Casanova: Avaritia #1A comic review article by: Danny Djeljosevic
The greatness of Casanova is nigh-fucking-impossible to put into words, at least in the casual, non-ejaculatory manner you have to resort to in order to convince other people to read it. Even the last time I met Matt Fraction at a convention I couldn't quite articulate it. The best I could do was "I love this book. I mean, I. LOVE. This. Book" and explain how I bought the original Luxuria trade, tracked down all the single issues for the backmatter (still missing issues 2 and 3) and then the Icon single issues, and thenthe Icon trades. But that doesn't really express how good it is -- it just expresses how obsessed I am with it. So, fuck it, I'm just going to talk about David Bowie since there's a good amount of that coursing through the veins of Casanova anyway. I mean, "Luther Desmond Diamond?"
It turns out that, if you listen to Low while reading it, Casanova: Avaritia #1 feels like the greatest comic book ever made, even though the chronology doesn't make sense -- which paradoxically makes sense for the timeline-bending Casanova. Being the third installment of a trilogy, I decided to experiment a little and read Avaritia to Lodger, the third and oft-ignored Bowie/Eno collabo that every living person (and some of the dead) will tell you doesn't hold up to Low or even "Heroes". You know, the one where all the non-Eno tracks are mostly forgettable? That one. To me, Lodger's major contribution is being an album I'd put on in the car while I drove to the house of this one girl I was dating. Depending on traffic, I usually got there by "D.J." or a little bit into "Look Back in Anger." Good place to stop.
Oddly enough, Lodger kind of syncs up with Avaritia #1.
think of us as fatherless scum
'cause we'll never say anything nice again, will we?
but I'm still getting educated/but I've got to write it down
i'm home/lost my job/and incurably ill/you think this is easy realism
when you're a boy/they'll never clone ya/you're always first on the line
boy, I really get around
Does that mean I'll have to read Acedia to Outside?
Either way, where Lodger is a decline in collaboration, Avaritia is about decline. We revisit our dimension-lost Casanova Quinn sometime after the events of Gula. Outed as a fraud to this universe's version of his father, Casanova is now forced to kill entire universes that sprung from his interdimensional abduction at the hands of supervillain Newman Xeno. Listen, Casanova has never been easy to explain and I'm listening to Low while I write this because I'm sick of Lodger at the moment, which I guess is the difference between the two records.
Needless to say, Casanova's not exactly in a good place. He's tired. Frustrated. Feeling trapped as he does literally the same exact thing over and over, which Fraction and Bá express in a masterstroke four-by-four grid that begs to be read in a variety of ways for maximum enjoyment. I feel the way I felt reading random back issues of American Flagg, where sometimes the panel order just seemed up to me to discern which was the best way to read. It's beautiful and exciting and a sign that Fraction and company still have lots of fun tricks up their sleeve.
One of the great things about Casanova is how Fraction, in scripting the thing, never rests on his laurels. If the tag-team art of Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon and the ever-changing color schemes weren't enough, Fraction gives each volume a different feel, changing up the mood and intent of each new chunk of story.Luxuria established the book's ultradense, pop culture-riddled sci-spy trappings, Gula ripped the formula apart and removed its protagonist for most of the story and now Avaritia is about twisting the formula even more, by infecting Cass' life with the drudgery of repetition.
Avaritia almost anticipates some kind of ill-conceived Casanova TV series where the network demanded a "mission of the week" format where Cass visits a different timeline every week a la Sliders. A lot of shows are like that, y'know -- repeat the formula every week with different elements to create the illusion of change. Then again, a lot of Casanova the actual existing comic was a different mission every month. Maybe Fraction's tired of that, too? After all, "It's been three years, four months, three weeks and one day," remarks Casanova, tracking the amount of time our hero's been trapped in his dead-end job destroying "mutant universes" to correct the timeline. But it's also a meta-moment that reminds us how long we've been waiting since Gula originally ended. Knowing that, and watching Casanova look out into space from what's essentially a helicarrier certainly makes a case for Fraction being frustrated with having only his Marvel Comics superhero work coming out for a few years. As good as they were, Invincible Iron Man andUncanny X-Men have their limits.
Gone in this new volume is the backmatter, even in the slightly-less-personalized form Fraction tweaked into with the Icon reprints. Instead, it's a more traditional letters page, but one no less interesting than previous backmatter. We still get the author's voice and thoughts, but mitigated by readers and admirers interesting enough to end up on the printed page. Maybe the die-hards among us don't really need the ultrapersonal backmatter anymore -- if you've been keeping up since Day One, then you know what Fraction's up to and can see it in the new stories.
Avaritia is beautifully timed, too, coming out the first week of September as if to show comics how it'sreally done. The book was wisely the last release of the week that I read; otherwise, it'd make me feel like I was kind of wasting my money buying even Stormwatch #1 or Action Comics #1. Now, it definitely makes me wonder why I was even bothering reading a borrowed copy of the Justice League Internationalreboot when I could be just reading Casanova again. And again and again. With Avaritia, I don't have to buy the second issue out of some kind of obligation or to see if it gets any better. I know I'm going to read it because it's great from the first one. Casanova is a valuable, important work of pop comics -- not only does it entertain, but it inspires, leaving the mind reeling, alight with ideas and the deep, electrifying desire to create and add to the conversation.
Welcome back, Cass.
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions), film/music critic for Spectrum Culture and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter as @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his newest comic, "Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men," over at Champion City Comics.