Wielding a signature storytelling style all his own, Jesse Lonergan propels readers on a journey across multiple panels, pages, and planets in Planet Paradise from Image Comics.
Without a doubt, Jesse Lonergan is a visual storyteller whose unique brand of talespinning demands our attention as readers. If you’ve read Lonergan’s previous silent sci-fi space adventure Hedra in its recent iteration from Image or in the original newsprint format (just glorious!), then you already know what to expect from Planet Paradise: wide open alien landscapes, enormous rock formations jutting out from arid ground, and light years of space and time made manageable by intricate isometric paneling that focuses our attention from the massive to the momentary.
What’s different this time around is that the characters listed in Lonergan’s dramatis personae speak, adding a new dimension to the storytelling and the world of Planet Paradise. Although, much of the story takes place on a deserted planet five days travel from the titular destination. A spacecraft carrying vacationers in stasis from a bustling spaceport to Rydra-17 encounters an unexpected accident that crashlands them on a harsh world populated by giant man-eating lizards. On this strange new world, Eunice, a mild-mannered tourist, must channel her inner strength to not only save herself, but her husband Peter and the spacecraft’s captain, who was wounded in the crash. The experience will ultimately leave her subtly but irreparably changed, perhaps for the better.
Again, my praise of Lonergan’s gorgeous artwork throughout Planet Paradise (and in general) cannot be overstated. His crystalline vision and particular attention to detail, and that paneling that has the uncanny ability to take something as far-reaching as outer space and shrink it down into a gorgeous bauble of line art and soft color is noteworthy indeed. What’s even more impressive is how Lonergan leaves it to the audience to figure out the meaning of the ending of the story. This is a breath of much-needed fresh air in a literary landscape teeming with
authorial unpacking, which basically gives away the message behind worlds of fiction and non-fiction alike without nudging the reader into thinking more deeply about what they’ve just experienced. Here, there’s a singular message, a thread of throughline that astute readers among us will pick up on by the end, and that is a very welcome change from the standard fair of storytelling today.
Planet Paradise proves to be a clever romp that’s ironic at times and a pleasure for the eyes from first page to final panel. Jesse Lonergan is certainly a creator that every science-fiction fan should be paying attention to in the years to come, and there’s no better time to begin your journey into his world than right now.
Jesse Lonergan (W/A) • Image Comics, $16.99
Review by John T. Trigonis