By Matt Fraction (writer), Gabriel Ba & Fabio Moon (artists), Cris Peter (colorist)
Like most Good Things in comics, I would argue that we can blame this one on Warren Ellis.
See, back in 2005, Ellis created a comic with Image called Fell, an atmospheric detective story told in an experimental format that packed more content onto fewer pages for a lower cost. A completely satisfying reading experience for Value Menu prices–a worthy experiment to pursue, right? Fraction certainly thought so, and a year later he supported Ellis’ Slimline format with the release of Casanova, a psychedelic, genre-busting tale of espionage, music, and the multiverse. Under the Image banner, Casanova enjoyed fourteen glorious issues before going on hiatus while Fraction, Ba, and Moon went on to achieve super-stardom through other projects. But the times are, as Dylan keenly observed, always a-changin’, and after two agonizing years, Casanova has been brought under Marvel’s Icon banner where it’s good and ready to remind the world why it is one of the greatest American comics we’ve got going right now. No joke.
At its heart, Casanova is the tale of Casanova Quinn, a master thief and unscrupulous rogue whose very existence is an insult to his father, the head of a superspy organization called E.M.P.I.R.E. (nope, they still haven’t explained what the hell it stands for, but does it matter?). After Casanova’s sister, the apple of her father’s eye and an operative in his organization, is killed in the line of duty, Casanova is abruptly kidnapped from his dimension by Newman Xeno, the bandaged kingpin of a criminal organization called W.A.S.T.E. (nope, don’t know what that one means either, but whatever) and dropped into a parallel universe where he is dead and his sister is an evil bitch working for Xeno, who now wants our Casanova to work for him as a double agent in his parallel-father’s organization.
Got all that? Yeah, me neither. But that’s okay because Casanova is back to blow our freaking minds, and we need that kind of Weirdness in our comics.
This comic is about so many things: fathers and sons, love and hate, redemption, greed, egos and faith and the perils of screwing with time and space. And it’s a comic influenced by so many things: rock music, beatnik poetry, James Bond, science, religion, books, comics, the aesthetics of Genres and the ambiguity of Love. And it does it all with such brazen, assured coolness and ruthless swagger that you hardly realize it’s a story that’s trying to tell you meaningful things. It’s also a record of Fraction’s life, of the things that were on his mind and the ideas and music and comics he was feeling passionate about at the time he was writing each script. There’s a kind of honesty to the way he’s let us into his world that I really identified with when this comic first came out, and I’m really grateful to see that vibe continues here in the back matter of this issue.
Casanova is a deeply literate story and every page is packed with content that makes this plot befuddling and captivating at the same time. I first became aware of Ba and Moon through this comic, and it really speaks to their skills how they can take Fraction’s dense scripts and bring them to life with a style that is both effortless and insanely attractive to admire on the page. Moments like Ba’s panels of Casanova being ripped through multiple dimensions or his psychic battle with Fabula Beserko, or Moon’s drug-infused sex scene or the pregnant pause he constructed as the nurse’s heart slowly broke in two, I don’t care, take your pick, they’re all so gorgeously rendered that they easily tell the story in poignant ways that Fraction knows his words simply can’t do justice. And that, I feel, is just part of what makes this comic so damn cool and necessary in the industry right now.
Make no mistake: Casanova is essential reading. It will challenge you, amuse you, and give you some great things to think about. I strongly encourage you to take the trip and enjoy the ride. This is comics storytelling ay its finest and weirdest.