There’s nothing quite like an erotic graphic novel. Apollo and I have built up a small collection over the past few years, and generally they fall into one of two categories. The first are the books you read reverently and with great respect … and then carefully put them aside and wank furiously (having been astonishingly aroused by what you read). The other type you read with your hand down your knickers, getting off to the contents as you go.*
The Spider Garden, for me, falls into the first category. Not because I don’t want to wank while I’m reading it – but because, like other graphic novels in this grouping, the artwork is simply too beautiful for me to not concentrate all my attention on it.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Spider Garden, but what I was found was compelling. Not only did it have an absolutely unique fantastical setting, it also had a protagonist (Shaalis the androgyne) unlike any I’d ever encountered. Add exquisite bondage scenes, strange machinery, a variety of weird and wonderful characters, and I was hooked!
If the intriguing front cover and the name of the publisher (Amerotica) didn’t give you enough of an idea as to what The Spider Garden was about, the first page makes it very clear indeed. It’s a full-page panel: a night-time garden, with a woman tied in an inverted suspension. Rope is wrapped tightly around her chest, arms and legs, a bridle is in her mouth, and a harness with a dildo is attached to her crotch. She appears serene in her pose, and is being watched from the balcony of a mansion.
Yes, this is a book – a graphic novel, in fact – about bondage. It’s also about submission, concubines, androgyny, gender-fuckery, fantasy, and technology. In short, it’s The Spider Garden, the first in a series of graphic novels by Michael Manning which follow the androgyne Shaalis (zie who was watching from the balcony) and hir capricious whims.
The world Manning has created is absolutely unique, combining as it does aspects of the Orient, technological bio-marvels, species that could be alien or fantasy, and a whole lot of pretty rope and toys and sex and lust. Done entirely in black and white, the strong lines of the artwork lend themselves well to the action and poses revealed within the pages.
I’m quite text-oriented, so I generally pay more attention to the words in a graphic novel than to the art – on the first reading at least. The Spider Garden was an exception to this. On my first read, I easily spent twenty minutes on one page, poring over the intricate artwork and the astonishingly detailed bondage scenes. (This puts me in mind of the Kabuki graphic novels by David Mack, whose artwork – while not intentionally erotic – is also very compelling).
On my second read-through, I spent nearly as long looking at the art, but also gained a better understanding of the storyline; and on the third, the two had come together to create a complete story for me. And this book was very easy to read three times, and will probably be read many more – especially given that, after putting the book down each evening, I went on to have some astonishing orgasms. Which is a pretty damn good recommendation, in my book.
*For those who are curious, here are our categories:
The Lost Girls trilogy by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie
Liberatore’s Women by Liberatore
Omaha the Cat Dancer series by Reed Waller and Kate Worley
The Spider Garden series by Michael Manning
Verdict: Gorgeous book, an excellent addition to any erotica and/or graphic novel collection. Very arousing.
Here are the details: