The newest volume of their Manara Library series is also probably my favorite volume, and I have been anticipating this one for quite some time. Any of The Manara Libray volumes are a great way to revisit, or even introduce yourself, to this fanatastic Italian comics creator. The first story in this book, The Adventures of HP & Guiseppe Bergman, is where a lot of Manara authorities would say he began to develop a style that we've come to recognize as purely Manara. While he was also undoubtedly under a heavy influence from the likes of Moebius, it was still very easy to see that where he was going with this one was someplace else entirely.
As adults, our expectation of adventure changes, and I believe that Manara understands that. As adolescents, our simple childish fantasies begin to evolve and include elements of our own personal growth; so where once stood a boyish dream of saving a princess in a high tower, that same dream has begun to mirror our own budding sexuality and reflect our own self-image. By the time we find that same dream as adults, our personal sense of eroticism and adventure have become much more idiosyncratic and a part of our subconscious, which is exactly what Manara excels at showing to us. As an author who is able to shapeshift so seamlessly between genres, he allows us to shift between action, drama, comedy, and eroticism without losing any of what makes each of those individual elements so important, though still knowing when to pull back enough so as to titillate rather than engorge the reader when the situation calls for it.
I found most of these tales to be pretty innocuous, though it's title story, Emerald, is by far this collection's standout piece. Though Samura's first Western (if not by genre, then at least by setting), this story actually shares a lot of similarities with his most long running series in that it employs an incredible amount of kineticism when the true action takes place. It could have benefited from a slightly wider view in the world in which it exists in, and in that respect i think it resembles his other work, but i believe that to be symptomatic of his rushing through his shorter works most of the time.
One of Blade's best attributes is that from the very start, the author creates a fantastic view of the world in which his characters live. It's not a purely fictional Japan, and though it stumbles a little bit in the early chapters in trying to make a unique setting of it's own, Samura slowly lets his strange inhabitants flesh out an already existing (and marginally more believable) past in which the entire story is able to benefit from a slightly more realistic grounding. I believe that in his short stories, Samura expects his readers to already be familiar with their setting, as many of them take place in contemporary Tokyo. Other stories that take place in Victorian England, or the American West, for example, are hampered by the artist's limited knowledge of such periods, making the production of those stories seem all the more hurried, though no less visceral or brutal.
I say check them out.