Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Gabriel Ba
Publisher: Image Comics
Casanova #1 is comic craziness in a bottle, and I for one am digging it hook, line, and sinker! Yeah, when you read a book with this much energy and humor packed together, you have to use a word like "dig." Also, it may help that everything about this comic book has retro written (and drawn) all over it. Everything about Issue #1 screams the 1960s of Swinging London, as well as the girls, booze, and gadgets that fill James Bond movies. But, Casanova couldn’t have been made without many unintentional (or intentional) modern touches. The aspect of time-line jumping in the issue really brought everything up to the present and beyond, with all of the confusion intact. Also, there are action sequences within the issue that scream big-budget action films such as True Lies, including a "scene" in which Casanova jumps from a Helicasino (shaken, not stirred, Mr. Bond) without a parachute, blasting away with two guns until the last moment, when he pulls out a time breach device and Presto! We are dropped into a whole new life for Mr. Casanova Quinn! If it sounds far-fetched, it is! If it sounds wacko, it is! But what you’ll really think after reading Casanova is, “Wow, what an exciting ride!”
Do you want another reason to buy this comic? Not only is this first issue priced at a measly $1.99, but the entire story is started, fleshed out, and completed within the covers of this sole issue, a la Fell. Even better is that this contains 28 PAGES OF STORY, rather than the sixteen in Warren Ellis’ series. Is the writing as good? That’s debatable, but no discerning comic book reader can deny the compelling energy and good feeling that radiates around this title. The main point of Matt Fraction’s tale is fun, because it is fun to read and had to be a blast to write. Many of the dialogue choices Fraction makes are hilarious, such as “Your daddy’s a grand-mal, doll-kink nutjob, sweetheart.” Or, he makes some not-so-subtle references to comic book culture (“You talk like a comic book, man.” “And I live like one, Mr. Quinn. I’ve gone to great trouble arranging this crossover event.”) and spy movie schtick (Fraction replaces S.P.E.C.T.R.E. with W.A.S.T.E., which means whatever is appropriate at the time, such as We’re All So Terribly Excited or We Always Start Things Early.). Basically, this is a very fun issue to read and enjoy, especially the second half which brings in the kooky super-villain Newman Xeno and the return (?) of Zephyr Quinn. Plus, there are the hilarious footnotes that punctuate the action, letting each of the characters tell his side of things outside of the story continuity and explaining story elements as they are introduced (Casanova in a dunce cap sticking his tongue out at Xeno is terrific!). Then, we have the MODOK clone, Fabula Berserko and... Well, you get the idea. This issue is jam-packed with satirical, tongue-in-cheek, and in-your-face humor and fun circumstances. Can it be a little much at times? I’d say yes, but it really depends on your groan threshold. I think the line will be split between those who think Casanova is a smart blast and those who think it is stylish drag.
As for the art, Gabriel Ba’s work is not only influenced by spy movie culture, but it is also reminiscent of Peter Chung’s work on Aeon Flux and Reign. Many of the characters, especially Casanova, are almost anorexic in appearance, with big eyes that are filled with emotion. Ba makes sure everything in the issue is stylized to the maximum extent, which fits nicely with Fraction’s plot. Plus, the action is very exaggerated, with hyper-extended limbs and perceived motion that makes every fight scene race at turbo speed. The speed of the art mirrors the pacing of this issue, which is a fast read. Yet, there is so much within Casanova #1 that the pacing doesn’t feel that fast. I found myself going back to try and find more cultural jabs or references that I may have missed. And, for a $1.99 comic, that’s really saying something! I did think that the time travel elements of this issue slowed it down unnecessarily (and confused me somewhat, which I think was necessary for sympathizing with Casanova), but that is a minor complaint for an otherwise excellent starting issue. Matt Fraction claims that, like Fell, each issue of Casanova will be a self-contained story, meaning anyone can pick up any issue of the series and enjoy a great story for a cheap price. However, I think that connections will abound throughout, and to have a greater appreciation of Casanova’s life and times, you should pick up this first issue and plan on picking up subsequent installments. For a wild ride, it’s hard to beat!
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