Now if you don’t know that military science-fiction film from 1980 that starred Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, and James Farentino, then I suggest you look it up.

Vaughan’s story is bizarre and like any good read, or in the story’s case, a newspaper, it’s gripping. I love how the girls make use of hockey sticks for protection, walkie-talkies, and steal the occasion smoke. Mac – is the River Phoenix version of the gang here. And I love it. Furthermore, having run newspaper routes in the neighborhood as a kid, this really takes me back.

“Plutona” is a superhero version of “Stand By Me” (that in turn owes its inspiration to horror writer Stephen King’s “The Body”) that is set in the modern world. Unlike most of the kids in “Paper Girls” the crew here doesn’t have much of a relationship but are drawn together while walking home one day. That’s the same day they find the bloody and battered body of Plutona who to the world at large doesn’t know their hero has gone missing.

Like “Stand By Me” and “The Body”, the decisions the kids make with regards to their discovery shakes their world. And how it affects all of them is shaking. More so with the ending. You might say it’s too sudden an end but it’s an end that leaves you thinking and wondering. And that’s what good stories do.

So while waiting for Season Two of “Stranger Things”, do yourself a favor and pick up some really good comics that will introduce you to the four-colored delight that has become all the rage in pop culture in the past two decades.

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