By Ram V, Dev Pramanik, Dearbhla Kelly, Alex Sollazzo
Stories that deal with dystopias aren’t that hard to come by. Among those, dystopias that involve technologically enhanced humans are even more common. Luckily, Paradiso’s debut gives enough to step out from the pack and provides a promising start, albeit with some problems inherent in many first issues.
The world of Paradiso is rugged and dirty. Its inhabitants are trying to find their way into the titular city, seeking a better life. Jack Kryznan has the same idea, and has a rare gift with technology thanks to a glowing green object around his neck. While writer Ram V doesn’t go much further with Jack’s intentions, he does introduce a number of side characters that contribute to building out the universe. Touching base with a pair of guardians from the city and the scheming nature of a Redwater raider, these perspectives add some complexity and conflict, laying the foundations for the future.
In creating a world that feels like it has much more to offer, this issue might also play a little too close to the chest. There are plenty of mysteries to seen here. Why does Jack want to go to Paradiso? Why is it being protected? What even is Paradiso in the grand scheme of everything? It’s normal to have an element of the unknown in a story, but in this case it was a little difficult to connect and be invested in any specific character since we don’t know who they are. While this might read better in hindsight, without that added context it detracts greatly from the reader getting attached.
The art and character designs help make up for this shortcoming. A fedora-wearing machine man with a face made of wriggling laser pointers is something that’s not seen everyday and especially not as menacing as its depicted here. Devmalya Pramanik does an amazing job showing off how these characters perform in action. For instance, there’s a three-panel page where a vehicle gets flipped over. In between the initial impact and the vehicle in the air, the second panel takes the time to slow down the experience of those inside before speeding it up again. This kind of touch makes the moment much more epic and impactful even though it ends rather quickly.
Paired with color artists Dearbhla Kelly and Alex Sollazzo, every moment in Paradiso feels real. A character passing out doesn’t merely have the typical black circle closing in, but also discoloration and double outlines of objects. Light from electronic means or fire each have their own identity in the way they interact with characters. Even the sunlight coming through buildings on the horizon feels very natural. This attention to detail really pays off in making Paradiso seem grounded even when dealing with its subject matter.
Overall, Paradiso is a promising book from Image that is only just starting to show off what this creative team can do. While it does lack a sufficient hook to grab everyone, what has been set up is interesting to say the least. With more time and experience in this world, the series has the potential to become a great independent title.