Paragon started as a small self published comic, the brainchild of Editor Dave Candlish. Over seven issues, Dave has now seen his baby all grown up to the point where his labour of love has now been nominated and shortlisted for an Eagle award for Best British Black and White Comic. A fine achievement for a small press publication.
I’m new to Paragon, this is the first issues I’ve read, and Issue Seven seems the perfect place for latecomers like me. Paragon carries three separate stories in each issue and there are two new regular stories being introduced here as well as a new adventure for previous regular Jikan
Kicking off with the aforementioned regular, Jikan, the new story entitled The Mistress of Time is an immediate and exciting opener. Our hero, a time travelling samurai, arrives, naked and angry through a time portal into a laboratory sometime in the near future. Of course, as with any open time portal, you can’t quite be sure what else may come with him.
Writer Mark Howard handles what could easily have become 16 pages of cliché with style and wit. The appearance of Jikan and how the scientists react to him are deftly written. Jikan himself, no doubt used to seeing some strange things on his travels, takes all of this in his stride. Howard’s characterisations and interplay give this whole scenario a natural and believable feel.
When the craziness does begin, and the bad guys follow Jikan through, it is wonderfully rendered by the pencils of artist El Chivo. Given such an open canvas to work from in Howard’s script El Chivo’s imagination is more than up to the part. Each successive invader through the portal is rendered with increasing invention, ending up with some highly impressive artwork in the final few pages.
There’s plenty packed into the 17 pages that make up this opening story and its mash up of feudal Japanese warrior and time travel makes for a fine opener.
Story number two follows on in The Rise of the Mekko-Sapiens from Matthew Mclaughlin. Much more of a pure science fiction tale, Mekko-Sapiens fails to keep up the standards of its predecessor. There’s more than a hint of The Matrix here, with the Mekko-Sapiens being plugged into a large hive of some kind. Raising issues of individual consciousness and the rights of the individual it fails to rise above, or say anything new, about these staples of science fiction.
The art is simple and uncomplicated, portraying a sleek minimalist future world. Like the story, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with it; it’s just that it is all a little too familiar.
The ending at least with the door to a new world being opened, suggests that the next instalment may well take us in a different direction. The first chapter is too early to be writing the Mekko-Sapiens off completely it would seem.
Story Number Three then and our cover here, Icarus, makes his appearance in Chapter One of Dangerous! Written by Dirk van Dom, drawn by Stephen Prestwood with letters from Jim Campbell, Icarus treads a similar path to Jikan in its blending of the ancient and the future. Similarly it too takes its hero and puts him a strange and to him, alien world.
Icarus, having flown to close to the Sun, loses his wings and plunges into the ocean. Not to die, but to be rescued by a creature he has never seen before, who takes him to a place he has no real concept of, and finally, closer to something than he could have imagined.
The story is a nice take on a familiar tale, and ends on a very nice cliff-hanger indeed. It’s hard to praise individual parts without giving some of the story away, so I won’t. Suffice to say it all fits together rather well.
The story fills out with some well written action sequences between Icarus’s fall and his rescue. Each page brings something new and if it’s out the ending rather than the journey then at least it’s an enjoyable journey getting there.
Prestwood’s art is given space and time to stretch out here, with so much of the story being told visually it’s a chance for the art to shine, and it does with some fine and imaginative panels.
Two out of three isn’t a bad ratio, especially when the two are of such good quality as Jikan and Icarus are here. The Rise of the Mekko-Sapiens isn’t a total failure, but is definitely in the must do better category. With its glimpse of a different world at the end, here’s hoping it can do just that.
There’s enough here to see why Paragon has earned itself an Eagle Nomination. It’s a comic to search out just now, and to watch out for in future.