On the surface, “Paper Girls” #6 has a lot of promise. After shifting into possible futures or timelines, three of the four protagonists have jumped three decades forward in time to our present day. While the girls are in awe of the advances in technology, it’s not until the final two pages that the comic feels like it’s finally moving forward.
Vaughan does a good job of conveying the culture shock that the three teenagers from 1988 feel now that they’ve been plunged into 2016, but the problem is that that is the vast majority of the issue. The fact that Erin has just met her future self feels almost brushed over beyond the initial “prove who you are” sequence; it’s a moment that feels like it’s lacking any actual impact. The glimpse we get of Grand Father and Cardinal explaining a bit of what’s happened to the girls is intriguing strictly from a plotting sense, but it’s really just a bit of an exposition dump; there’s no hook to make it feel urgent.
That’s probably why the last pages work so well; specifically, it’s the moment where the blending of timelines goes from theory to reality when the adult Erin uses the new technology. Chiang gives her such a perfect smile when she logs in that it suddenly spikes the interest level; the only frustrating thing in that moment is that we don’t see it before the end of the issue. “Paper Girls” #6 finds its momentum very suddenly.
Chiang’s art looks good from start to finish, even if it’s just the girls clustering around objects or crushed into the back of a Smart car. The reactions on their faces are all pretty great, and I love the exasperated look on adult Erin’s face when one of the girls calls her Mrs. Tieng. Matt Wilson continues to provide great colors no matter what book he works on, and this is no exception; the colors are smooth and handsome to look at, and I love how he knows when to use a full spectrum and when to drop down to a very limited palette. It lets moments — like the alternate Erin’s appearance — look eye-popping and really seize the reader from a visual standpoint.
After an incredibly strong first story arc, “Paper Girls” #6 feels very slow-going. The final pages start to turn up the excitement, but — if I was a new reader starting out on this second story arc — I’m not certain I would see what everyone else was talking about. Hopefully, the next issue will be back up to full speed again, but — while “Paper Girls” #6 sure looks great — the story just isn’t up to the high standards of the previous issues.