‘Paradise Towers: Paradise Found’ #1 reviewed

❉ This is another intriguing and smart setup from Cutaway which builds on the source material while finding new and fascinating angles on it.

One of the joys of being a fan of a long running television series is watching the reputation of stories rise and fall: how they age, how episodes that might have bypassed us due to context or the age we were at the time suddenly reveal unexpected facets that make them favourites. One of 2021’s pleasures has been the reassessment of 1987’s Paradise Towers: with the benefit of hindsight it’s where Andrew Cartmel and his crop of fresh writing talent first showcased their version of the show: it’s light years from the camp glory of Time and the Rani and whole multiverses away from the continuity-saturated Saward era. A whole society is built from allegory, imagination and a shoestring budget, something that the series had often struggled to do in the first half of that decade. Doctor Who was talking to the generation that grew up on the new wave of British SF, 2000 AD, the revamped Eagle and Marvel reprints rather than just the fan audience: indeed it’s easy to see how close Paradise Towers and Terra Alpha are to the often vicious SF satire of Judge Dredd’s Mega City One.

It’s therefore appropriate that the latest in Cutaway’s latest series of Doctor Who based comics focuses on that world rather than individuals: it’s an idea returning to a medium that feels like a natural home. Paradise Found instead looks to tap into the youthful energy of the serial by focusing on the generation that grew up on the story of how the Doctor saved Paradise Towers, a smart move that allows writer Sean Mason to put his own spin on the world and build a story for the 21st century instead of revisiting characters relevant to 1987. That’s not to say that there aren’t familiar faces: there are plenty of cameos to remind us that this is the same place but these never distract from the story. Instead, the focus is on the bored younger generation of Paradise Towers, to whom the Doctor, Pex and Kroagnon are mere stories: the new Kangs who don’t want to be trapped by the wartime memories of their parents. They’ve grown up in a world where all the serpents have been removed from paradise: it’s undoubtedly a great place to live but doesn’t leave much excitement.

Mason’s quickly and effectively revived the generational conflict of the original story without undoing the ending of the TV serial: a simple but smart device. The new generation of Kangs are suffering for a lack of excitement: Can Opener, Rat Poison, Dish Washer, Bubble Wrap and the more blandly named Viv-2 aren’t interested in a boring, peaceful world. Naturally Paradise Towers proves not to be quite so peaceful as might be thought: before the issue is done a few gruesome deaths have asked intriguing questions as to the threats to this new Paradise. It’s another intriguing and smart setup from Cutaway which builds on the source material while finding new and fascinating angles on it. As with Cutaway’s previous series, it’s also distinctive in both visual style and the story it tells: as well as echoing the TV story it has a visual feel of early Love and Rockets, entirely appropriate for a title based around smart, flawed female heroes.

Delightfully the backup strips build not only on Stephen Wyatt’s world but also the Terra Alpha of Graeme Curry’s The Happiness Patrol. While Paradise Before is a mildly intriguing story of Kroagnon himself, Andrew Orton’s Ecstatic looks to burnish the studio-bound Terra Alpha with what terrible things the Happiness Patrol got up to before the Doctor arrived: this is a terrific extrapolation rooted in the political subtext of the serial and the culture contemporary to it. With the typically lavish and insightful audio and video material to accompany it, this is another winner from Cutaway and one that’ll delight fans of the McCoy and Cartmel era.

Written by Sean Mason based on characters and situations created by Stephen Wyatt and featuring art by Silvano Beltramo, ‘Paradise Towers: Paradise Found’ is a four-part US-size comic miniseries available quarterly from the Cutaway Comics website. Issue #1 out now: https://www.cutawaycomics.co.uk/publications/paradise-towers. Follow @cutawayuniverse on Twitter and @cutawaycomics on Instagram. 

❉ A regular contributor to We Are Cult, Jon Arnold is the author of four volumes of the Black Archive series including ‘The Black Archive #1: Rose’. 

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