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Luz, the Art of Ciruelo (released by Diamond Comics in the U.S. and Bast Editorial in Europe) is a compilation of the artwork of Ciruelo Cabral, a young Argentinean-born artist who lives near Barcelona, Spain. You may have seen Cabral's work on Magic: The Gathering cards, in magazines like Playboy and Heavy Metal, and on the covers of fantasy novels.

If you enjoy lavish illustrations of square-jawed heroes battling monsters and wooing buxom lasses in various states of distress (and undress), then you're going to love Luz, the third compilation of Cabral's artwork. As one might expect, Luz contains mainly book cover illustrations for clients such as Tor, Ballantine and TSR. But it also features CD covers, tattoo art, previously-unpublished sketches, and a striking section on his petropictos, a sculpture/painting hybrid in which the artist airbrushes directly onto stones.

Most of Ciruelo's work is fantasy art, mainly images of derring-do and sorcery set against backgrounds of craggy cliffs and lush landscapes. His dragons are especially fetching; I was quite taken with one painting of a black wyrm glowering atop a rock. His SF images are far fewer in number but equally well-done.

In short, I enjoyed this collection, and if you have any appreciation for the aesthetics of high fantasy, you will, too. But as I leafed through the book, a little ditty penned by Mike Flynn (to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands") kept running through my head:

There's a bimbo on the cover of my book.
There's a bimbo on the cover of my book.
She is blond and she is sexy,
She is nowhere in the text, she
Is the bimbo on the cover of my book!

Don't get me wrong; this collection is far less sexist than, say, typical Frank Frazetta. And, obviously, fantasy art is expected to portray people who are beautiful and heroically proportioned. All good and well.

But it would be nice if his images didn't seem to always pander to the fantasies of teenage boys. We women like fantasy, too, and buy it in spite of the bimbo covers. But chances are, more of us would buy more of it if we saw our fantasies being portrayed.

For instance, one of Ciruelo's paintings portrays a blond, virtually naked nymph hiding from a hunting party. She's also ankle-deep in snow. Brr! Wondering if men really think about this sort of thing, I consulted an older friend, a professed Sensitive Guy who actually owns a copy of Sleepless in Seattle. He looked at the picture and nodded gravely, admitting that yes, while cross-country skiing he'd had similar fantasies of finding naked women in the snowy woods.

Conversely, I have never once daydreamed about freezing my tits off in a snowbank while waiting for a wandering barbarian to find me. Issues of temperature and clothing aside, most women have at one time or another dreamed of being seduced. But we also dream of seducing, and of kicking butt. There is a serious lack of feminine butt-kicking in Luz. Some of Ciruelo's ladies are armed, yes, but they're never actually doing any fighting. They're just decorative.

But that's a relatively minor quibble; if you collect fantasy art, Luz would be a worthy addition.

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