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‘Manara Erotica Volume 1: Click! and Other Stories’ - Advance Trade Paperback Review

*For mature readers only

I’ve never read Manara before now. I knew what to expect, but I had no idea what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect the absolute absurd lengths to which he would actually go. These aren’t just sexual exploits between characters with longing desires, but more like a jump down the rabbit hole into subversive oblivion through which some form of social commentary is arrived at. It is perverse erotic comedy. These stories play like creative daydreams of early sexual progressives.

The title story, "Click!," and its many parts thereafter, deal with a prudish, rich woman named Claudia Cristiani who has a device implanted in her brain. A remote control powers the device on and off which sends signals to her brain, driving her into sexual cravings beyond her control. Each situation becomes more absurd, culminating in some twists and turns that speak to not only Claudia’s inner workings, but to society’s need to break free from oppression or at least that we’re each hiding a little something.

Manara is excessively pornographic in his detailing of many of these episodes, and there’s no doubt that he’s a wonderful artist. He also handles these moments with a strange sense of humor that detaches us from the darker implications of some of the beats. It’s difficult to take any of the actual events too seriously, because they leave reality quite a ways behind to explore the world in the way Manara wants to explore it. It’s like R. Crumb and Alejandro Jodorowsky (whom Manara has worked with) collaborated and it ended up looking like this.

To really understand all of Manara’s work, you have to understand the time in which he created it - what was happening in Italy and the world. (There’s a really nicely written foreword in the book about this.) Some might like the tongue-in-cheek humor he brings to these gonzo sexual exploits, sometimes boldly trudging over the line of good taste. Those who don’t look at the world to which Manara is responding will be aghast at the fact that his women often take a sexually submissive role many times beyond their control, and I wouldn’t blame them, and yet others might like it for that very reason. Manara often times seems to tap into the world of submission, which for many, between consenting adults, is a sexual universe unto itself.

Manara’s work isn’t to get you to want to be as perverse as his characters, but to rattle you around to get you to be honest with yourself or at least to explore or think about it. To be as open as Manara would appreciate, it’s an effective piece of erotica. At times, I found myself smiling and shaking my head despite myself; however, other times, I twisted my face up wondering if some lines truly needed crossing.

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