cover image Songy of Paradise

Songy of Paradise

Gary Panter. Fantagraphics, $34.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-68396-028-7

Panter’s riff on Milton’s Paradise Regained promises to entertain “without Milton’s verbosity,” and it manages to cut to the quick of the least acknowledged of Milton’s religious verse epics. While many of the elements of Panter’s satirical scuzz-punk rendition won’t look familiar to Miltonians, the central drama will. A dragonlike beast of hell does everything in its power to seduce Songy, a none-too-bright wastrel hillbilly, to the dark side. But no matter what kind of foods, riches, and worldly power “the Lord High Demon Lucifer Satan Beelzebub” throws at Songy, he resists mightily, barking in irritation that “us simple mountain folk” don’t need anything because “we are already filled to the gills with constant prayer and abiding fear.” Panter’s alternately rough-hewn and crisply detailed black and white etchings are as mixed as the writing’s concoction of redneck satire and mock epic. While the oversized, gilt-embossed package is perhaps a tad pretentious, this is smart, weird, philosophical, and aggressive in all the right ways. (July)