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Pandora's Eyes

Review

Pandora's Eyes

For readers familiar with Milo Manara's catalog of highly erotic and sexualized depictions of women in various Italian fumetti or of his collaborations with Neil Gaiman or Chris Claremont, Pandora's Eyes may surprise in its restrained, less overt, and primarily non-nude renderings (save one sequence). Perhaps this is due to Vincenzo Cermani, the Italian Oscar-nominated screenwriter who has worked with Roberto Benigni, that the narrative is not as hypersexualized as Manara's previous stories. This, however, does not reduce or limit the sensuality of Manara's highly crafted, crisp, and thin line art throughout, either in the presentation of Pandora, the female protagonist, or in the largely male supporting cast. In fact, Manara's lines, particularly their ability to capture intense portrait closeups of his characters, is reminiscent of Brian Bolland at times.

Originally published in 2007, this short story is extremely quickly paced. The pages and panel layouts are fairly standard and status quo in their design, arranged mostly into a six- or more panel grid pattern. The movement and inherent passion in the lines, though, are conveyed in the contrast between and mastery of how Manara uses blacks, whites, and shades of gray, as well as the mixing of either narrow vertical or full-page-width horizontal panels. There is also an extreme level of detail and precision given to each scene that breathes new life into the black and white tones. Never once does Manara veer too closely to noir atmospheres, despite the criminal nature of the story itself.
 
The actual plot is fairly simple. A girl is kidnapped by an unknown assailant and eventually meets her estranged gangster father, who she believes facilitated and orchestrated the seizure. The cinematic quality of the narrative reflects not only Cerami's influence, but gives the entire graphic novel a semblance of being a short foreign film. It is intimate, personal, and in parts quite enticing; however, the overall impact and unfolding of the mystery may leave some audiences disappointed at its execution and eventual payoff. For example, Pandora, who has undergone psychotherapy to control her seething rage and overpowering destructive and violent tendencies, seems quite impotent in several physical situations against would-be attackers. In part, perhaps the anger-induced outbursts are cumulative and only surface when Pandora has been pushed so far. Yet, if the rage is genetic and has been so influential on her life to require years of conditioning and behavioral counseling, it seems puzzling that in moments of survival, her natural instincts for self-preservation would not burst through and the "darker" side assume control.
 
Regardless, these points are somewhat moot when stacked against the weight and potency of Manara's art and the sheer fact that some semblance, be it only 62 pages, is now so readily and finally available, uncensored, to American readers. Humanoids deserves the attention of the vast graphic reading American public for the innovative, insightful, and thought-provoking tales. Not only do they challenge the dominance and primacy of the superhero genre, but also the underground alternative scene embodied through Chester Brown or Dan Clowes, which eschews such mainstream, popular notoriety. Humanoids covers numerous genres and their voices are just as genuine, just as sincere and personal as anything coming out of the small indie North American presses.
 
Pandora's Eyes is a stellar example of what can be accomplished when the art is allowed freedom from convoluted plots or continuity, and thus gives vitality to the words.

Reviewed by Nathan Wilson on July 12, 2012

Pandora's Eyes
by Milo Manara

  • Publication Date: February 2, 2011
  • Genres: Crime, Graphic Novel
  • Hardcover: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Humanoids, Inc.
  • ISBN-10: 1594650519
  • ISBN-13: 9781594650512