Another long-term series finally concludes here. The narrative flow was a bit interrupted by Vol. 8’s Specials collection, but I suppose publishing it last would have been anticlimactic. Baal has hatched a plan to sacrifice an entire arena audience to store their life energy to defeat the Great Darkness. Persephone plans to divert all that energy to her own purpose, to power an apocalypse. Laura Wilson (who has abandoned her role as the goddess Persephone) leads the audience away to safety. Her powers still work–if unpredictably–so she uses them to rescue the Norns and all of the living god heads. Now that’s not something you can say often.
Laura has figured something out, but for her solution to work the gods have to believe her. A series of flashbacks confirm that Ananke and her sister have found a way to live forever. It involves convincing mortals with gifts that they are gods with only two years to live. “As long as there are other fools who would confuse being gifted with being godly, we can persist.” One by one, the gods acknowledge that they are not gods, reverting to their mortal identities. As long as Minerva/Ananke remain alive there is a possibility that the cycle could recur. Baal sacrifices himself by jumping off the roof with her, and we see Laura being sentenced to life in prison.
Jump ahead to “Valhalla, 40 years later.” Laura is attending her wife Cassandra’s funeral. All of the former gods are there, having lived long, productive lives. Cassandra gives her own eulogy as a hologram. Then Laura reminds the reader that stories are written as if they are inevitable, but the future is really up to you. The final page is a lovely visual representation, and the end of the collection. The wake for the series already happened in the back matter from the previous volume.
The finale of the series, so it goes without saying that Here There Be Spoilers. At the end of the previous volume the girls were split up, each sent to a different time. So naturally the story resumes by first checking in with each one of them. Erin is in our present (or something close, anyway); KJ is in 1958; Mac is at the end of time (with Qanta Braunstein, inventor of time travel); and Tiffany is in a frozen future. The process has somehow weaponized the girls, popping the Old-Timers’ ship out of its time travel trajectory.
All of the girls want to get back to their present, of course. It begins with KJ jumping to the interstitial time the Old-Timers are stuck in. Then there is a long sequence of pages with a panel for each of the girls, showing their action simultaneously. This speeds up and clarifies the story telling, greatly aided by Matt Wilson’s colors, which help keep the different times and places clear. They finally reunite in 1831–not sure why, other than it being a a neutral year, one they haven’t been to before. They are joined by both warring factions from the future. The key to resolving the war comes in the form of a visual montage showing Grand Father (leader of the Old-Timers) his true history. He agrees to a truce: both sides pledge to stop travelling through time.
Before being sent home, the girls have to agree to have all of their memories of their adventures in time erased. The do this reluctantly, afraid of also losing their newfound personal connection (the mantra is “we’re not just papergirls, we’re friends”). There’s a brief episode at KJ’s bat mitzvah–which may be a dream sequence–before the girls all wake up on that fateful Hell Morning. The early morning proceeds much as it began back at the beginning of the series, with the girls banding together for protection from marauding groups of boys. Having finished their routes, they start to split up. Then at the last moment Erin convinces them to hang out a little longer as friends. It’s a lovely, heartwarming conclusion: the kind of happy ending that seemed impossible until just before it happened.
After all this time, the finale caught me by surprise. Not only did I not realize this was the series ending before I began reading it, I wasn’t even sure after finishing. I think this is more of a commentary on the open-ended multiverse nature of the series than the specific storytelling in this installment. It was always hard to tell what was “real,” or even what “real” meant in this context.
As the story opens, Grant has been reunited with his family–but in the process the Eververse has been erased. So they are in the only remaining universe, and Grant exiles Kadir into a dysfunctional world. He hatches a plan to attack the witch Doxta (as one of the characters says, “I guess I could pretend to understand…”). When they launch their attack they find themselves cycling through several different realities.
Next thing we know, Grant and family are living in a bizarre totalitarian state (but with a happy face) with Kadir in charge. Grant remembers what the world was like before, and can’t help but rebel–as he always has, being an anarchist and all. This sets off another whole set of alternative time lines. In the end he identifies an Eververse reality very close to theirs, but with everyone in the family alive and happy. Sara agrees to come with him, and the Pillar takes them there. The final frame finds them all together at a picnic, happy and looking forward to a bright future.
Despite everything that has happened–and Grant’s tendency to screw things up and hurt those close to him–it’s a hopeful ending. Maybe Grant really has learned his lesson, and will be grateful to simply have a normal life with his family. If I didn’t know that this was the final issue, I could easily accept a new story arc where all of this turns out to have been a dream, or an alternate Eververse reality.