In this graphic illustration of Milton’s epic Paradise Lost Spanish artist Pablo Auladell (La Torre Blanca, La feria abandonada) renders Heaven, Hell, Eden and the spaces in between in beautiful strokes of pencil and graphite and hints of pastels.
As we flip through the first few pages, we travel from the glow of Heaven where blues and greens blend with lighter strokes, into darker shades and muted greys as Satan is cast out ‘with all his host of rebel angels, hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky.’ We glimpse a myriad of emotions flit through the fallen angel’s face – the realisation paints horror and confusion and something akin to vulnerability as Satan looks up and around him. There are merely dark shadows and a deep blackness – the lone figure a fading silhouette in its midst.
But soon he steels himself, the hubris and arrogance returns in strokes of dark graphite. He does not look up or down, but forward, his eyes devoid of emotion yet a face that speaks of determination. He gathers his Fallen Legion from their wreckage of smoke and weapons strewn across a brooding realm. An aftermath of a war defeated. But this is not the end and there is a battle yet to be won. He has a plan, and the plot to turn the humans of the Garden of Eden towards temptation takes shape.There is a divergence between the dark shades of Auladell’s ‘bottomless perdition’ where strokes are monochromatic shadows of nightmarish design and the bright towers of Heaven, a city of Renaissance utopia and the lush greens and soft blues of the Garden of Eden.
What was particularly striking was the vivid illustrations of expressions in Auladell’s characters. The innocence and naïve nature of Adam and Eve in the Garden where the meaning of Death does not exist, where dark greens fall instead of utter darkness at night. The shock on Eve’s face and the malice on Satan’s as he makes a show of biting the apple, the black slits on orange as Satan in serpent form stalks his prey. We see Satan’s instability as he changes shape. From a giant, towering dark angel with all his fading glory, to a cormorant with a human-like face and later into a serpent.
We see glimpses of Satan’s past as Lucifer, all in blinding white and pale hues, a stark contrast to his current state. Yet the vulnerability that paints Lucifer’s face after his fall, his unrelenting perseverance towards what can be considered a misguided cause, his pride and arrogance and his desire for freedom – in all of this, Auladell illustrates a fallen angel with achingly human vices.
Milton aimed ‘to soar above the Aonian mount’ when he wrote this epic poem and Auladell’s attempt to illustrate this classic is a similar case. Needless to say, both reached such heights – in different albeit equally beautiful ways.
The Paradise Lost graphic novel was published by Jonathan Cape on 7 July 2016.