“Paradiso” #1 drops you into a world without a compass and leaves you to wander the streets rather than hold your hand. Read on for our review of this Image Comics debut, which contains minor spoilers
Written by Ram V
Illustrated by Devmalya Pramanik
Colored by Dearbhla Kelly & Alex Sollazzo
Lettered by Aditya Bidikar
The Midnight Event forever changed the world. Now, centuries later, Jack Kryznan arrives on the outskirts of Paradiso City, haunted by fragments of childhood memories and in possession of a mysterious device-one with the power to change the destiny of this living breathing metropolis, the people who dwell within, and the guardians who strive for and against it.
Thrown not into the middle of the story but the middle of a dreamlike flashback before being thrown into the action (is it real? Is it imagined?) is just one of the ways “Paradiso” goes out of its way to make you work for answers, for context, for something concrete to latch onto. Evoking emotions and feelings rather than conveying a linear narrative, Ram V has a vision and a world that he’s building and isn’t going to waste a second in leading you by the hand.
That’s not a fancy way of saying that “Paradiso” is incomprehensible. Far from it. What this book does, however, is make you sit up and pay attention. This isn’t a book you can passively read, rather it gives the impression that every panel, every word, has a deeper meaning just waiting to be uncovered. Unlike those series that throw non-sequitur set-pieces at you in an effort to feign a loftier mystery; however, there’s a level of confidence in the narrative of “Paradiso” #1 that leads you to trust that all of this will make sense in time.
The dream/flashback used as the issue’s opener is perhaps the book’s most iconic moment, exposing us to a nightmarish creation with an evocative design from artist Devmalya Pramanik, that sets the tone for the book moving forward. It’s a promise that’s not entirely capitalised on within the pages of this first issue, but much like the main narrative itself there’s a sense that “Paradiso” #1 is the set-up for what’s to come, the journey rather than the destination itself. That destination, the “living city” of the solicit, is hinted and introduced rather than explored. Paradiso is a real place in this world, but in this issue it’s seen through the hopes and dreams of those that visit it. Rather than see it for what it is, the concept of a sentient city that’s at the heart of the book isn’t explicitly approached in this issue, we see it through the prism of main protagonist Jack Kryznan’s expectations for it. As such, our introduction to Paradiso is a gorgeous double-page spread of an impossible sci-fi skyline, a complicated tangle of skyscrapers backlit by the morning sun, dripping with promise and wonder.
Kryznan is the subject of this issue, a traveler working against the odds and the will of the local populace to get to the near mythical city in hopes to find the answers to many questions posed by his frightening encounter with the enigmatic Tinkerman in his youth. His and our journey into Paradiso is only just beginning, but already we’re introduced to the idea of the Midnight Event, a mysterious apocalyptic level catastrophe from the ashes of which this new world developed; we see deadly cybernetic enforcers that don’t take kindly to Kryznan’s presence, as well as potential new allies with their own motivations. It may feel like a lot to take in but it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Pramanik’s fine linework allows a level of detail that encourages an exploration of your surroundings. Like your first visit to a brand new city, each panel is filled with minutiae that leads to you staring at your surroundings in an attempt to drink it all in. Those hoping for answers in the art not found in the narrative may be disappointed, as the character design is as intimidatingly inventive as the script itself. Whereas V’s world-building moves at a swift pace, Pramanik’s aesthetic and structure begs to slow you down in order for you to absorb any and every detail. The aforementioned Tinkerman is a design highlight, as are the cybernetic Guardians Mr. Dandy and Mr. Honeybad. As the premise suggests, there’s a sense that the city itself will soon become the most fascinating character in this book, and while Paradiso is only viewed through the expectations and experiences of the cast at this early stage, what Pramanik does show us is stunningly imagined and wonderfully engaging.Continued below
“Paradiso” #1 is an introduction to a brand new dystopian fantasy without a guidebook. You’re dropped into this world without a street map, and it’s all the more enticing for it. There are hints of the core themes of identity within the issue, both of the self and of the city you’re born and raised in, but the full exploration of that is yet to come. Here though, we’re drawn into a living, breathing world that feels like it’s existed for long before we got there and will be around longer than we, or indeed the characters, will be around. Whether “Paradiso” will always be Jack Kryznan’s story, or if the book will move through the city telling a myriad of tales remains to be seen, but if this first issue is anything to go by, there’s plenty to explore.
Final Verdict: 8.5 – A complex, engaging world filled with mystery, “Paradiso” is a city worth getting lost in.