Such a simple beginning to an already moving web-comic (to be later turned into a graphic novel). Zahra’s Paradise functions as a very humanistic examination of Iran following their 2009 elections. The graphic novel removes the focus away from what Iran has become known for in the media with nuclear proliferation, and replaced it with the human rights issues that face Islamic Iran.
The site updates every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with usually one more page to be read. The best way to read it is wait a week, and then check in to hopefully get 3 or so more pages.
It’s hard to not compare this web comic to its contemporary, Iranian counterpart: Persepolis. However, it’s best to just see these two separate pieces of work as compendiums to the ever complicated politics of the Middle East. Persepolis is a memoir of a young girl growing up in Iran through the revolution. It both focuses on Iran and the loss of innocence that comes with getting older.
Zahra’s Paradise works a bit differently. It is a fictional piece of work that examines the relationship between citizen and state in Iran as a mother searches for her lost son. The author (Amir) did begin growing up in Iran, but was forced to move out. However, not much is known about the author and the artist due to their decision to remain anonymous (under pen names). The premise is simple, but the turns and commentaries already have added a multi-layered beauty of a story.
The experience of reading this story piece by piece online is heightened with additional commentaries by the author on certain pages ranging from political relationships within Iran and cultural food recipes of Iran. On each page, the site offers the viewer to comment or share the page with their network.
By far, the most ingenious added feature is the inclusion of multiple languages on the site. So far, the comic can be read in English, Persian, Arabic, French, Spanish, Italian, and Dutch with more on their way. This feature allows for the site to get tons of exposure as well as promoting the versatility of web-comics as a whole. I also really enjoy that each language has it’s own distinct text.
A lot has been said already, and I have not even mentioned the artwork. To put it simply, the art is brilliant. narrow brush strokes are mixed with some simple shading and fine tipped pens to create a gorgeous black and white affair. Khalil has multitudes of talent and really captures the emotion in each one of his faces and bodies. Never does his artwork come off as stiff, over done, or too simple; it hits all of the right notes.
If you want to experience something that emotionally rips at your heart strings while allowing you to learn about other cultures and events to empathize with this story, then check it out and be prepared to be taken away in a world too real from a new voice that has been waiting to be heard: Zahra’s Paradise.
Also, check out this interview off of Comic Book Resources with the Author and the Publisher: Paradise Creator Speaks.