There are a lot of comics out there, but some just stand out head and shoulders above the pack. With “Don’t Miss This” we want to spotlight those series we think need to be on your pull list. This week we look at the high-concept, post-apocalyptic, and infinitely describable sci-fi series “Paradiso” from Image Comics.
Who is this by?
“Paradiso” is originally the brainchild of writer Ram V (“Grafity’s Wall,” “Black Mumba”), who’s joined by his equally talented partner, artist Dev Pramanik (“Black Mumba”) bringing beautiful and intricate life to the pages. Assisting these good folks are Dearbhla Kelly (“The Wild Storm: Michael Cray”) who supplies superb colors following after original colorist Alex Solazzo departed the project, and Aditya Bidikar who brings a master’s craftsmenship to the lettering.
What’s it all about?
The story all revolves around the titular city of Paradiso, a utopian, sentient city that has existed as an enigma amidst an otherwise post-apocalyptic world. However, few outsiders have ever ventured into the city itself, for it is a complex maze of unique themes and ideas embodied as physical creations. We follow our protagonist, Jack Kryznan, or Runaway Jack, as he attempts to use every resource he can to enter the mysterious city. He at first seeks the aid of local bandits before stumbling upon Noira, who watches Jack use the powers of a Tinkerman and follows him hidden through his journey to Paradiso. It’s unabashed techo-fantasy blended storytelling, throwing us right in the middle of this fantastical new world with creatures like Mr. Honey-Bad and the enigmatic Laserfaced fellow. But each issue deeper, we learn more and more about the mystical city Paradiso itself, becoming the plot turner of the tale.
What makes it so great?
This book works on so many levels. Ram V injects his all into building a complicated and lived in world but never bombards you with narrative information about it. Like all the best worldbuilders, Ram V simply immerses you in the inhabitants of “Paradiso” and lets you absorb information from them. Right from the first issue, we hear things about Tinkerman and see later on that this mythic profession lives on in a magical power channeled by Jack. We see that the outskirts of Paradiso are a low-living area and filled with undesirables, but the further you go in, the city works more like a complicated biological system, when Jack stands atop its walls and gazes in on a landscape of entangled architecture, floating spires, and toppled buildings. It gives us just enough clues about the landscape and setting without forcing information down our throats, so that we can decipher ourselves as the story progresses how things work in this strange place.
But what meshes with the setting so well to make the book shine is the unique personalities that inhabitat Paradiso and it’s surrounds. As soon as you open the book, you are shown the previously mentioned, extravagant and equally frightening Laserface, who stares you down with a cold understanding visage, that makes you truly feel voyeuristic. When we encounter the physically schizophrenic hitman Hazard as he chases down Noira in the second issue, we watch with disorientation as he seemingly operates through his enormous body and his puppet-like secondary self, yet follow them with intrigue as we are witness to another unique inhabitant to this world. But underneath all that this the deceptively simple and easy-going, Jack. While he may not be a veritable hero, it’s hard not to get behind a protagonist that oozes such enthusiasm and gung-ho attitude. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly, but Jack is charming enough that we worry about him when he enters a room of fog, and we are warmed when he stands atop the city’s walls yelling ‘HELLOOO PARADISO!’
You can’t ignore the passion that Dev Pramanik infuses with his art, either. In an interview with Multiversity’s own Paul Lai, Ram V revealed that Pramanik is, somehow, self-taught, inspiring all the rest of us once classroom-doodlers to greater heights. But somehow, going through the art in “Paradiso”, you understand that kind of raw, truly untamed art that Dev utilizes. Dev’s linework changes from heavy inks to more feathery lines at just the right moments, and it creates a perfect blend between classic comic-bookery and modern realism to convey that sub-real fantasy “Paradiso” is all about. There’s so many aspects of his art that I could talk about – the way his figures like Laserface command your presence walking into a room, or the costume design that feels like a natural evolution from present day to “Paradiso” era considering the semi-post apocalyptic events. But what I really think stands out is his ever-present rendering of the city itself – a constant, twisting/turning urban jungle that seems cloistered and never ending all at once. Pramanik infuses each page with a touch of Paradiso, whether it be the sprawling architecture, the cliff edge power stations, or even the lowly outskirt bars – all of them feel alive and truly representative of the living city herself.Continued below
Dearbhla Kelly’s colors finally bring it all to faded, beautiful light. Tonally, this still looks and feels like a post-apocalyptic, Mad Max-esque story. But Kelly brings a vibrance to it that seems to glow even in the most faded of scenes. And really, I think it’s through her coloring of the people against the backdrop of Paradiso. The crowds of people early on in issue three are a blue-ish tone, representative of their overall innocent nature. Each main character wears a blend of faded and vibrant colors, like Hazard’s ocean-blue cloak and his smaller body’s glowing-green body wiring. Kelly makes sure that the unique inhabitants of this city stand out amongst Pramanik’s sprawling architecture, with vibrance over the top of a faded palette. It creates such an interesting fusion of color that this book is instantly distinguishable.
How can you read it?
It’s still early days for “Paradiso,” with the third issue only hitting your local this week. If you can’t get the physical, you can always find a digital copy on comixology.com, or you could wait for the first collected volume of the first four issues hitting stands on May 16. Either way, now’s the time to invest. From what I’ve heard in Ram V’s interviews, the creative team have plans to work “Paradiso” into a diverse, genre spanning epic that changes with each layer of the city and each arc. Get on board now so you can brag to your friends in the future about how you’ve been a longtime fan of such a beloved, forward-thinking series.