I have been critical of Paragon in the past, for the most part because of its inconsistent quality; for every instance of the majestic, Kirbyesque "Battle Ganesh" you get something wonky and weird like "Undertow" and the end result is a bit of a jumble. This latest issue of the anthology is much more focussed, and as a result the strongest issue yet.
"The Rise of the Mekko-Sapiens" is the weak link, a post-Matrix bit of science fiction, all robots and hive minds and free will, and the simplistic art and short page count can only detract from its impact. That said, the artist -- not named, although I think it might be editor Dave Candlish -- instills the protagonist with quite a bit of personality depsite the simple character design, and there are hints of further philosophical depth in the writing, so this one has potential even if it doesn't impress as much right out of the blocks.
This issue's instalment of "Jikan" has already been seen in the collected edition of the time-travelling samurai's adventures, and as I mentioned in that review, it is perhaps the best episode yet, due in no small part to El Chivo's evocative and energetic artwork. At sixteen pages, there's a fair bit of plot too, so there's a chance to engage with the story before things wrap up.
There's no "Battle Ganesh" this time around, aside from a single illustration on the introduction page, but that strip's regular artist, Stephen Prestwood, returns with "Icarus" -- or perhaps "Icarus Dangerous," as it's not entirely clear -- a sequel to everyone's favorite tale of aeronautic hubris. Prestwood's art is as dynamic and entertaining here as it is on the adventures of the divine elephant, but it is more confident and polished, perhaps showing the benefits of increased experience. Dirk van Dom's script does a good job of conveying Icarus' personality, and the story tears the protagonist out of his usual milleu and chucks him into a more unusual setting, contributing to what seems to be a recurring theme amongst Paragon's heroes. It is done well here, culminating in an engaging cliffhanger that will have the reader eager to discover what happens next, but it is fair to say that the real draw is Prestwood's art.
With two strong strips and one that is weaker by comparison but nonetheless full of potential, this issue of Paragon eliminates the most prevalent fault of previous issues -- the lack of consistency -- and is a good solid comic in its own right. I'm still not sure that the anthology format is the best one as the strips, good as they are, are too short for the frequency of the comic's publication, but that should not detract from this comic's individual quality.
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