Writer: Ram V
Artists: Devmalya Pramanik
Colourist: Dearbhla Kelly
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Design: Dearbhla Kelly
Publisher: Image Comics
In the last issue before a brief hiatus, Paradiso #4 comes to an explosive conclusion! The origin of the mechanical girl, now part of the menacing duo ‘Hazard’, is revealed through one of Jack’s memories. Remembering his role in this pushes Jack into action, and he dives into a blistering fight with Hazard’s raiders. Saving one of Paradiso’s robotic Guardians from certain destruction, and with some help from the stowaway Noira, the fight turns in their favour. It is a victory that leaves questions and a tantalising hint at further adventures; a Guardian left doubting their role, a new quest for Jack and his companions, and Vance the spy debating his orders…
Slight spoilers for previous issues of Paradiso follow!
So, we have reached the last issue of Paradiso before it takes a brief break this year, and this is possibly the most action-packed it has been so far. We slowly learn more about Jack’s role in the creation of the mechanical girl, part of ‘Hazard’, who has been pursuing him and the pneumas since the start. This includes her true name, Deus, and also hints as to the reason behind her construction. Intriguingly, it seems using the pneumas actively disrupts Jack’s memories, and explains neatly why he barely remembers his past. He uses the pneumas to repair the Guardian, Mr Honeybad, who was virtually destroyed by Hazard’s mercenaries. Honeybad promptly proceeds to continue his assault but seems changed by the experience, giving us an intriguing story hook for the future. Noira, who Jack met way in Paradiso #1, smuggled herself into Paradiso with the raiders, and demonstrates her resolve (and her beliefs, more on that later) when she attacks the mercenary leader at a crucial moment. Their victory is satisfying and followed by some quiet moments of character development which provides a welcome tonal shift, as well as plenty of hints and hooks for further issues to come. As has become the norm in this series, the writing by Ram V is intricate and clever; nothing is ever explained in exhaustive detail, leaving plenty of questions and subtle clues. Deus, for example, and her relationship with her intimidating mechanical companion are alluded to in dialogue and action, as is their clear animosity towards the intelligence behind Paradiso itself. Characters are complex, and never fall into stereotypes, and for now, there are still several secrets waiting to be cracked open. This includes Jack himself, and his unusual relationship with the mechanical constructs that populate this universe; equally this includes his use of the pneumas and just how it works. Noira is interesting, providing both welcome help when needed, and also acting as a window into the wider universe. World-building in Paradiso has always been excellent, and the religious culture forming around the eponymous city, as discussed by Noira, adds more layers to both the story and the characters. The mechanical characters are also not forgotten, and it will be interesting to see where Mr Honeybad ends up after his unsettling resurrection. Ultimately, this leads to a well-crafted and well-scripted issue that sets things up nicely for further adventures, whilst maintaining the high quality of previous instalments.
The combination of artist Devmalya Pramanik and colourist Dearbhla Kelly continue their fantastic work, providing rich, detailed and vivid panels. Action is blisteringly fast, but never becomes confusing, whilst characters convey emotion and intent, sometimes without any dialogue at all, thanks to the excellent art. Mr Honeybad the Guardian is a prime example of this, a virtually non-speaking machine that we can still empathise with. Colours are varied, bright and used to highlight key panels, as well as themed to location. There are also some gloriously detailed explosions, which are a personal favourite. Aditya Bidikar is on lettering duty, providing clear dialogue and inventive SFX; these are often integrated into the action directly, adding highlights to already jam-packed panels. Overall, Paradiso #4 looks fantastic and flows well, and whatever this creative team put their mind to in the future would be well worth checking out. Talking of art, it would be remiss not to mention the variant cover from Nic Klein, a neon-soaked cyberpunk affair that nicely hints at the main themes of the Paradiso universe.
Paradiso #4 is a satisfying and action-packed conclusion to this particular run, that both answers several questions whilst raising several more. If you like your stories neatly wrapped up with a bow, with everything explained in exhaustive detail, then this may not be the story for you; however, if you want a mature, thoughtful and complex sci-fi story set in an impressively realised world, then this should be at the top of your wish list. Paradiso has been consistently impressive, and I look forward, impatiently, to the next instalment.
The Paradiso Vol. 1: Essential Singularity TP is out in May, and Paradiso continues in July.