Review: Milo Manara’s The Golden Ass

Much like Manara’s Gullivera, The Golden Ass loosely based on the literary piece it takes its name. In this case, it’s The Golden Ass of Apuleius. That said, there are two ways to read and enjoy this book. The first is knowing the source material well enough to see what Manara is doing referencing and ultimately changing. The other is the way I read it. As erotica. Having never read The Golden Ass of Apuleius, all of its inferences were lost on me. Having read The Golden Ass and thus Manara’s take on the story, I would never read the original. After all, how can it possibly stack up to Manara’s version?

The Golden AssThe story if you can’t tell, takes place at the peak of the Roman era which makes it perfect for Manara. The main character dabbles in some witchcraft and instead of being transformed into a bird he’s converted to a… Ass. Like a donkey ass, not like a person that just says some mean shit with no remorse. He must eat roses to transform back and of course, that means he’s not going to be able to do that for some time. He ends up going on all kinds of adventures due to his ass like state, some sexy, some dangerous, plenty of them weird.

The Golden Ass is not the strongest of Manara stories. It’s still incredibly enjoyable, but if you’ve read a great deal of his work (which I have) then you might forget to put this one on your list, it’s that forgettable. Personally, I feel it’s due to the story. It is an old tale and told in an ancient style. Even Manara’s attempts at somewhat modernizing it, don’t do enough. In the end, it’s just a dull story without much of a message. Unless the message is, “don’t fuck with magic.” In that case, the message rings true.

The art, of course, is the main reason you should pick it up. Aside from Manara’s marvelous linework, beautiful woman, and gorgeous set pieces; there is a great deal of watercolor done. It’s masterful, to say the least. The bulk of the water coloring is a purplish grey color, but all of the people have flesh tones to make them stand out on the page. There are even more subtleties in the coloring with lipstick and flowers. It’s a story that you don’t technically have to read. Not that it’s not worth reading once, but Manara’s visual storytelling is so compelling that you can understand everything that’s happening without ever reading a word. I almost wish there was an only art version because it might be better.

If this is your first Manara piece of work, that’s okay. Like I’ve said, it’s worth reading even if it’s not his best. It’s still incredibly significant, and I would take it over a lot of other comics that exist on the shelves of bookstores and comic shops. If it’s your first encounter with Manara, then read it and then dive into the rest of his work. You won’t regret it.

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Milo Manara’s The Golden Ass Creator: Milo Manara Publisher: Humanoids Inc. Price: $19.95 Format: Oversized Deluxe Hardcover; Print/Digital


Review: Brüssli: Way of the Dragon Boy

What instantly struck me about Brüssli: Way of the Dragon Boy was the artwork. That and the incredible word play on "Bruce Lee: Way of the Dragon". Since this is a French comic translated into English it’s an understatement to say that it’s in a very European storybook style. A style that I can’t quite place my finger on because it reminds me of an animation I’ve seen. It’s also an understatement to say that the art is amazing. The still images by J. Etienne have a very fluid look to them. Your mind’s eye can easily see the movement and so in many ways this is like watching an animation. That and Etienne’s somewhat classic animation style of anthropomorphic animals frankly just warms my heart to see. The warm and detailed background and set pieces whisk you away. I felt like a child again while reading this book and that innocence continues into the story.

BrussliThe story is fairly simple and straightforward. The plot is out of a kid’s movie and that’s okay, because it does this quite well. The tale starts off in a town called Stillendorf. The richest man and essentially the leader of the town is on the verge of death. He leaves everything to his only living kin, his two granddaughters. One person that wishes to see him off is Arsenius who has just found a strange egg in the mountains while gathering some plants for the dying man. Low and behold the egg hatches later and suddenly Pa and Ma Kent have a new baby… I mean Arsenius and his wife have a baby.

We flash forward some years and meet young Brüssli who has an unusual face. The other kids pick on him in a way that would only be acceptable in this bygone era. That is to say they chase him with what can only be described as crude bats after giving him a boot party. This ends with him up a tree and apples being thrown at him. Not of the rotten variety.

Other players in the story are introduced. The two grown granddaughters, one a ruthless business woman looking to discover the treasure that her grandfather spoke of on his death-bed. The other can only be described as pure, innocent and dim-witted. And while it’s a bit of a trope for dim-witted Dorette to act the way she does, I assure you that her pure heart and dim bulb make for some great moments.

This collection is split up in four chapters. There is an overall arc to the entire story running through all four chapters, but also an A and B story as well. The first two chapters are extremely connected to each other, while the last two are as well. Each pairing has its own plotline that it’s following making for a very rich reading experience.

The only thing holding the story back is the sheer amount of dialogue that it has. There’s a lot of redundancies in the information given and every character seems to need ample time to talk. In that regard it almost feels like a stage show in which information is being conveyed because it can’t be shown. But it’s a comic book and the information can be shown and is, wonderfully at that. It’s not a deal breaker, but towards the end I was able to read the first few dialogue bubbles, skip to the bottom and have all the info. Especially if a gag wasn’t happening.

With that said I would still really recommend this story. It has a classic animation feel, but a story that was just a little more mature than you’d expect. It’s nothing like cartoons and kid’s stories today in which lessons and counting are the only thing done, but more like Warner Brothers cartoons in which children were entertained, but adults could appreciate the brilliance of what they were watching. Not that Brüssli is an animation, but perhaps I enjoyed it because it felt like one from beginning to end.

Check out the trailer Humanoids made!

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Brüssli: Way of the Dragon Boy Writer: Jean-Louis Fonteneau Artist: J. Etienne Translator: Anna Provitola Publisher: Humanoids Inc. Price: $24.95 Format: Hardcover; Print/Digital


Review: Milo Manara’s Gullivera

Milo Manara’s Gullivera is for all intents and purposes an erotic Gulliver’s Travels. That is the fastest and easiest way to tell you what the story is about, while explaining nothing of why this work is good. To begin with, it’s Milo Manara which in this day and age, for some damn reason, means something different from what it should. Thanks to his Marvel Comics variants, the man whose work used to speak for itself is now forever remembered for a variant cover and a select group that feels that censoring artwork is okay. Before all that, he was a master of erotic comics and just a master illustrator. He still is, it’s just that he has all that excess baggage attached now.

Now I’ll address a few complaints that I can see others having with Manara’s style. A lot of his women look the same. For the most part they have the same face, one of a few select hair style,s and Milo Manara's Gulliveradefinitely the same appendages in other departments as well. I can see that as someone who looks at a lot of art and would normally complain about that in any other comic. Why Manara gets away with it is that he’s such a strong visual storyteller that he’s able to suck you into the world easily. Sure he has the help of erotic content to help distract you, but even putting that aside, there’s so much detail going on in the book that if you’re really that bothered by the similarities in his work, then you’re perhaps reading it for the wrong reasons. You're looking for something to hate, rather than enjoy.

His art style is wonderful. Not just because of the erotic element either. Yes, that is great and I will fully admit that he produces some of the most amazing looking women I’ve ever seen illustrated, but, again, it’s the rest of the world that he creates. Because the erotic part is hollow and cheap without all the details that make the world look real. Without Manara’s skills as a storyteller and his detail as an artist, something like “erotic Gulliver’s Travels” would just be cheap porn. And this is anything but.

The story follows about the same pacing as Gulliver’s Travels, at least from what my memory serves. A great deal of the story is spent with her as a giant, then small and so on and so forth. There are little twists to each element of the story, but overall it’s a quick read. Even with the erotic element to it, there’s a sense of lighthearted joy to the story. Unlike in Gulliver’s Travels you’re never fearful for Gullivera’s life or concerned if she’ll get home. Instead, it’s just a quick romp done only the way Manara can.

If you’ve already read this story, then you’re not going to find anything new here. You will find something wonderful to add to your collection and if you’re a first time reader then you’ll get a taste of what makes Manara’s work memorable and frankly, great.

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Milo Manara’s Gullivera Creator: Milo Manara Publisher: Humanoids Price: $24.95 Format: Oversized Deluxe Edition; Print/Digital


Review: I am Legion

There was something familiar about the title to this book when I began reading. It was something that stayed with me until the very end. In doing some research after reading the book I found that I am Legion has been around for a while and is about to receive a new softcover print from Humanoids. Which is what I read. If for some reason seeing John Cassaday’s (Planetary) name on the cover was enough reason for you to check this out, then cool, you don’t need to read the rest of the review. I will tell you that I struggled with the best way to say what this book is about, but considering it’s likely been read by a great deal of people, well, it makes it easier for me. I’m going to spoil the plot, but then also tell you why that doesn’t matter.

The general idea is that Vlad Tepes Dracula is trying to kill Hitler. I kid you not. No, I won’t tell you why or what or answer that lingering “huh” that you have on your mind. The reason this spoiler means nothing is because this book’s journey is what matters. The character work alone is masterful, but what’s truly incredible is the way that Fabien Nury laces everything together and still manages to keep Vlad hidden in the shadows. He’s not the star of the title. He’s a force moving throughout it. He’s a deus ex machina waiting to happen.

IamLegionInstead the story actually focuses on different men all playing their role in the story. First we meet Karel, a man that’s part of the rebels fighting the Nazi’s. He seems insignificant to the story and yet he ends up playing one of the most important roles. Next is Stanley a detective that cracks a huge case that sets off a chain that runs throughout the story. Lastly is Trinity, a high ranking German officer and double agent. All three men play a huge role in the story and they’re fates are interlaced whether they know it or not. Nury does some incredible character work with these three men and really the entire cast of characters. These three in particular are all unique and pivotal. They all share the role of “main character”, but they talk or act the same which is extremely important in this case.

John Cassaday’s art is… well it’s John Cassaday in his prime. His artwork is fantastic. His character’s distinct and his style recognizable in the absolute best way. His work here is masterful. I don’t know what he does to pass his days now, I won’t pretend to guess, but my god you forget how good the man is when you’re only seeing him draw a cover. The visual storytelling is just as if not more important than the rest of the story. The emotions that just pour out of the characters is a driving force of the story. Everything that can be said about Cassaday’s art has been said and is relevant here. For me, reading this was an incredible reminder of how talented and wonderful his artwork is.

I told you some key things about I am Legion, but I left a lot out. Because this book is a snowball rolling down a hill. Once it starts going it just keeps building and building until it all comes apart as a beautiful mess at the end. And by the time you see what the book is really about, it’ll be too late. You’ll have to finish reading and maybe you’ll even curse my name for not telling you, but that’s the joy of reading comics.

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I am Legion Writer: Fabien Nury Artist: John Cassaday Publisher: Humanoids Price: $19.95 Format: TPB; Print/Digital