The first issue of Paradiso was hard to pin down. When it opened, it felt a bit like a Miyazaki movie, creating its own version of an apocalypse created by man but balanced by hope. Though the opening was dark, it was rooted in childhood in a way that fans of Castle In The Sky and similar anime will find familiar. Then, toward the end of that first issue, the story took a sharp tonal turn that went far darker than the previous set-up.
Paradiso #2 (Image) deals with the fallout of that sudden shift, and it quickly becomes clear that any joy to be found earlier in the story should be forgotten, as it won’t be coming back. There are moments of humor, but Paradiso has settled firmly into the kind of post-apocalyptic story typified by Mad Max and Planet Of The Apes: everything sucks and it’s going to continue to suck for the foreseeable future. It makes the book boring.
The main character, Jack Kryznan, is the kind of affable, bland protagonist that has dominated stories like this one for years. Jack is kind to children and strangers. He’s capable when it comes to fixing mechanical things but fairly useless in the dangerous streets of the titular city. The intent here might be to make him feel relatable, easy for the reader to map themselves onto, but that particular story has been told so many times before that it requires something really remarkable to pull it off. There are a lot of “chosen one” stories that begin almost identically to Paradiso, and Image is publishing at least one of them.
Dev Pramanik’s art is excellent, but it is not enough to pull the story out of the corner it’s painted itself into. There’s a good balance of detail on both characters and backgrounds, which is important for the kind of world-building that Paradiso requires, and the pages are imbued with interesting texture thanks to Pramanik’s skill and colorist Dearbhla Kelly. Kelly adds a lot of depth to the art, but different palette choices would clarify and solidify the tone of the book, which is all over the place. As it is, Kelly uses bright, saturated colors that clash, if not outright distract, from what’s happening on the page.
Both Pramanik and writer Ram V are relative newcomers to Western comics, and that’s what sets Paradiso apart. Though he lives in London now, Ram V is from India and has a successful comics career there; Pramanik is also based in India. Western comics publishers, even those on the more adventurous side, rarely venture into Western Europe, let alone farther east. Seeing Image embrace two talents from India is pretty remarkable. Unfortunately, so far Paradiso feels too close to a slightly Westernized version of Trigun to appeal for long. The mystery of what happened to the world to make it fall apart and what role Jack has to play in saving it isn’t enough to get past a generic protagonist and a predictable story.