This volume further confirms Manara's incredible artistry and talent. The collaborations with Fellini produce many memorable and striking images although the stories themselves are more dream like and surreal than grounded or realistic per se, so be careful. The volume contains three major stories with several smaller ones interspersed between them.
Dark Horse's decision to reproduce most of this work in the "original" black and white though, actually continues to hurt the work and the volumes. The problem here is inherent in the nature of Manara's art - much of it is so dense, detailed and expressive that quite a lot of it gets lost in black and white. This is a major problem with the chinese fable, "The Ape," which constitutes most of the latter half of the volume. An interesting tale that is variously amusing and annoying in different measures, the lack of color really hurts! Manara puts so much on the page, that unfortunately, much of the finer detail gets lost in the mass of black that can often consume many panels. As a result, few if any of the images "pop" against the backgrounds and few if any "backgrounds" stay in place... Story flow is a study in clarity as usual for Manara, but rather than black and white enhancing the line work, Manara's lines get lost in a mess of black and white in which no images in particular stand out from the rest. The compositions dissolve after a while and almost appear repetitive. A few stories are reproduced in color and the difference is arresting.
These volumes continue to be bittersweet experiments for fans and a missed opportunity by Dark Horse. The product of lazy editors, the volumes take an uber-reverential approach to collecting Manara's work, so that rather than wanting to truly open up the work to a new audience, they succeed rather at fossilizing it for those people who probably already know him well. Which is unfortunate. These volumes were a good opportunity to provide English speaking and specially American audiences with translated versions of some of Manara's best known efforts. Yes, Manara is a *real* artist, but the stories themselves were produced primarily for relatively inexpensive consumption. They were not nor ever intended to be the equivalent of commissions from Da Vinci or Michelangelo. To treat them as untouchable and inviolate now seems silly.
Still for all that, the binding is high quality and the hardcover stock is pretty good. The oversized pages are probably the perfect size for the art and no one can argue about the quality of the art contained in these pages. Most modern comic artists working in mainstream comics don't have a 10th of Manara's skill. The volume is consistent with previous ones and looks good on the shelf. It's frankly difficult to really rate each new volume as, while the contents of the volume often rate 4 or 5 stars in my opinion, the decision to publish in black and white continues to be a bug bear for me. This is a stronger volume than 2 but I would say volume 1 continues to be the best of the series so far.