Monday, April 19, 2010

Hype Machine - Casanova

It starts with a simple Twitter hashtag: #casanovasback. This is how we know the fantastically brilliant and insanely creative comic from Matt Fraction, Gabriel Ba, and Fabio Moon is set to return in 2010. It took a little while but Fraction was finally able to announce that Casanova is returning but with many differences; being colour, letters, format, and publisher. The original two arcs will be brought to us by Marvel’s Icon imprint and we know some of you out there didn’t read Casanova when it first came out, for whatever reason, or you may have tradewaited yourself 18 months into the future with still no sign of the second arc, so here’s all you want to know about Casanova Quinn but were afraid to ask.

What’s Happening Now?

News of Casanova’s return has many a fanlad (like myself) absolutely ecstatic but I’m sure there are a few that are uncertain of all the hype. Perhaps a few Thomas’ out there harbouring doubt and so today, here on the Hype Machine, I hope to completely convince you why this relaunch is something you need to get behind.

Casanova was an Image comic written by Matt Fraction and drawn by Gabriel Ba. It was launched in June of 2006 and led the way for 16 page comics for only $1.99 an issue, along with Fell from Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith. The series ran for 14 issues, two arcs, and then halted and has not been heard from since May 2008. The first arc, Luxuria, was collected in HC and TPB collections, but the second arc, Gula, still has not been collected.

For those who did miss out on Casanova the first time around you are all in luck, the series is switching to Marvel's Icon imprint who will be re-releasing the fourteen issues of Casanova with all new colouring and lettering (an example of a comparison is shown here of the old helicasino above the new and improved version). The first issue from Fraction and Ba was originally double sized so it’ll come alone, though with a new Moon back up, and then the subsequent six issues which made up the Luxuria arc will be parcelled in pairs so that the entire arc will now only take up four $3.99 issues. Gula will then get four issues, starting with a new number one, and the final issue, much like the original issue 14, is double sized and this time will come with a Ba extra story.

To catch up on two story arcs that spaced 14 issues, readers will now have the opportunity to buy 8 issues and be given more colours and a few extras that weren’t there the first time. Those who did read Casanova will be aware that Fraction, and sometimes his artists, wrote back matter about the creation of the issue. It doesn’t seem like these will be present anymore, but Fraction has hinted that there will be new back matter, so that's pretty cool.

So if this is what’s on offer, why should people race out and buy these glorified reprints of a story only published a few years ago.

How Did It Start?

Casanova Quinn is our main eponymous leading man and he’s a bit of a bastard. An anti-hero as if Sean Connery and a drunk Colin Farrell had an aura offspring with Mick Jagger. He’s a professional thief and when we meet him he’s stealing the Seychelle Ruby, which instead turns out to be a robot-girl named Ruby Seychelle. He goes in only to be ambushed by agents of E.M.P.I.R.E. (Extra-Military Police, Intelligence, Rescue and Espionage) who are to arrest him by order of his father, head agent Cornelius Quinn. Casanova is being requested at the funeral of his twin sister, Zephyr. This is our introduction to the world/s of Casanova Quinn.

The scene of Zephyr’s funeral is a brilliant use of the comic form as Fraction said he wasn’t sure of how to get the words just right so instead the funeral plays out with empty word balloons that surprisingly let the images say so much more of what is going on. Harsh words are spoken, we assume, and Casanova goes his merry way, straight into the Recreational Supermechanix Helicasino where he wins a mental duel with Fabula Berserko, three monks who melded into the one being. He then leaps from the helicasino and activates a strange object he had earlier found buzzing in his pocket. This is how Casanova escapes his plummeting doom and loses six days of his life only to wind up in the bed of a busty nurse.
We then cut to the villain of the piece, Newman Xeno, as he summons Casanova to his evil W.A.S.T.E. HQ to show him his collections of Casanova Quinn’s from other timelines. He wants to use Casanova to take down timeline 909, and he has Zephyr there to help him. Casanova is in a pickle and has to help, plus he just generally doesn’t care much anyway. It’s a great conflict set up for this strange character in a stranger set of worlds.

Casanova hits the 909 timeline in the exact place we found him at the start of the issue, stealing Ruby Seychelle. Here he is instead ambushed by Fabula Berserko but he knows exactly how to deal with this freak already. He puts a few fists through him and hightails it to E.M.P.I.R.E. command. He’s defecting and ready to finally be a little bit good.

All of this is just the first issue.

This should give you some idea of the plotting ways of Casanova. It’s intense, it’s dense, and it most certainly is condensed. Each issue, apart from the double sized first one, was only 16 pages. Fraction makes sure that each page counts and that each panel gives you something that is worth stopping to soak in. It’s hyper-writing at its best. There are more ideas than you know what to do with and when you add them together you always get a new poly-concept that keeps you thinking and intrigued.

What Happened Between Then And Now?

Luxuria – Arc One

I won’t spoil it too heavily, as I know you’re going to race off and add these reprints to your pull list, but the rest of the arc sees Casanova Quinn, Agent of E.M.P.I.R.E. slowly work his way through a few missions. The people he meets and places he go all mean something to the overall tale. It’s like someone was writing scripts of Alias while huffing seventy year old Scotch fumes and injecting the ashes of a burnt Jack Kirby page into their eyeballs.

The first target is Winston Heath, an agent who went undercover in a little town called Agua Pesada, which runs on the wireless sexual energy that’s just in the air due to the orgone levels. Yeah, this is the kind of pseudo-meta-science Casanova traffics in.

The third issue has Casanova tracking down a data source but the real revelations come through the character work. We see Casanova interact with nearly every character and we start to realise that Casanova might just be the original agent of nothing. He’s working every single angle and he doesn’t care about a thing. He’s pulling double duties and working the outcome for himself, where and when he can.

Casanova then goes on a personal mission to set up his sister, protect a hidden family member, punch a god in the brain, interact with the last tribe of a super-advanced pre-neolithic man, go undercover as a photog to hold a nude shoot with a teenage pop act (also a wetworks assassin squad) to get the information printed on their bodies in ultra-violet ink, and see a war relic Japanese robot of mass destruction come to life. Fraction is at his creative best within this title and if you’ve loved what he’s done on larger Marvel titles then I’m sure you’ll appreciate and be in awe of what he does in these pages.

Gula – Arc Two

I’m reticent to write in such detail about the second arc, Gula, because it’s still not collected and I’d hate to spoil the fun. I will say, however, that many consider it to be a greater arc than the first, which says a lot. It didn’t suffer from sophomore slump at all. Fraction, and new artist Fabio Moon, came up with even crazier ideas to use and abuse. The arc sees Casanova Quinn strangely absent from the eye but we visit the effects of his disappearance and we follow his sister, an equally intriguing and mesmerising Quinn, through her own set of missions to complete.

Each issue works as it's own contained story, to a degree, and this issue is definitely more sick than the previous arc. Fraction takes the gang through much more sick machinations via the works of Zephyr. Issue 10 would possibly be my favourite, an endlessly readable tale of movies, killing, life, and sex that only gets better re-reading it later on with more knowledge. There's also a relatively silent issue that says so much.

To say it ends in a shocker is like saying The Sixth Sense shocked audiences. It’s perfectly executed as as soon as you finish the final issue you want to, hell you have to, go back and immerse yourself in the past events and look at them with an informed eye. You’ll appreciate the work that went into everything you get to enjoy..

Who Does He Play With?

Zephyr Quinn

Zephyr Quinn is a sick and disturbed individual. We finally see this completely when she interrogates Casanova while he’s strapped to a table. She’s brutal, and violent, and incestuously sexual (but perhaps not completely overtly). Zephyr is a pleasure nympho and she’ll get it wherever and however, from whomever, she can. Only the gruesome details of a torture can subdue her insane heart. It’s graphic to watch and it’s interesting as all hell. She gorgeous and cruel and the sister that you absolutely do not want to have. You get the feeling that, like her brother Cass, she can just as easily play the game for herself.

Zephyr will play on whichever field will give her the most pleasure. And you cannot always be certain what will please her black heart.

Cornelius Quinn

He’s the father, the leader of E.M.P.I.R.E., and the square shoulders that play the straight field for every other wacky character to diverge and tangent off. He’s gruff and there are shades of Nick Fury in there, if Nick Fury ever produced two strange and unusual spies for children. He’s a great antagonist for any story because he sets a goal and then goes about ensuring that it can be completed. There is no messing around with Cornelius. And he certainly won’t mess around with you. At times, he may seem like the largest stereotype in the book but ultimately there are layers. Cornelius has had to make a lot of choices and those decisions have affected his family in ways he'd rather ignore than let get to him. It's a sad tale of a father who hasn't made his situation work.


The little Japanese guy they find in Kleptomik, the Japanese RMD (Robot of Mass Destruction). He’s a blast as a supporting character and a loyal and decent man which makes him juxtapose so strongly to his environment and surrounding players. You like Kaito at all times and you want to see good happen for him. You also want to see him unleash his fu and kick some ass, which he doesn't shy away from doing. He is able to take center stage when he needs to and he gets a lot more emotion to him in the Gula arc.

Ruby Seychelle

She’s basically one of many lady-bots that are used for pleasure, as created by super-brain, Sabin Seychelle. This one, who rolls with Cass, lost her body and was uploaded into the destroyed form of Fabula Berserko. She is not pretty, though the wig does wonders like you wouldn’t believe. She’s also loyal, but in a much more na├»ve way. She’s the sweet core that no other character has, or admits to even knowing about. You look past her admittedly grotesque form and you love her. It’s a nice little lesson learnt.

Why Is It Awesome?

Quite honestly, I have to say that the writing is so frenetic that if you can keep up you have no choice but to at least respect the audacity and the amount of collected virgin’s hearts that Fraction is wearing on his sleeve when he puts the words onto the page. There are so many concepts, ideas, lines, and laughs along the way that it is an amazing feat that they all still tie in together to create a cohesive, if at times fractured, whole.

Characters posture around at times, but it’s built into the character to do so. You know Casanova is a pretentious bastard, and if you love him for it then you’ll love him forever. He talks like he’s smarter than you and if he is that might come across as disrespect. Or it can come across as exposure to some of the most insane thoughts and words you’ve ever seen strung together and put into someone’s mouth or mind.

I did not find one issue that felt like filler. Even when the ultimate goal of the issue was to set up for the next I still came away with a multitude of moments where I was honestly wowed, where I got something that I could not get anywhere else. I have not found another comic like Casanova in all my reading and as sad as that is it is also making for such anticipation for the final and triumphant return of my favourite agent of, and for, himself.

I could scan and list all of the brilliant Cass moments but there would literally be tens of dozens. Fraction knows how to make the writing satisfying, smart, witty, and mean something. If you can appreciate the helicasinos (derivative, sure, but no doubt grand), or a Fakebook that can control the cosmos (to a degree), and a set of twins who have totem animals that give them weird powers that seem, as yet, not completely defined then you’ll get a tan from the light of awesome radiating out of every page on this book.

The book hits you constantly like Fraction’s using some sort of story combos on us poor readers (up-up-left-right for wild story-fu) and I have no problem finding a comic that can get me into a submission pose in 16 pages. Not much else on the stands offers that sort of quality guarantee.

Brilliant Brazillian Brothers

Gabriel Ba drew Luxuria, even though Fabio Moon was contacted first and he went on to do the covers anyway because Ba doesn’t like doing the covers as much. Ba did a great job on creating all of the mayhem that Fraction scripted. He keeps it simple and in his own Mignola meets drugs style.

He was, sadly, pulled off the title for the Gula arc, only to be replaced by his brother, Moon. Moon brought a very similar style and the results were just as fantastic. Both brothers are able to show us the world of Casanova and make it look like nothing else. They add little touches to everything that makes it unique, individual, and very pleasing to the eye and the brain. There is always something to look at and be amazed by.

Where Does Casanova Go Now?

Poor Cass hasn’t seen a new publication in nearly two years. That’s a while to be away from the limelight but will only make the return that much more triumphant. I liked the original monochrome colour style to the title but I do admit that the new coloured pages do look pretty awesome. It’s certainly a smart move on Marvel’s behalf as they’ll surely be getting a few readers to now double dip and buy again for the new features they’ll be receiving.

The bonus Ba drawn extra at the end of the Gula reprints will serve to extend the reader onto the brand new and much anticipated third arc, Avaritia, which will be drawn by Ba. Fraction has already Tweeted about having scripts completed and sent to Ba and artwork should be well under way. Once they start to hit shelves Fraction says he’ll be quickly working on the fourth arc, Acedia, which is being discussed by Matt Fraction as the 'Orson Welles arc'. If you don't find that interesting then you don't understand Casanova just yet. It was originally slated that Casanova would receive seven arcs, one for each deadly sin, and Fraction hasn’t commented on whether he will be sticking to this plan, but I’m just happy that he’s already talking about scripting the fourth arc. That’s very good news.

The first issue from Icon, the start of the Luxuria arc, will hit stores (and melt faces and minds) in July, so depending on the release schedule we might be waiting until 2011 to get into the new Casanova material, and I can wait that long. All good things come to those of us who wait. Or those who get the chance to catch up due to a fantastic reprinting schedule.


I hate discussing Casanova in such a short amount of space and time, especially as the title itself covers so much of both dimensions. I could easily write an essay about each of the fourteen issues we have been graced with. There is such density that to devote the appropriate time to each would be a massive, and rewarding endeavour, but ultimately that’s not what this article is about. This isn’t about telling you how much I love Casanova and why. This is about getting a few of you out there to find and sample the goodness for yourselves. An idea spoken is heard but an idea shared is understood, and hopefully further disseminated.

Casanova is a smart comic and could be the future for more titles, if a creator decides they have the brains and the balls to give it a go. It doesn’t drag, it doesn’t pander, and it doesn’t get caught up in continuity or crossovers. It’s a pure hit to the cerebellum and you’ll only want more once you get that first taste.

If you’re a fan of reading something different in the four colour medium, if you’re a fan of comics that don’t feature nothing but massive busts (on dudes and lady-dudes) inside tight spandex, if you’re a fan of writing that makes you stop and appreciate how crazy a story can be, and if you’re a fan of great art being matched by the words they present then you’ll sure be a fan of Casanova. Check out the first issue when Icon spreads the gospel this July.

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quelonio said...

Great article, thanks a lot for taking your time to sum it all.

I've been waiting for years to see it published in Spain, now that it is a Marvel’s Icon title, it might happen.

Ivan said...

"Luxuria", "Gula", "Agua Pesada"...seems like the brothers have a hand at naming stuff in the comic. Are there any other Portuguese words?

Looks very interesting.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@Ivan - I thought Luxuria and Gula were Latin for two of the deadly sins, though does Latin inform much Portuguese? I would think so. Fraction has planned from the start to have seven arcs named in Latin for the seven deadly sins.

I could imagine that Ba and Moon probably did have some hand in helping name stuff though...

Ivan said...

Yeah, there's a lot of Latin heritage in Portuguese. I don't know about Latin, but those are two of the deadly sins in Portuguese, Lust (Luxuria) and Gluttony (Gula). And "Agua Pesada" literally means "Heavy Water".

Dickey said...

I think we're all missing out on the main question, regarding the seven deadly sins naming of the volumes. Since the next arc is Avaritia, does that mean Larfleeze is gonna make a guest appearance? It could be the Marvel/DC crossover we've all been waiting for!

Matt Ampersand said...

Just wanted to drop in to mention that "Gula" is gluttony in Spanish, although i didn't know it was like that in Latin too. "Lujuria" is lust and "Avaricia" is greed, so those are small changes too.

Ivan said...

"Avareza" --> Avarice in Portuguese. Yeah, he's going with Latin.

Dickey said...

List of the seven deadly sins (plus virtues) with the Latin beside it. It appears Fraction is going down the list in order. Which brings up two questions. First, do you think Fraction plans to do all seven and stop? I know he's said in interviews that it's frustrating how most comics can't actually end. Two, do the vices have much thematic interplay in the volumes? I know Luxuria had plenty of sexual overtones, but did gluttony play a role in Gula?

Ryan K Lindsay said...

Ah, we have the smartest comments, thanks guys. Real erudition right here!

Not certain, personally, how much those sins actually come into play for the arcs.

The second arc could be said to be about the take down of a gluttonous group/family. Might be stretching it but I'd say it fits...

I think Fraction has said he'd stop at seven, but can't guarantee exactly where I saw that. I know he has ranted previously about comics that don't end, and comics that fear taking a break to ensure the quality is good, and also about comic readers feeling so entitled to their collections at the end of each arc.

So far, Fraction has made this title take two years off, and he's still not collected the last arc. I'd say he'll continue to make a point and wrap this up at seven arcs.

And I can guarantee that I'll be there for every single fucking issue!

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