Review by C.J. Bunce
Life in California is not all that sunny for everyone. The fourth and last of our reviews of the initial release of graphic novels from new publisher TKO Studios looks at Goodnight Paradise, a peek into the day-by-day drudgery and dim chance of survival of the homeless. When a homeless girl is found dead in a dumpster, the man who found her has enough information to find her killer. Unfortunately his mind is addled through a rough life, alcoholism, and mental illness, and he’s struggling to put it all together.
Readers are introduced to a story “ripped from the headlines” like an old Law & Order episode, as real-world tech corporation Snapchat makes new millionaires and billionaires, and outside its doors across Venice Beach the poor and the homeless are getting shuffled away, the culture of the town turned upside down as real estate shifts and the past culture of the area is squeezed out. The people living in the alleys all are at the end of their ropes, just to varying degrees. As more young people hit the streets without income sources, those with mental illnesses run out of their prescription drugs to keep them in control, compounding their struggle as they spiral into confusion and anger. Enter Tessa, a young woman who leaves home to come to the coast to see the ocean. She befriends a small, tight group of people who protect each other. When she videotapes a woman being drugged for sex by one of the new rich types at a party, she’s hunted down by his thug to protect the guy’s reputation. But is everything as it seems in Goodnight Paradise?
Writer Joshua Dysart (Unknown Soldier, B.P.R.D.) creates a deconstructed superhero of sorts out of his homeless protagonist. This man is like DC Comics’ Oliver Queen, but stripped of his money and his sanity, yet his sense of right and wrong remain intact. Artist Alberto Ponticelli (Unknown Soldier), with colors by Giulia Brusco (Scalped), introduce readers to layered characters in scenes not using sleight of hand so much as revealing the realities of perception and bias. Scenes that seem one way at first only are rediscovered by the reader to have their meanings changed when seen and explained from the perspectives of other characters–in a way Ponticelli shows the comic book medium can take advantage of.
Here is a preview of Goodnight Paradise:
The combination of Dysart’s grimy, realistic feel and Ponticelli’s visuals make for a thought-provoking book like something created years ago by Harvey Pekar. It’s ugly, brutal, and honest.
Steve Wands (Descender) provided lettering for this graphic novel/series.
TKO Studios is launching four series this month, each printed in a slightly larger format than typical comics. Echoing the now standard same-day release of streaming programs on services like Netflix, TKO Studios plans to release its six issues all at once, and readers have the choice of buying single issues bundled, or as a digital or print graphic novel. Check out our reviews at borg this weekend of the new TKO Studios books Sara here, The 7 Deadly Sins here, and The Fearsome Doctor Fang here.
Goodnight Paradise is available now from Elite Comics, your local comic book shop, or direct from TKO Studios. Find out more about TKO Studios, and read the first of six issues of Goodnight Paradise free now at the TKO Studios website. Goodnight Paradise is also available at Amazon here.
For mature readers, Goodnight Paradise is not for every audience. It carries the level of violence fans of Vertigo comics will be familiar with. It also rounds out a powerful start for TKO Studios’ first release of stories.