Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
I’d like to introduce you to my new favorite comic book character in the whole world ever, Pandaface.
What’s so great about Pandaface? Well, as you can see, hers is an excellent design, with a black-and-white costume that is somewhat symmetrical, but with a aesthetically pleasing kind of yin-yang thing going on with the black and whites.
She has many other virtues.
She doesn’t speak.
And when she’s not fighting or pirating, she likes to kick back and relax with her friends.
Oh, Pandaface, you’re the best!
Despite the the place of honor she holds in my heart, Pandaface is actually a fairly minor supporting character in Nurse Nurse, a new graphic novel from cartoonist Katie Skelly, collecting seven previously published minicomics with a new eighth chapter.
Nurse Nurse is the story of Gemma, a nurse in the far-flung future year of 3030 (although the nurses of the next millennium wear the short, kicky nurses’ uniforms of our past). As population increases have forced humans to leave Earth and settle other planets, space-faring nurses have become extremely important, and are assigned to visit different colonies and attend to the various atmosphere-related illnesses that have become common.
Skelly sends Gemma on a series of rather Barbarella-like adventures, the narrative drifting from conflict to conflict and scene to scene, with Gemma having the misfortune of running afoul of a jerk doctor, two ruthless rivals and a trio of space pirates lead by her ex-boyfriend, but the good fortune of meeting a friendly Martian girl and the galaxy’s most popular boy band.
The story is as loose and fluid and Gemma’s design and artwork, which is highly inventive, full of fun details and humming with enviable style and an infectious energy.
There’s an overarching plot that has something to do with a television show about a sexy nurse, an important document written in Martian (a language Skelly imagines being comprised of letters that look like blots of ink) and clones of Gemma, but it’s not resolved by book’s end. Our protagonist just wants to return to Earth, and if there’s a moral or point to the work, it’s what one of the characters states to Gemma in a message that he immediately deletes: You’re you, and that’s all that really matters.
Like Barbarella, the movie that so thoroughly inspired it, Nurse Nurse is perhaps more of a visual tone poem than a statement, an enjoyable experience more than an epiphany delivery voice. It’s quite an experience though: Uncut, undiluted, unfiltered comics fun. Also, it has Pandaface in it.