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Review: Paradiso #2

Paradiso2The new post-apocalyptic fantasy series Paradiso is like a spectacular cake that is missing a critical ingredient. It has hard edged, yet gorgeous art from Devmalya Pramanik, an emotional color palette from Dearbhla Kelly, and some smart world-building from writer Ram V, who makes the cloud and big data responsible from taking Earth from a more utopian Blade Runner to the planet Jakku meets Mad Max Fury Road. However, the book lacks a real human element, especially in its main character Jack, who spends a lot of Paradiso #2 bumping around as a scavenger in Paradiso while his friend, Noira, who is left behind relives the best moment of Paradise #1, which was Jack using his magical/technological abilities to activate a toy for a child in a world where all the lights have gone off. Some of that same vibrant hope can be found in Pramanik’s faces, but it doesn’t bleed into the rest of the story, especially the plot. It’s a fascinating world, but still with no entry point for readers beyond some nebulous going to the big city to start a new life storyline.

But let’s start with some positives. Paradiso #2 is a rusty, yet beautiful vision of the future from Pramanik and Kelly because it’s set in a world where a toy lighting up and talking is cause for alarm. Kelly mostly works in the shadows, but when she does use a brighter palette, like a yellow or white, it’s a cause for hope or fear. With the help of Pramanik’s detailed architecture, she is also able to show the difference between pre and post-Midnight (An EMP-like event that triggered the apocalypse.) by using a flatter or fuller color palette.

Pramanik is no slouch when it comes to storytelling using a nine panel grid to lay out a chase scene that belongs in a much better comic with the protagonist Jack hanging for life by a thread on the bleak city cliffs of Paradiso while hallucinating about a mysterious hat and coat wearing, but faceless being. There’s a bunch of cool imagery that evokes the post-apocalyptic sci-fi work of Sean Murphy, Matteo Scalera (Black Science), or even Geof Darrow, but less gore and more tinker toys. Devmalya Pramanik would make a great storyboard artist. Paradiso is something that I would definitely flip through if they ever made an “Art Of”, but it’s lacking in both the character and plot momentum department.

The climax of Paradiso #2 is the aforementioned chase where Jack jumps, falls, and runs around a ruined cityscape before meeting a “friend”, the hard nosed Vance, who is either a mentor figure or antagonist masquerading as one. However, this setpiece doesn’t feel earned because Jack is still more cipher than character, a kind of grungy “magical boy”, and his pursuers are even more one dimensional. The scene is well-drawn and smooth, but there’s no real suspense even though if Ram V, Pramanik, and Kelly offed Jack, I wouldn’t mind. Honestly, there is nothing interesting about Jack except the “pneumas” (Greek for soul) power he used in Paradiso #1, and his character motivation is vaguely running to a city that provides opportunity and also is ground zero for the apocalypse. Ram V and Devmalya Pramanik’s setting is fantastic, but their characters are boring and the plot is just wheel spinning. For example, there’s an overlong interrogation sequence that feels like tuning into the middle of a police procedural case of the week that you’re unfamiliar with. Breaking a kid’s toy is just mean though.

I really wanted to like Paradiso #2 after a promising premiere issue and an epic flashback sequence showing the rapid transition from hope and optimism in technology to death and cynicism, but the half-baked characters and sluggish plot (Rooftop chase aside.) means I won’t be making a return journey to this world.

Story: Ram V Art: Devmalya Pramanik Colors: Dearbhla Kelly
Story: 5.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 5.8 Recommendation: Pass 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review