This was a long time coming, the return of Casanova. We wanted it. Matt Fraction wanted it. Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon wanted it. It just needed to happen. Thank heavens for Fraction’s superstardom and Marvel’s Icon imprint, which is almost like a reward given to their big-name writers for putting actual effort in their work for hire.
The first issue of Casanova, part one of the “Luxuria” story, is a test. It says to the reader “You must be this smart to enter” as it throws out a dozen characters and ideas in 30 pages, and not regular four-widescreen-panel pages either. If you rewrote Casanova #1 as a decompressed, written-for-the-trade kind of a comic, it would be five issues long with the usual chapter break cliffhangers.
As such, Casanova is hard to describe without sounding like a crazy person. Casanova Quinn is about a supercool thief who is transported to an alternate universe where he’s a supercool secret agent of the espionage organization E.M.P.I.R.E. But, because he’s been transported by the villain of the piece, Newman Xeno, he’s forced to work as a double-agent for the bad guys. So, we spend the first half of the first issue with characters we never see again and the rest of the series with their alternate universe counterparts. For this is one of the great thematic concerns of the book: twins, clones, doubles, alternate universe versions and the like, and the disconnect between them. I won’t be surprised if in the seevnth volume Newman Xeno reveals himself to be Casanova Quinn.
In his witty script, Fraction doesn’t waste a single panel. In fact, he fills his pages with them, but it never feels cluttered or forcibly compressed. He knows when a moment has to be big and allows the usual four-tiered page structure to become three-tiered when the story calls for it. And Gabriel Bá handles the script perfectly with his tight, highly detailed artwork.
When I heard that Casanova was coming out in color I expected lots of bright primary colors and not the gracefully subtle color job that Cris Peter brings to the book. Amazingly, the new colors have the olive green feel of the original “Luxuria” except with some brightly colorful flourishes. This only benefits the art as it highlights small details that were easy to miss the first time around. Every vibrant color makes me excited--the redder-than-red blood, the bright oranges of fire and hair, the ultrapink helicasino sequence.
Then we have the all-new backup story, “I Think I Almost Loved Him” by Fábio Moon, which follows a minor character from the main story, one of those minor lays that James Bond has to get information or to steal a vital piece of intel. You never follow them after that because they tend to, y’know, die. But Fraction and Moon bring a humanity and realism to a character most of us forgot about as soon as Cass was whisked away into a different timeline. The new story is not only a good way to really convince the diehards to double-dip but, more importantly, it reminds you that the gang’s still got it, like a one-off single from a band you thought had called it quits. Except that the band’s getting back together and we just have to listen to the remastered reissues to get back into it.
The original single issues are well worth tracking down for a bit of art comparison and for the backmatter, in which Fraction openly talks about his struggle in writing the issue you’ve just burned through. In the new series Fraction talks about the book’s influences, recommending American Flagg! or The Testament of Dr. Mabuse to his readers.
Internet, please buy Casanova this time. It’s fun, exciting, and often quite funny. It’s James Bond for nerds. It’s Nick Fury for cool people. I guarantee it will make you smarter and prettier with each evil twin and floating casino.
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