Pandora’s eighteenth birthday is a celebration in two respects. There’s her party, but more importantly her final therapy session. It’s been four years since she last experienced a murderous rage that transformed her, during which her eyes seemed to glow and she was endowed with strength beyond her years. The celebrations, however, are abruptly brought to a close when she’s abducted on her way home.

Rendered unconscious, by the time she awakens she’s in Turkey, where her biological father runs a criminal empire, although he’s man wanted by many people and agencies, so has to be extremely careful about where he’s seen.

This is quite the departure for Milo Manara, reverting in 2007 after many years of erotic graphic novels to more mainstream material. Although there’s nudity, Manara’s over-riding principle is to tell Vincenzo Cerami’s crime story. The late Cerami was an accomplished Italian writer of screenplays, with his best known internationally being 1998’s Life is Beautiful, surely the only comedy set in a concentration camp. That alone marks him as an adventurous writer, yet this is disappointingly straightforward with the surprises hardly earth shattering. Where it works well is in switching back and forth between the abducted Pandora and her experiences in Turkey, and the people she’s believed all her life to be her parents. It falls flat, however, with regard to the title element of the eyes, not really relevant, and just one of several aspects that lead nowhere.

If the plot is unsatisfying, then those who value Manara’s art for more than just erotic qualities are in for a complete treat. He’s on top form, his line more delicate than ever, and producing page after page of superbly disciplined, naturalistic art. The moments of high drama fall within that, beautifully posed without ever coming across as exaggerated, and the cast have a superb lived-in characterisation from the obese policeman to the assorted gangsters. Strangely, it’s only the impossibly beautiful Pandora who’s almost bland in such richly detailed company.

In some respects a graphic novel that’s primarily to be admired for the technical skill involved has failed, but when the quality line is set as high as Manara then much can be overlooked. For those who really want to study the art in detail an oversize edition is also available.