Written by Matt Fraction
Illustrated by Gabriel Ba
The true identity of megasuperdupervillain Newman Xeno is now known to Casanova Quinn and E.M.P.I.R.E. – which means our man Casanova is now a pan-dimensional killer with one target hiding in an infinitely complex sprawl of realities. But what if something happened?
The first issue of this new edition of Casanova was my second favorite comic of September (behind the ridiculously great Habibi by Craig Thompson). Could the second issue live up to the expectations for it, especially when you consider pandas being added to the equation?
Find out after the jump.
Casanova is a beguiling, dense book. It’s also a good book. It’s not a good book in a sense like most comics, in that you can pick it up, read it, and say “damn, that book was a fun” and then be done with it. It’s a story where everything means what it means but it also means something else, and if you can align your thinking with what is happening in the text and the subtext, it is as rewarding of a book as you can find it in comics.
In this issue, Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba guide readers through a story that is, on its surface, the origin of the relationship between protagonist Casanova Quinn and antagonist Newman Xeno (from the perspective of the latter – we’ve already experienced the former), but it’s also a meditation on the effects and relative nature of time as well as the first full appearance of Matt Fraction as a character in his own comic.
Catch all that?
I have to say, the first read of this issue left me cold and confused, but by the third time I started to enjoy the story beats (“dit dit dit dah dah”) as something more than just that. The fog hovering over this issue lifted and left me enjoying this book on a level I did not expect.
Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba play with storytelling conventions in this issue, in particular the usage of both captions and thoughts as text and the flow of time as visually represented in panels.
The former idea – the manipulation of different, color coded mini captions with lower case, jagged lettering (genius move by Dustin Harbin, by the way) to represent more primal thoughts from the characters (true thought bubbles, really) – appeared in the previous issue, and it expands on the characterization and the storytelling potential.
For me, the most exciting part is the way that Ba uses seemingly disconnected imagery in his panels (like the staggered usage of dead Luther Desmond Diamonds) to represent the thoughts of characters, using panels as not just windows in time of what is explicitly happening but also what is implicitly happening. Sasa and Casanova are talking and instead of Casanova simply saying “killing Diamond is breaking me!” Ba illustrates what is going on in his head, and we interpret that how we will.
That’s the thing – Fraction and Ba (and the rest of Team Casanova) are altering and tinkering with the format and delivery of comic book storytelling. Everyone is taking variations of the formulas we know and love, with the creative team playfully adjusting them to be something different and something excitingly more.
Throw out the idea that Luther Desmond Diamond is, for all intents and purposes, a multiversal look at who Matt Fraction is, and then the whole recipe gets more tasty. It’s obvious in some ways that the Diamond that works on a Casanova comic is in fact Fraction, and that we could really be seeing what he thinks of comic critical culture (please don’t kill me like a panda, Matt). At least he’s doing it “for the laffs,” amidst the meta-commentary. It’s all very fun and very next level, and just an exciting look at inside Fraction’s head and his creative process. Combine this with the back matter within this issue and the last, and it becomes obvious that this book has layers for readers to dig into and enjoy more and more with each passing read.Continued below
There is just so much to go into in this book. At the basest level, this book is a mind-bending spy book about fixing the universe created by some of the best and brightest in the industry, and it can be enjoyed for that. The more you get into it, the more you realize that it is so much more. It’s meta-therapy for Fraction. It’s an exercise in the expansion of the way we perceive and the way creators approach comics. It’s a study of the effects of time on narrative, especially the more you strip it down and deconstruct it. It’s meta/self/omni-referential. It’s challenging. It’s dense.
It’s new comics, baby. It’s a revolution and a good time in the midst of it. Enjoy it while you can.
Final Verdict: 9.5 – Dit Dit Dit Dah Dah