Review: Manara Erotica – Vol. 3

This sadly marks the last installment of Milo Manara’s Erotica series at Dark Horse. They go out with a bang though and really there was no way I could have said that without it half being a sex joke (they go out on top wasn’t any better). This volume definitely had the most individual stories, but there is a great progression to the stories that in a way made them all feel as if they were happening in the same world. By now I’ve become very familiar with Manara’s style and while some aspects of his storytelling became obvious to me I could also see the importance of the style. While I don’t have a clear time line of when each story was released there really does seem to be a progression to the storytelling in this volume. Whereas previous volumes have focused on female and male sexual relations, this volume has far more female on female situations. Again this shows a stark difference in the storytelling from previous volumes.

The first story and arguably the most famous of the volume is Butterscotch: The Scent of the Unseen. Here we meet two reoccurring characters in the volume; the first is Honey, the accountant to a famous Ballerina Beatrice. Honey walks into Beatrice’s hotel room to find half a man sitting in front of her. It freaks her out as literally only the top half of the man is visible. The man grabs Honey who continues to freak out and enters a state of shock. She believes she’s dreaming especially after the man tells her of his long running obsession with Beatrice and his invisibility creation. He wants to use it to be close to her and nothing more. Honey listens to him and realizes for his ointment to work the way he’s saying he needs to be 100% naked. She begins to mess with his manhood which embarrasses the man that’s known simply as “The Professor.” A strange relationship begins to build between them as the Professor follows and interacts with Honey, but she’s the only that knows what’s happening.

Manara - Erotica vol. 3 CoverThis story alone has many layers. The Professor becomes violent when Honey tells him the truth about Beatrice, but then they become stuck with each other after the Professor follows her to a wealthy estate to meet Beatrice. It’s an unhealthy relationship that continues to become more and more codependent upon each other. It’s very strange in that way, but then also manages to have very humorous moments. The visuals play a lot into this. For instance, Honey washes part of the Professor’s face off which can only be done with certain soaps. From there he pretends to be a mounted head on the wall and Honey begins to perform fellatio to prove that others he’s a real person. Obviously you don’t see anything because the Professor is invisible and yet Manara’s detailed artwork paints the scene perfectly. On one end you can envision how strange this looks to the people who Honey is performing this act in front of, but you can also picture what’s happening between Honey and the Professor because of the detail.

Something that I finally noticed or at least acknowledged with this volume was Manara’s storytelling style. I grew up in a storytelling and comic culture that shows you every moment that’s important in a comic book. It may not always be in the beginning or at the actual time of the occurrence, but you can be assured that if something is mentioned in the story it’ll be shown to you at some point. With Manara that’s not the case. There are several times that something is said and never shown. Why is this? Because it’s erotica. The events that we’re not seeing wouldn’t add anything to the story and would eat up pages and subtract from the erotic moments. Manara has an incredible pacing where he entices you with the visuals and then brings you down for a story moment. In this way he keeps you interested in both elements of the story.

Manara’s artwork is of course wonderful. He’s unlike any other creator and sure most of his women have the same body shape and facial features, but they’re so incredibly beautiful that it’s hard to criticize him for it. There is something magical and beautiful about his artwork. To criticize his women would be like criticizing Von Gogh for painting himself so much. I did feel that he toned down a lot of his details in the settings. It’s not that there a void of detail, but that it was missing the intricate details that I previously noticed in his work. There were a few flashes of intricate details in a few stories and in general his toned down artwork is still ten times more amazing than the vast majority of comic book illustrators out there.

Part of me wants to drone on and on about this volume, but after so many rewrites I think that it’s at a good point where I leave you enough to want to check it out for yourself. The beauty of every Manara volume is that you don’t need to have read the previous volumes; you just need an open mind an understanding of the material. I’m sure that there will always be a percentage of people who this doesn’t appeal to. I mean for my first encounter to the material I almost thought it was sexist, but now I can see the commentary and the respect for women that Manara has. This volume in particular handles some situations that I haven’t seen handled in previous volumes. It’s handled with respect and never romanticized like other publishers have the tendency to do, due to the maturity of the subject matter.

This is a gorgeous volume that is worthy of any comic fans shelf. If it sounds interesting and you’ve never explored the world of erotica, then start with Milo Manara and his Dark Horse collections.

Score: 5/5

Writer/Artist: Milo Manara Translation: Kim Thompson, Diana Schutz, Aaron Walker Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $59.99 Release Date: 11/6/13