Milo Manara: Sometimes Great Isn’t Good Enough

January 16th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

drawn by Milo Manara, yapped from Marvel Unveils Milo Manara “Uncanny Avengers” #2 Variant – Comic Book Resources)

Milo Manara is like Frank Cho, in that he’s very good at one specific thing and really good at a few other things, but he got so good at that first thing that the rest of the work sometimes suffers.

Frank Cho draws great busty women and decent thick women. That’s his thing, and I feel like only one of those dudes that draws Cavewoman — I think I’m thinking of Budd Root and early Devon Massey, and even that’s a reach — could go bar-for-bar with him in that very specific race. But Cho’s storytelling and focus has suffered as a result. The sexy girls seem like crutches, immaculately drawn though they may be, and nothing else in his stories has been clicking half as well as the girls do. That’s part of why Liberty Meadows works for me while his later work hasn’t — he could indulge the funny animal/dumb joke side of himself in addition to the carnival boobs, so there was something more to read the series for beyond “What unlikely-but-sexy pose is Cho going to draw a hot girl in this time?”

Manara’s similar. He’s fantastic at drawing a specific type of woman. His women possess a smoldering sexiness, one that’s probably best typified by Megan Fox these days. It isn’t entirely my bag, maybe because it isn’t as close to being in line with my tastes as Cho’s trunked out girls are, but I can still recognize how unbelievably talented he is sometimes. He tends to draw women who are (often literally) two panels away from being in full erotic ecstasy, with their head thrown back and hair blowing in the wind and mouth a perfect O.

It sounds familiar and lazy, but there’s an art to it. A lot of the empty cheesecake we complain about in cape comics is approach Manara’s throne, but it gets screwed up at the most basic level. Manara knows what he’s doing, and it shows.

But, as near as I can tell… that’s about all he does. I mean, he’s still an incredible draftsman, but like Cho, his women have a certain gravity. They feel like the real focus of the story to me at this point, like each story is a vehicle that exists just so that you can see Manara (or Cho) draw pretty girls.

Which is fine, on a certain level… X-Women was interesting, if neutered, and Cho’s Shanna was pretty okay, but again, felt neutered. But it gets old so fast. Their new work feels like echoes of their old work, but without the swing and passion that made the old work so interesting. You know that these guys can go in, but it just feels like a book that was created on autopilot.

It’s one thing to see something familiar done well, but seeing something done well in the exact same way over and over and over… it gets boring, no matter how solid it is. So you end up with things like this shot of the Scarlet Witch, which is drawn very well but uninteresting beyond the weirdness of one of the greatest porno artists ever drawing Marvel characters. When you expand it to include the rest of his covers, which are similarly vacant… I dunno. It ain’t working for me.

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