Having officially moved to waiting for the trades, it took me this long to get into Casanova. That’s a shame because it is one killer comic, and its slimline format just might be enough to get me back into the shop on Wednesday afternoons. I recently picked up the first collected volume Casanova Volume 1: Luxuria.
Matt Fraction has created a melange of far-out espionage and science fiction tropes that manages to be both reminiscent of what has come before and still fresh and original. The plot, which is intricate and exceedingly bizarre, centers on one Casanova Quinn a bad-ass super thief not unlike Diabolik. The comic opens with him ninja-ing his way into a European villa to steal a ruby, which turns out not to be a precious gem, but rather a sex-android named Ruby. The heist goes awry when he is busted by E.M.P.I.R.E the worldwide espionage/law enforcement agency that his father runs from a position of Nick Fury-like authority. It seems Casanova’s twin sister Zephyr, star agent of E.M.P.I.R.E., is dead. She went down in the line of duty and Casanova’s father wants him to attend the funeral. Cass is the black sheep of his family, it seems. Tending toward crime and chaos while his family sticks to law and order. Before long, a renegade crime lord from a parallel world recruits Casanova Quinn by dragging him into a world where the roles are reversed. In his new surroundings, he was the agent of E.M.P.I.R.E. who died while his sister is the rogue. The crime lord, Newman Xeno wants to use Casanova to impersonate his erstwhile surrogate and infiltrate the organization.
That is just the starting point and over the six issues that make up Luxuria, Casanova Quinn finds himself engaging in psychic combat with “three monks that practiced some form of occult zen for so long they fused together as a wad” and mutated into a floating mutant brain, defending a highly technological secret island whose inhabitants pretend to be primitive tribesmen from the outside world after taking “a bongload of evolution,” and taking over a giant Chinese war robot for his own purposes. Fraction takes the reader on a pretty wild ride and it’s up to you to keep up. The issues are more or less self-contained, and while there is a definite overall story progressing the emphasis is on the psychedelic adventure of the current story. Occasionally, the characters will have an aside where they fill the reader in on important bits of information in-character. It’s a device that could grow tiresome, but Fraction uses it sparingly enough that when Casanova appears in an aside it doesn’t get on my nerves.
Oh yeah, at one point Casanova has to punch an ascended god in the brain and then create a robot double of him.
Matt Fraction wears his influences on his sleeve with this work, but Luxuria reads more like a loving homage than any sort of derivative knock-off. There is a hearty dose of Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius in Casanova Quinn’s freewheeling Devil-May-Care attitude and jaunting from parallel worlds. Like Cornelius, Casanova is an agent of chaos but he’s too cool to be truly evil. There are echoes of Nick Fury and S.H.E.I.L.D., and references to The Crying of Lot 49 among others. There is a definite aura of psychedelic spy fiction, like what you would see if you dropped LSD and watched all the James Bond Movies back to back with episodes of Alias
in between while listening to Grace Slick. It feels hectic and weird, but in a good way. There is a great deal going on in each individual chapter of Luxuria, and a number of different influences but the author blends them pretty seamlessly and the result is a totally fun comic with tons of intrigue, adventure, betrayals and doublecrosses (on both sides of the law), sex, and exploding robot monsters.
I’m not wild about the artwork, though. Gabriel Ba certainly brings an energy to the proceedings and the layouts work well but there is something about his anatomy that I am just not wild about. There is a green hue to the art that initially turned me off but I warmed up to over the course of Luxuria. This is personal preference, and other might disagree but I am curious to see how the book looks now that Gabriel Ba’s twin brother Fabio Moon has taken over penciling chores. I understand it has switched to a blue shift. Interesting…
I understand that Matt Fraction wants to release a total of seven Casanova collections, naming each one after the seven deadly sins : Luxuria (lust), Gula (gluttony), Avaritia (greed), Acedia (sloth), Ira (wrath), Invidia (envy), and Superbia (pride). I’m sure that Casanova Quinn and his associates are filled to the brim with these characteristics and I am fully on board for the next one.