I knew Matt Fraction had been working on this for a while with the Dodsons, but since he’s largely left the public internet and I completely missed this even came out. So when I saw the hardcover at my local comic book store, I was like: Wow, this came out?
It was, of course, a pleasant surprise. What I liked most about this was the size of the book. The hardcover, which you can’t tell here, is the size of a coffee table. It’s a coffee table book with widescreen pages that force you to look at all the fantastic Terry Dodson art.
Just look at the size of the pages. My favorite part of the series is the family dinners. The description of those pages recalls my family. We’re loud, constantly talking over each other, interrupting, and we’re all characters.
The other thing I kept gravitating to while thinking about the comics writers is how they’re like film directors. Morrison is kind of the modern equivalent of Stanley Kubrick; Fraction is like Tarantino because he loves to reference things from the past, Vaughan is like Spielberg because of his diverse interests and storytelling sensibilities are rooted in character. Paper Girls is very much an ETish story without budgetary constraints.
Adventureman is a fun callback to pulp adventure films and stories like Doc Savage, Flash Gordon, the Shadow, and Green Hornet mixed with a little bit of Lovecraft. It’s big and bombastic, and the pages reflect as such. Also, it’s not technically about a “man” it’s about a woman.
I started reading this book to my four-year-old because he saw that one of the trades featured dinosaurs, so of course, he wanted to read it. After reading the whole thing, I couldn’t help but try to figure out why Vaughan is my favorite comic book writer.
It’s simplicity. BKV never tries to do something that is structurally from left-field. It’s also character: these girls are tough, and fall in love, just like adults. He makes these five 12-year-old girls like adults. They swear every page, and they stand up to boys. Just check out these pages—you know that these girls are badasses.
He’s a master of the page turn and cliffhanger. I don’t think there’s anyone better at a cliffhanger than him—that is his actual selling point—he forces you to get the next issue in a way that no other writer in comics does nearly as well. How does he do it? He roots the cliffhanger in character, not the shock factor of something happening off-panel. He always teases that shocking thing in the panel that forces you to turn the page or get to the next issue. Here’s one of my favorites:
That comes down to two things: he’s great with working with the artists he collaborates with (Cliff Chiang—in this case), and he’s excellent with character, revealed in emotion and dialogue. He is proving that what makes Brian K. Vaughan great is simplicity. Less is more in comics, and Vaughan is the best at it. He’s not trying to wow you with crazy ideas (though they are pretty out there, just look at some of the characters in SAGA), or complete panel, plot structure like Fraction and Morrison that can sometimes alienate readers. Here are some of my favorite pages from the series. Including an example of interaction at the end of the series that doubles as a character difference showing growth for Mac. She is a little more careful with her attitude, which frequently gets her into trouble throughout the series.
BKV also has a keen eye for what works in comics as a cousin to film, and Chiang just nails it. Also from the last issue: