Paradox Girl: First Impressions

UPDATE (11 NOV 2016): ISSUES #4 – #6 ARE KICKSTARTING NOW!
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PLEASE CHECK IT OUT AND HELP SPREAD THE WORD!

pg4.2This comic was launched on Kickstarter last month and was successfully funded at nearly four times the project’s goal of $10,000.  It is being published under the label Hana Comics, which is a print extension of video game producer Hanako Games.  I don’t remember exactly how I discovered this or stumbled upon it—most likely  it was through Twitter—and the decision to back it was a bit of a gamble for me.  When it comes to comics, artwork is certainly the first impression you get, but it has no bearing on whether or not the writing is actually going to be any good.  In the case of Paradox Girl, I wanted to support both writer Cayti Bourquin and artist Yishan Li for three reasons:

  1. pg1The premise seemed clever, and I thought it had potential.
  2. The artwork looked clean and professional.
  3. I want to support any project that promotes a female lead character (so should we all), especially one that’s original and not just a “girl-version” of an established male character.

The PDF files of Issue #1, “A Day in the Life of a Paradox,” arrived last week, well ahead of the print copies, so I was able to get my first read in right away.  I’m happy to report that not only was Paradox Girl #1 a good comic and a worthy Kickstarter investment, but in fact, it exceeded my expectations considerably.  Here are some specifics (without spoilers) for your consideration :

What’s Not Working So Much for Me…

So… Li’s artwork is very clean.  And it is very good.  Please understand that.  The thing is this: it’s not what I’m used to.  I’ve been raised on a healthy diet of comic book artists who make extensive (sometimes needlessly proliferate) use of hatching and of heavy shadows.  Black is the dominant color in the gritty, rugged drawings I’m accustomed to, and there are lines, lines, lines, everywhere.  Growing up and consuming artists who do this, like Jim Lee and Todd MacFarlane (to name just a couple), this “dirty” imagery is what I have been conditioned to recognize as “good” comic book art.

pg2

A few of Li’s characteristic panels.

Li’s artwork is not like this.  It’s pretty much the opposite.  The artwork in Paradox Girl is very bright, colorful, and minimalist.  It is, so to speak, more “manga,” which is Li’s forte, to be sure.  But like I said: it’s not what I’m used to.  So I’m not putting this out there as a “negative”—just saying that it’s not working so much for me here at the start, because I need some adjustment time.  The same thing happened for me when I first started reading manga and was startled by the sometimes cartoonish humor and visuals that the artists allowed themselves in otherwise “serious” work.  The lines are not so stark in Japanese-style comics, and so it is (literally) with Li’s very sanitary drawings.

What’s Kicking Ass Already in Issue #1…

Without spoiling anything, the writing and the storyboarding in Paradox Girl are brilliant.  If Issue #1 is any indication of the kind of story-telling we can expect in this series, all I can say is “buckle up.”  The twists, turns, and contortions that Bourquin interweaves are like a ballet on a Mobius strip.  Even the somewhat innocuous plot of this expository first issue rivals the machinations of Doctor Who.  And the humor is top-notch as well.  All too often, comics purporting to be humorous or comedic fall woefully short of the mark, and they find themselves really begging the reader to laugh.  [See also my agony with the modern iteration of Howard the Duck.]  Not so with Paradox Girl.  I was literally laughing out loud at several points, and not all of these punch-lines come from the dialog.  There is a lot of visual information packed into every panel in the way of non-linear story-telling and humorous cues.  Almost like “Easter eggs,” in a sense, but every hidden treasure is utilized in the story, either as part of the plot sequencing or as a solid joke.  There is no waste, and it takes more than one read-through to double- and triple-check what you thought you just saw.

Given all this, I think Paradox Girl has tremendous story-telling and philosophical potential.  As stated, there isn’t much in the plot of Issue #1, but the function here is simply to establish our scenario.  With that job now done, I can imagine in the coming issues the complete and purposeful destruction of all the reader’s expectations and of any trite or easy tropes, not to mention a profound exploration of the character’s psyche: a perfect blend of comedy, drama, and philosophy.  Paradox Girl promises to be as clever, dynamic, and mold-breaking as the best of Joss Whedon.

pg3

The squiggly “tracer” line in action.

I’ll sign this little love note by pointing out a not-so-tiny technique that Bourquin and Yishan employed: perhaps most impressive of all was the use of a simple, squiggly line passing between panels to help the reader follow our heroine’s teleportation through time and space.  Like a “tracer” on a wild bullet.  This was an elegant solution to what could have been a very confusing and difficult task for a piece of sequential art, and at the same time, this perfect little touch totally flips the linear narrative on its head.  Reading Paradox Girl is like reading a Tarot deck—while you’re shuffling it.  It’s quite the ride, and well worth the investment.


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