Sometimes little charmers sneak up on you.
These days, as I look through potential graphic novels to review, it feels like there are a lot of heavy offerings. And when I use the word “heavy” I mean both of the connotations that come to mind — heavy in mood, heavy in physicality. Long books with big ideas, heavy examinations — or just heavy in pages — concerned with deep, personal trauma or wide-reaching intense events.
It’s exhausting. For most of the year, the world has been a deep, personal trauma wrapped inside wide-reaching intense events and it becomes hard to seek out the same in your literary diversions.
And so Planet Paradise came as a surprise. It’s a simple premise — space ship crashes on planet — but it manages to treat that without the simplicity that would be considered standard. Actually, did I say simplicity when I meant laziness? Yeah, I meant laziness. Jesse Lonergan seems to understand that sometimes embracing simplicity brings you to the core of something, but sometimes it keeps you from rebuilding with even cautionary skill.
Taking a break from the cluttered city life, a couple boards a vacation spaceship and climb into their separate travel pods, which the captain of the ship assures them will be stored next to each other. But the woman wakes up to find her pod tossed haphazardly onto the surface of a hostile planet and the pod of her boyfriend, Peter, definitely not right next to hers. As she ventures away from her pod she heads straight into danger, contending with an alien monster and, maybe worst of all, the injured captain, whose crabby hopelessness makes her unpleasant company for the woman, who is proactive in trying to solve their predicament.
In Planet Paradise Lonergan juxtaposes the high-adrenaline scenes of survival on the alien planet with the inherent boring aspects of space travel and the mundane ways people pass the time when indulging in it. That brings it all down to earth, so to speak, and suggests that in some future situation where space travel becomes routine for consumers, those people trusted with our lives in the great unknown of the universe might be no different than any other working stiff going through the humdrum routines of their dumb job.
The solution? Take matters into your own hands. That’s certainly what Lonergan portrays.
In the end, Planet Paradise is a fun tale of empowerment, of being the person no one expects to seize a difficult situation and solve it and proving them wrong, of not expecting systems to save you, but handling calamities yourself.
In that unexpected way, Lonergan’s little charming comic may be more timely than it at first seemed and perhaps more potent than any of the heavy offerings that I set aside in favor of a nice little space travel adventure.