Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin’s weekly single issue review roundup.
Casanova: Acedia #6 (Image Comics)
(W) Matt Fraction (A) Fábio Moon
With Casanova: Acedia #6, Matt Fraction and Fábio Moon open strange doors that we can never close again. Ashes to ashes, funk to funky; everything burns bright then smolders, glowing, sending up wisps of curling smoke that coalesce on the ceiling, as if markers of time, as if symbols of chimeras. As Fraction writes in this issue, “Turns out ‘when’ has a pretty broad definition.” This is what happens when the central idea upon which this series turns has everything to do with identity in the space-time continuum. Especially when everyone is trying to kill you — because you’re dangerous, because when you figure out how dangerous you are, you may start killing. It’s no game.
Silhouettes and shadows. Watch the revolution.
What are you responsible for if you’re not in the same cosmological manifold as the actions you performed them in? What defines comfort and family if you are from a different dimension? What traces do you leave of yourself and what do you “deserve”? Is there a central core to your being that you can shout out while you’re dancing on the whole dance floor?
Fraction and Moon push Casanova: Acedia #6 into whatever heat source they are using to bake this baumkuchen, adding to the batter strange spices you’ve never heard of before, ones that leave a thick tin-taste in the back of your throat and smell like the skin of lovers you’ve never met and the fetor of nightmares you can’t remember dreaming. It rushes to moments of strange reflection. It’s got nothing to do with you if one can grasp it. It’s got everything to do with you if one tries to forget.
We ask for love and they give us a dangerous mind.
There are no jumping-on points in Casanova, as the beginning is the ending of a story that takes place in the middle. Nobody in comics is having as much fun as Matt Fraction is as he writes this series, and very few are doing this sort of spectacular blend of pencils, inks, and colors as Fábio Moon. What you have is a beautiful work of art at which to look, to taste, to feel.
Draw the blinds on yesterday and it’s all so much scarier. Whatever scary monsters and super creeps are walking through the endless doors and passageways that are part of Casanova: Acedia are confrontations that must be had. In the quest for self-actualization, all demons and assassins and douchebags must be confronted.
It’s no game.
— Daniel Elkin
She-Wolf #2 (Image Comics)
(W/A) Rich Tommaso
Rich Tommaso has proven himself capable of mastering multiple genres without losing his unique perspective or style. She-Wolf #1 promised a dreamlike horror story devoted to aesthetic pleasure and exploration above all else. This promise is what leads to She-Wolf #2 deflating as it loses focus of what makes itself compelling.
Narrative is pushed to the forefront of this installment, and it is the weakest element of the comic. The plot is riddled with tropes, including a rivalrous relationship between vampires and werewolves and the inclusion of family conspiracies. While these sorts of elements were already present, they were background. Here the explanation of what is occurring is emphasized in long stretches of expository dialogue. While this serves to explain the whys and wherefores of She-Wolf, those aren’t questions that ever needed to be answered. Focusing so much on characters and their relationships reveals these elements of She-Wolf to be hollow, as characters barely summon motives or history. Long stretches of word balloons slow the pacing of She-Wolf #2 considerably and cover the real charm of the book.
That charm is Tomasso’s artwork and ethereal pages. The stranger She-Wolf gets the better it is. Even in sequences where two characters stand in a room or waterpark and talk, there is plenty to enjoy. Tomasso’s soft watercolors are exceedingly pleasant to the eye and encourage readers to soak in each moment. He never wastes an opportunity to add ideas, and backgrounds to exposition still provide plenty to enjoy. Violence is something that Tomasso really excels at. An action sequence between vampire and werewolf is wordless and breathless. There is no holding back and the use of red, spattered inks to indicate blood play beautifully against the soft tones on the page.
The issue is at its absolute best though when things become truly trippy. Stretching forms, non sequitur sequencing and settings, and symbol-laden panels are what will make you think about this comic long after you’ve set it down. These images capture the look and feel of a werewolf story beautifully, and need no explanation; they are a primal thing. It’s simply too bad that there’s so much focus on connecting the dots when She-Wolf is at its best drifting through the stars.
— Chase Magnett
Usagi Yojimbo #156 (Dark Horse Comics)
(w/a) Stan Sakai
Usagi Yojimbo #156, the middle chapter of “The Secret of the Hell Screen”, sees Stan Sakai deliver another quality issue in his ongoing saga starring the rabbit ronin, Miyamoto Usagi.
I could end my review there, because that’s the reputation Usagi Yojimbo carries. For thirty years, Sakai has consistently delivered one of the best comics available to readers. It’s because of that consistency that it has become an overlooked gem in Dark Horse’s stable of serialized storytelling. The series has combined Japanese folklore with the almost universal appeal of anthropomorphic animals to enable Sakai to master a wide range of literary genres. Issue #156 of the series’ third volume continues that tradition, with Sakai demonstrating adept skill in the murder-mystery genre.
The setting for Sakai’s narrative is timeless: a dispute over land. Even though the series appears to be set during the Edo Period, the setup is one that readers of today can identify with. Land is among the most finite and definable resources on Earth. Want to know how much is available? Pull out a map. Today, neighbors in suburbia argue over property lines while nations are in conflict over borders. So when Sakai features a land dispute as the arc’s backdrop, it is something readers can instantly latch onto.
The murders themselves are equally gruesome and suspenseful. Moreover, there are few (if any) clues as to the perpetrator’s identity meaning anyone could be a suspect. There is an element of the supernatural thrown in, but it appears to be a red herring based on the issue’s concluding page. But what really sells the story is the tension between characters in conversation. With each exchange, the animosity and distrust between characters – save for Usagi and Inspector Ishida – grows. The end result is proof of something that is already well known – Stan Sakai is a world-class graphic artist and storyteller.
— Daniel Gehen