We all know the story of Paradise Lost, right? No? John Milton’s 350 year old epic poem that charts the fall of humanity, the battle between God and Satan and good and evil, the tragedy of Eve’s temptation and the loss of the Garden of Eden? We all know it. Don’t we?
Well if not, and if it’s at all possible, I kind of just summed up this ten thousand line poem in the paragraph above. Because, in all honesty, it’s a story that almost all of us are familiar with. Even if we’ve never heard of John Milton. And in many ways it is not the story itself that separates Milton’s version from those that preceded it. Instead, it’s the way he tells it. As one of the few writers occasionally compared favourably to Mr Shakespeare (please tell me you’ve heard of him?), Milton’s work stretches out in such carefully constructed and musical prose that he could be telling you about a trip to the shops and it would sound like a song. That he’s telling an epic adventure-esque version of one of the world’s most enduring stories is obviously a bonus.
But what of Pablo Auladell’s graphic version of the same story? Why, after three and half centuries, did he feel that it was necessary to take a work that works because of its words and tell it in a form that relies so heavily on pictures? Well that I can’t tell you. And in the introduction he tells us that even he is unsure of its worth – worried as he is that it is inconsistent and not what he intended it to be. And you can see inconsistencies. Without Auladell having admitted as much in the introduction, you might have guessed that there were long breaks between his working on each of the four cantos. There are some marked differences in the style and length of each section, some feeling drawn out and others incomplete.
All in all, though, Auladell should probably be a lot less worried than he appears to be. It seems an anxiety exists because he is retelling such a famous tale, rather than due to the actual work itself. Because at times the work is truly stunning. As the original relied on the beauty of its words, this version is best when relying solely on the power of its imagery. Scenes in the first canto which recount Satan’s fall without putting a single word on the page are achingly beautiful, and the same can be said of many sections throughout.
Any Cop?: Many will find reading Milton’s original a daunting and difficult prospect. That needn’t be the case with this graphic version. But that shouldn’t be its only selling point; as well as being a brilliant introduction to a classic text it can also be a deft reminder of Milton’s original majesty and a perfect accompaniment to its counterpart.