Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
NBM Publishing has announced its spring 2016 list, and if it seems a wee bit familiar, well, that may be because the publisher’s recent books received such an enthusiastic reception that it’s dishing up more of the same. But there are a few twists.
Let’s start with Paper Dolls, by the husband-and-wife team of Kerascoët, whose Beautiful Darkness (co-authored with Fabien Vehlmann) was nominated for an Eisner Award; NBM has also published their Beauty and Miss Don’t Touch Me, both created with Hubert. Their graphic novels are well-loved by critics, but what NBM is doing here is something a bit different: Paper Dolls is an art book, featuring a lot of extra touches and published in a limited edition of 1,000 numbered copies. The concept sounds extraordinary:
All-New Doop (Marvel): It’s perfectly appropriate for any series starring peripheral X-Men character Doop to be a weird one, however, the miniseries collected in this trade paperback is weird in a weird way.
Doop was created by writer Peter Milligan and artist Mike Allred for their iconoclastic (and somewhat -controversial) 2001 X-Force run, which was then relaunched under the name The X-Statix. The premise involved a group of celebrity-wannabe mutants who used their powers for fame and fortune by starring in a reality show; holding the camera was a mysterious, gross, floating, potato-shaped green creature that spoke its own, indecipherable language and answered to the name Doop.
Milligan imagined a dramatic behind-the-scenes life for the character in a two-part, 2003 Wolverine/Doop miniseries, and writer Jason Aaron ran with the joke, including Doop as a member of the faculty at the Jean Grey School during his Wolverine and The X-Men run. For the most part, Doop functioned as a background joke, one more signifier of the zany environment of the new school for young mutants, though Aaron did pair with Doop’s co-creator Allred for a one-issue story that focused on the character as a behind-the-scenes, floating potato-thing-of-all-trades.
Milligan returns to the character for this miniseries, in which Allred only provides the covers, while David LaFuente draws the majority of the art. Milligan takes Doop’s behind-the-scenes portfolio to an extreme, marking him as a character capable of traveling through “The Marginalia,” entering and exiting the comic-book tales in order to influence their outcome.
The story Doop influences here is “Battle of the Atom,” the Brian Michael Bendis-helmed X-Men crossover that involved Cyclops’ X-Men team, Wolverine’s X-Men team and an X-Men team from the future engaged in a fight over what to do with the teenage original X-Men plucked out of the Silver Age and currently hanging around the present.
[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]
Two sure signs the year is drawing to an end: It’s snowing in Massachusetts and the Best of the Year lists are starting to appear. Publishers Weekly released theirs yesterday, and there’s something interesting about it: Although there is a separate category for comics, several graphic novels are nominated in other categories as well.
This is by no means unprecedented—after all, Maus, one of the first graphic novels, won a Pulitzer Prize—but we seem to be seeing more of it. Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? won the inaugural Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction. This is a prize with only three categories, yet two graphic novels made the final round (the other was Cece Bell’s El Deafo, which was a finalist in the Young Readers category). Gene Yang was a speaker at the National Book Festival gala in September, giving him a prominent platform to speak to general readers who might pick up a graphic novel, as opposed to die-hard fans of the medium, and it’s become more and more common for graphic novels to make the shortlists for general book awards.
The first six pages of Beautiful Darkness comprise one of the more dramatic sequences you’re likely to see in any comics work. On the first, a saucer-eyed young blonde is having hot chocolate and cake with the fancily dressed man she met at the ball, and then something is falling from the ceiling — “But this isn’t how things were supposed to turn out!” — and after a quick, desperate struggle, the reader is treated to maybe the last thing he or she might expect to see. It’s creepy, scary and intriguing, a potent dare to stop reading, and an irresistible lure to turn the page.
The book is a collaboration between writer Fabien Vehlmann, who wrote the quirky, Jason-drawn comedy Isle of 100,000 Graves, and Marie Pommepuy, one-half of the art team known as Kerascoët, who drew the Miss Don’t Touch Me books, and who rather lavishly renders this story. Publisher Drawn and Quarterly bills it as an anti-fairy tale, but adding “anti-” seems a bit much, given how closely elements echo fairy tales and more modern, but still classic, children’s literature: Thumbelina and Tom Thumb, most especially, with at least a touch of Hansel and Gretel near the ending. There’s some Beatrix Potter in here, particularly in the visuals, and anyone who has read or encountered any adaptation of the The Borrowers will find much of that as well.