To see the name of Italian sequential art master Milo Manara attached to a graphic novel is an absolute guarantee that within the pages of said book you will find one thing: beautiful women. Of course, these women are more than beautiful. They are also strong, confident, and very often fully aware of their own sexuality and the heights of ecstasy it can take them to.
Though breathtakingly gorgeous (and perfectly drawn) women and sex are very prominent components in Manara’s work, it is important to note that his work does not carry an air of misogynism to it. Rather, the physical encounters on display are far too playful to ever be seen as chauvinistic or be accused of simple male wish fulfillment fantasies.
Given all of the above, knowing what the name Manara stands for, I could not have been more surprised (flat-out blown away, really) to see his name on the newly released Marvel one-shot title X-Women.
Once the initial surprise of seeing a European comics master renowned for his very adult-themed work doing an American super hero book wore off, the combination actually seems perfectly natural. Penned by legendary X-Men scribe Chris Claremont, the story focuses solely on the fairer sex mutants (in other words, the super hot ones) like Rogue, Storm, Kitty Pride, Rachel Summers, Psylocke, and Emma Frost.
In the story what should be a relaxing trip to Greece for the heroes, instead turns into a rescue mission to save Emma and Rachel, whose combined powers are being used to aid an illegal arms dealer. Added to the mix is a tropical island group of “Cargo Cultists” who worship machines of the air (and have a leader who wants to “worship” Storm in his own way.) Even though the female form is the focus here, we can’t forget that everything Manara draws is beautiful, be it natural landscapes, heavy machinery, or explosive action.
Though this comic is rated “Teen Plus” it’s not surprising that there is no actual sex or nudity in these pages. That still doesn’t stop Manara and Claremont from including plenty of not-too-overt (as well as some very overt) references to everything from S&M, exhibitionism, bondage, and sapphic super heroines. The overall effect amounts to what has to be the most erotic publication Marvel has put out since the days of their Epic line of comics.
To have the internationally renowned Manara give his signature take on such famous Marvel women is a huge visual treat for a comics buff, regardless if you’re a fan of the various X-men titles or not. Beautifully executed and a lot of fun to read, this is the most unique title you’ll see from Marvel all year. It is worth noting as well that X-Women was released in Italy in April 2009. Is this version racier than the one us American readers are only now seeing? It would be worth checking on, as the following final page of the comic says plenty about what Claremont and Manara think really happens when these girls cut loose…