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Paradise Lost

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John Milton, Pablo Auladell


Page 45 Review by Stephen

"Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven."

Satan was a silly old sod, wasn't he?

I'm not saying I'd want to spend eternity in Heaven unless it's my idea of heaven with Guy Pearce stripped to the waist circa Memento, and Billy MacKenzie and the Cocteau Twins on continual, ethereal rotation, but really...? You'd rather be top dog in an incessant rat race of equally deluded demons in some sort of tortuous cesspit than contribute in some small or even substantial way to something slightly more... azure?

For all the fear Satan so lamentably and so successfully instilled throughout the ages through his veneer of self-confidence, with that single sentence he gives the game away: that he is limited by his ridiculous pride and so self-damned to Hell.

What he does next proves that he's not half so happy with his lot as he likes to make out, either. Liar!

Spanish artist Pablo Auladell presents us with a Hell as equally at odds with our traditional view of the fiery pit as Gaiman and Kelley Jones did in SANDMAN: SEASON OF MISTS. It may have been Milton's vision too, I don't know; I've never attempted to read the original until now. Either way, what we have here is an endless, colourless gloom so dispiriting that I find it far more frightening. That, to me, would be the terror of an eternity: a monotony of unbroken, infinite, soulless grey.

Auladell juxtaposes this with glimpses of Heaven bathed in the copper oxide aquamarine which we know so well from municipal and ecclesiastical roof tops. It's used in the lettering too, and the graphic novel is printed on such perfectly chosen paper that it shines.

Back down below, and I love the way in which, as "the Stygian council" disbands, the winged denizens of hell swarm from Satan's tower like flies from a putrescent corpse or pile of dung.

Belial, Beelezbub and friends have just discussed their next move after being cast down from above. Open warfare won't work because, you know, "omnipotent". Guile ain't going to cut it because also "omniscient". Recanting would be rubbish on account of subservience and we all know by now that they're not keen on that.

No, what they want to do is truly exasperate Him, get under His skin - to hit Him where it Hurts. And Beelzebub has a cunning plan:

"What if we find some easier enterprise?
"There is a place (if ancient prophetic fame in Heaven err not), another world...
"The happy seat of some new race called Man.
"Thither let us bend all our thoughts, to learn what creatures there inhabit, of what mould, or substance, how indued, and what their power...
"And where their weakness."

Wait for it! Killer move coming!

"Let us seduce them to our party, that God may prove their foe.
"This would interrupt His joy,
"And our joy upraise in his disturbance;
"When his darling sons hurled headlong to partake with us."

Nice! We can't beat God, so let's sully his most cherished creation. That's going to smart something chronic.

It's like the Farage of UKIP realising that his party will never win a straightforward General Election or he a seat as an MP himself. Why not gain a vainglorious victory instead, less directly, by corrupting the British public with unwarranted fears about immigration and tempt them to his cause with illusory lies about the benefits of economic independence? Let's fuck everything up purely for personal self-satisfaction! Destroy Britain to damage Europe! Hooray!

Added bonus: the British population are then left riddled with helpless, hopeless guilt because they as individuals went and pressed that bloody button.

Nice one, Satan, it's your best one yet. I don't think I'm stretching things, do you?

I am completely converted to the art in all its eeriness but I have to confess: my God, but Milton drones on. Repetitive, much...?

I'm sure the language was a tour de force in its day to those that learned, but it's no fun to read right now and I grew so frustrated at having to decipher its every meaning that, I confess, I jumped ship. I abandoned my post long before the final furlong or Judgement Day. I don't even know if Judgement Day is referenced but I do spy Adam and Eve.

Honestly, what an ignoramus.