cover image Jimbo in Purgatory

Jimbo in Purgatory

Gary Panter, . . Fantagraphics, $29.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-1-56097-572-4

Panter has been a leading figure in underground comics for more than 25 years, and he's had a profound influence on everyone from Chris Ware to Matt Groening. He's generally credited with giving a graphic identity to the L.A. punk scene, and he was the lead designer for the vibrant world of the television show Pee Wee's Playhouse . Like R. Crumb, Panter stands as a beacon of artistic and literary genius in the medium. This oversized work is an amalgamation of Dante's Purgatorio , Boccaccio's Decameron , Panter's own fictional universe and various pop culture icons. Jimbo, a cross between Candide and Virgil, makes his way through a vast science fiction–like infotainment-testing center constructed as Mount Purgatory. Here Jimbo encounters Frank Zappa, John and Yoko, robots and dragons, among others, and each character is a stand-in for a personage in Dante's Divine Comedy . They each quote a fragment of text (cited at the bottom of each page) that furthers the plot. It's a complicated, often hilarious method of dialogue, combining poetic allusiveness with surreal game playing. The artwork is some of Panter's best: tight, almost 19th-century–style renderings in a page layout that combines illuminated manuscripts with turn-of-the-century comic strips, each page serving as both a single complete composition and a storytelling device. This is an unprecedented approach to page design, and it makes for a fluid, immersing read. Easily the best graphic novel released this year, Jimbo in Purgatory should be read and savored for a long time. (July)