Review by Frank Plowright
The bulk of this first of three hardcovers collecting the erotica of Milo Manara is occupied by the four volumes of Click! Manara produced between 1983 and 2001. These are presented in black and white rather than in colour as in their first English translations, but as the colour was hardly sumptuous its absence is no great loss. The greatest benefit is new translations, the work of Kim Thompson, which add coherency and elegance to Manara’s work by virtue of being more than just literal versions of the original Italian.
Some people could find the entire concept of Click! offensive, dealing as it does with a transmitting device that when activated transforms the alluring but repressed Claudia into a squirming bundle of sexual desire. The long period over which Manara created four volumes is firstly a demonstration of how his approach altered over time. The opener is a farcical slapstick romp, the closer not too far removed from a tense crime drama, and his art changes from multiple packed panels on a page to a more languid and decompressed form of storytelling, but equally exquisite. The sexually explicit content covers pretty well all forms of human sexuality involving women, all lovingly rendered, but those who like some plot along with their erotica will find Click! 2 particularly deficient.
More detailed commentary can be found by following the links to individual reviews, but two elements are worth highlighting. On the basis of all four stories, Manara plots on the hoof, and each has unresolved elements introduced, then forgotten as he switches from one sexual permutation that interests him to another. It tends to mean the books just juddering to a halt at the point where he loses interest. Click! 2 incorporates fetishised violence, but 3 is far more problematical than the other books as it associates physical abuse with sex in an entirely gratuitous fashion. Manara’s art notwithstanding, it’s sordid and disappointing.
Two further stories complete the collection. ‘The Last Tragic Day of Gori Bau & the Callipygian Sister’ was previously translated as part of Shorts, and predates Click! 1 as sexually explicit fiction. In common with that story it’s four tiers of highly detailed art per page, and still looks sumptuous. It concerns two teenage girls, one more adventurous and teasing the boy with them, the other reluctant and judgemental. The art is fantastic, the story leaves something to be desired.
The 45 pages of Rendevous in B-Flat were issued as a graphic novel all over Europe in 1997, yet never received a previous English translation. Presumably publishers who issued Manara’s other work in English turned this down due to almost all the sexual content being rape. Valeria is a high-maintenance woman, but by indulging her Silvio has debts with gangsters. When he defaults on the payment he’s told Valeria will be raped every day until debts are settled, and the opening of the account occurs in his presence. There’s a weird detour providing the title, but otherwise this deeply unpleasant story possesses a more coherent and complete plot than anything else in this collection. It’s incredibly bleak crime noir, the horror of the content not at all diminished by superlative art. You have been warned.
This isn’t an easy collection to recommend. The art is stunning throughout, whether from 1982 or 2001, but the disturbingly casual sexual violence in one story and the brutality of another are likely to offend all but the most desensitised.