The indie comics rise of writer Ram V over the last couple of years has been a remarkable one to behold. From his early days in Indian comics to his self-published Black Mumba through to his upcoming graphic novel Grafity’s Wall from Unbound Books, his profile has grown in the most significant of leaps and bounds. Earlier this year I had the pleasure of interviewing Ram at London’s Gosh! Comics as part of the Unbound Books panel where he spoke passionately about his creative process.
So the recent announcement that his latest series Paradiso has been picked up by Image Comics was a very welcome development. A collaboration with artist Devmalya Pramanik, colourist and designer Dearbhla Kelly, colourist Alex Sollazzo, letterer Aditya Bidikar and edited by Lizzie Kaye, the book is ostensibly centred on its protagonist Jack Kryznan. But one suspects that the titular city of Paradiso may prove to be as much its lead character as Kryznan himself in the months to come…
Paradiso is set in an indeterminate dystopian future centuries after the “Midnight Event” changed the world forever. This is a broken, dying Earth where civilisation is merely an echo of what it had been centuries before, and where the same pivotal point in history that caused such devastation also ensured that the city of Paradiso itself became a sentient entity.
This opening chapter begins with a flashback to Kryznan’s childhood when, in dramatic circumstances, he gained possession of a mysterious artefact from the local “Tinkerman”. Twelve years later, the adult Kryznan, still in possession of that device that can bring dormant tech back to life, is attempting to gain access to Paradiso’s sprawling environs. Little does he realise what his presence there is about to set into motion and the antagonistic cyborg forces he has attracted…
If there’s been just one integral element that has signified so much of Ram V’s work to date it’s been his ability to make the locations his stories are situated in as much core characters within the narrative as the cast themselves. In Paradiso it would appear that element of the psychogeographical to his stories may well have evolved into the anthropomorphic. Future issues will, no doubt, elaborate on the exact nature of Paradiso as a living city but it’s clearly the core plot element of the series’ set-up.
The first obvious thing to say about the creative team’s approach here is that Paradiso is a book that requires audience dedication. You can discover far more about its premise from reading around the publicity online than you will from the actual story pages of this first issue. The reader is thrown into the action with little in the way of exposition and only a cursory hint at backstory. This means that we’re more observing Kryznan at this point rather than actively empathising with him, with the history of this alternate future timeline being delivered in incremental hints and suggestions.
While that’s teasingly frustrating in some senses it’s also a perfect hook for the reader willing to commit themselves longer-term. This first part is more about losing ourselves in this bizarre society where technology is patched together and ruined cityscapes dominate the horizon. Devmalya Pramanik’s layouts are the perfect complement to Ram V’s post-apocalyptic concepts in that regard. Tight panel-to-panel sequences that open up into breathtaking panoramas of a shattered urban landscape in a locale that seems both stifling and claustrophobic and yet sweepingly expansive at the same time. The subdued colouring accentuates the mood of the piece giving a sense of ruin and squalor but also a feeling of faded glory that seems most appropriate in the circumstances.
Paradiso asks for your patience as it slowly unfolds its secrets but, given the creative synergy on show here, I have no doubt it will pay dividends for any reader willing to make that investment of time. A creative team to watch, a comic to immerse yourself in and an epic saga to get in on from the very beginning…
Ram V (W), Devmalya Pramanik (A), Dearbhla Kelly (C/D), Alex Sollazzo (C), Aditya Bidikar (L), Christian Ward (Variant CA) • Image Comics, $3.99
Paradiso #1 ships in December. There’s still time to pre-order with codes OCT170582 and OCT170583.