SCIENCE-OMAHA

SCIENCE/OMAHA
Written and Drawn by Margreet de Heer
Written and Drawn by Reed Waller, Kate Worley, and James Vance
Published by NBM


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Two new very good efforts from my former employer…

SCIENCE: A DISCOVERY IN COMICS is the second of these reference volumes I’ve seen from writer/artist Margaret de Heer, and as with the one on philosophy, it is absolutely terrific. Originally published in the Netherlands, and translated from the Dutch, de Heer uses the sequential art format to inform and enlighten the reader about the history of science itself, the meaning and origins of some of its disciplines, and even the foundations of theory. Heady stuff, to be sure. Yet de Heer has a way of presenting the concepts in such a manner that they never feel like they’re going over one’s head. Instead, SCIENCE feels truly like a book for the masses, a work that brings scientific principle to the layperson in ways it hasn’t before. Her art is simple and straight-forward, and she always chooses function over form: everything works to service the lessons she is trying to impart. When people ask me about how comics can serve a purpose in the classroom, this is precisely the kind of book I use to demonstrate that very thing.

After a loooooooooong wait, the serialization aspect is over, and the final volume of THE COMPLETE OMAHA is now available. A classic comicbook soap opera renowned for its sex positive approach to the cast’s graphic on-page couplings, what started out as a humble little thing shook the industry to its foundations. For those who don’t know, it was OMAHA causing a comics retailer to be prosecuted for carrying it in his store that eventually led to the foundation of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! Here in this final volume (finished by Waller and Vance using notes from Worley before she left us too soon due to cancer) Omaha, Chuck, Shelley, Kurt, and the rest are put through their final paces as the story heads for an appropriately explosive climax. Plotlines are tied up, villains get their comeuppance, characters fins emotional resolutions… it’s everything you’d want if you’ve been reading the book from the start. Waller and Vance’s work stays true to everything that had come before, and the last couple of pages are just about perfect. A nice job of sticking the landing.



LE DONNE

LE DONNE
Illustrated by Liberatore
Published by NBM/Eurotica


Reviewed by Marc Mason

What is eroticism?

Is it a look? An attitude? Is it an aspect of someone’s physicality? These are questions that each of us has a different answer to, and they certainly provoke interesting conversation. Perhaps the very idea of being provoked is something that you find erotic. If so, then Liberatore’s work would certainly be to your taste.

LE DONNE is an intriguing – and provocative – collection of Liberatore’s work. Here we see his portraits of feminine sexuality in all of their power. Their strength. Their mystery. They are thin women, curvy women, women of all colors and backgrounds; they are relaxed, they are violent, they are in the throes of passion, and they feel nothing at all. They are nude, they are naked, they are clothed in things meant to make us uncomfortable. Liberatore thrusts his women at the reader and dares them to look closely and see them for all that they are, something people are generally terrified to do in regular life. We mask ourselves as we pass through the world, mask ourselves as we fear our identities and bodies, but Liberatore is only interested in tearing the masks away.

It is revelatory to see what lurks behind those masks. His paints, his pencils, they dare us to keep our eyes open. If we do, then we can see the questions that Liberatore is putting in front of us, primarily: what, within these pages, do you find to be erotic?

I can answer only for myself.

STORY OF O

THE STORY OF O
Original Story by Pauline Reage
Adapted by Guido Crepax
Published by NBM Publishing

In the 1950’s a French woman responded to a challenge issued by her editor that a woman could not write a successful erotic novel. Anne Desclos, using the pen name Pauline Reage, wrote Histoire d’O, or THE STORY OF O, a tale of one woman’s complete sexual submission and evolution. In the 1970’s Guido Crepax adapted this story into a graphic novel to critical acclaim, and NBM is re-releasing this erotic classic.

THE STORY OF O begins at the House of Roissy where Rene drops off his lover, O, to commence her submission training. O is handled, fucked, whipped, and chained, and she becomes educated in the basic rules of abiding by one’s master. She takes these rules with her when she leaves Roissy and enters into a new stage of her submission after Rene reveals she belongs to him and his brother, Sir Stephen. Initially the reader knows nothing of what O is thinking, but in the later chapters we are given glimpses into O’s inner monologue as she advances in her training and her relationship with Sir Stephen. She allows herself to be branded with Sir Stephen’s initials, and when presented with an opportunity to leave Sir Stephen, O chooses to stay with him, to stay his, and is happier for it. This is not a story of men abusing women or women feeling weak, this is a story of willful submission. O makes her choice and revels in it, even introducing other women to this world. Her enjoyment of her sexual freedom and power is, in some ways, envied by her spectators at O’s formal presentation during a high-society soiree.

From the very first page it is apparent why THE STORY OF O is recognized as Crepax’s finest work. The fine, sharp pencils turn each panel into a vintage etching and no feature remains unexplored. The attention to detail both in the characters and their surroundings on every page is staggering, giving the artwork an overwhelming effect. The panting, the pain, the expressions of sheer bliss, raw lust and complete acceptance are all displayed with abundant clarity. The structure of each panel is different, ensuring multiple angles and thus a variety of visual impacts. There are several inch-tall rectangular panels revealing only lips, eyes, or genitals. Some are fractured panels, giving the effect of seeing these sexual acts in a cracked mirror, and others are overlapping, yet all are uniquely visceral and stimulating. A detailed look at one woman’s sexual exploration is obviously not a story for everyone, but if you enjoy erotic novels which contain an actual plot, THE STORY OF O is a necessary addition to your library.

Avril Brown

 

FIRST TIME

FIRST TIME
Written by Sibylline and Drawn by Various
Published by NBM

There’s a difference between erotica and porn. For those who want a definitional difference, here is mine: porn is nothing but pure sex, a visceral jolt meant for immediate arousal. Erotica, while flush with sex, has more; more story, more character, more than just the base drive for arousal and orgasm. Erotica engages the mind as well as the body.

FIRST TIME is damned fine erotica.

French writer Sibylline joins with ten amazing artists to tell stories of deep sensuality, arousing moments, and hot sexuality, all revolving around the theme of the first time each character has engaged in that behavior. From the loss of virginity, to visiting a sex club, to a threesome, to a couple viewing pornography together, she covers an extraordinary spectrum of topics and moments, and each is wildly different. Some are joyous; a couple are heartbreaking; which keeps FIRST TIME real, really. Sex, while great, can be painful and disappointing, and she never loses sight of that. Which, again, points out the difference between pornography and erotica; porn is rarely full of anything you could consider “real” on an emotional level.

The artists on this erotic journey are uniformly outstanding. While the “name” artist on the project is Dave McKean, the strongest work amongst all these wonderful pages is turned in by Olivier Vatine on a story called “Club.” His use of shading and blacks on Sibylline’s story about a visit to a sex club is terrific. There is a near-absence of blacks, giving the background sex a set-off feeling, illustrating the character’s distance from what’s going on behind her, until the arrival of a woman who is drawn in almost pure darkness, the one who takes the narrator’s boyfriend by the hand and leads him off to fuck him. From there, the art takes on a progressively more shadowed look, finally culminating in a page that’s all shape and form. It’s remarkable to look at, work that greatly elevates the story.

My one qualm about FIRST TIME comes in the book’s design. Sibylline’s name doesn’t appear on the front cover or on the spine, and only gets a text mention on the back, sharing credit with McKean. The title page doesn’t take care to point out here name, either, except in her dedication text. The contents page lists only the artists. This is a disservice to the woman who penned these tales. I find that aspect disappointing, as her work between the covers is exemplary.