Life’s A Beach
Tripwire continues its 100 Graphic Novels You Should Read While Stuck Inside with its fifty-fourth choice, Goodnight Paradise by Joshua Dysart and Alberto Ponticelli, reviewed by Tripwire senior editor Andrew Colman…
Writer: Joshua Dysart
Artist: Alberto Ponticelli
Colours: Giulia Brusco
Letters: Steve Wands
Joshua Dysart and Alberto Ponticelli’s excessively downbeat tale of Venice Beach’s grimy underbelly is a remarkably assured work for fledgling publisher TKO. Delineating the beach and its environs as an arid, hermetic semi-slum, the creators paint a reasonably vivid picture of life on the margins for the area’s lifers, in particular career vagrant Eddie. By all accounts, a story featuring a perpetually soused protagonist, buried beneath a thatch of beard and lost hope shouldn’t work, but it does. Eddie is clearly positioned as a noble force amongst the entropy, jolted into focus by unfolding events, with a warmth that has not been extinguished by tragedy, failing to compete and bad choices.
The plot is simple enough – Eddie, in his stupor, unearths a dead girl he had briefly met earlier in a dumpster. The girl, very much in the grip of drug-induced psychosis, was murdered by forces he suspects are conspiring with local gangsters to gentrify and transform the dowdy barrio into a corporate fortress. Along the way, he reconnects with his estranged son Jeronimo (no doubt Eddie started adulthood as a hippie), while he gradually unravels the mystery behind the girl’s death. Eddie’s journey is shambling, aching with pathos and rarely redemptive (the naturalism of the piece means that a pay-off in the conventional four colour sense is not likely to materialise) but it does provide as beguiling and evocative take on burnt out L.A. as one could find in the medium. Splicing gangland tropes with noir, Mickey Spillane and social commentary, the six part series succeeds in being layered, compulsive and entertaining, despite the harsh and unforgiving milieu.
Thematically (the atomisation of community, the absence of concern regarding history, impending gentrification) the book rarely overeggs anything, and despite the languid pace (unusual for the medium these days) one’s interest rarely flags. There are some contrivances, and the mood never really varies, but the script is certainly above average, and the art, at times reminiscent of Glenn Fabry and Steve Dillon at their woozy, brittle best, is very good indeed.
Eddie is a deeply sympathetic, thoroughly human character, his near-death intersection with street detritus such as Birmingham and The Welshman a litany of lucky escapes and hollow desperation. One could almost call him the conduit of Venice’s fading spirit. The characterisation is a bit samey in places, with certain players dropping out of the narrative without much in the way of closure, but this certainly doesn’t detract from an excellent offering. Worth checking out.
Here’s links to the other graphic novels reviewed so far