REVIEW: ‘Paper Girls’ is more than its similarities to ‘Stranger Things’

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DUBAI: Time travel. Giant mechs. Estranged relationships. And a lot of growing up to do — quickly. Amazon Prime’s adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s comic-book series, “Paper Girls,” has been compared to “Stranger Things” from day one, but the coming-of-age, sci-fi series stands on its own two feet — and does it well.

Yes, both shows feature kids on bikes and catchy, synth-laden throwback tunes; but by the end of episode one, “Paper Girls” reveals itself to be its own unique beast — edgy, heartwarming and full of surprises.

“Paper Girls” begins in the wee hours after Halloween night in the year 1988 in Stony Stream – a fictional suburb of Cleveland. It is Chinese-American teenager Erin’s (Riley Lai Nelet) first time on the paper route. When she has to deal with a racist customer, tomboy Mac (Sofia Rosinsky) comes to the rescue and quickly introduces her to the rest of the all-girl delivery gang: KJ Brandman (Fina Strazza), the suburb’s rich girl, and Tiffany Quilkin (Camryn Jones), who in her own words is “on the fast track to MIT,” which makes her the brains of the group.

What follows is an increasingly strange night that ends with the four girls being thrown into the future, the year 2019 to be precise, seemingly caught in a time war between underground, rebel soldiers and the nefarious old guard.

While the series makes some narrative departures from the comic book series, it stays true to the spirit of (writer) Vaughan and (illustrator) Chiang’s “Paper Girls,” which makes sense since both serve as executive producers on the show.

While the show is very much built on sci-fi bones, “Paper Girls” thrives in its quieter, more human moments, of which there are many. When the 12-year-old girls must confront their future selves and the lives they’ve built for themselves, while simultaneously building trust and camaraderie among their group, all the while trying to save humanity, it feels like a fully realized and lived-in world.

And the glue that holds it all together? The four excellent lead stars who all make a mark and hold their own, alongside the more experienced cast featuring names such as Ali Wong, Adina Porter, Nate Corddry and Jason Matzoukas.

With “Paper Girls,” creator Stephany Folsom and showrunner Christopher C. Rogers have put together a refreshingly understated feminist caper of young heroines banding together to take on the world. We hope they return for seconds.

The first season of “Paper Girls” is now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.