Thursday, July 22, 2010

Matt Fraction's Calling Card - Casanova


Recently, in an interview with Comics Alliance, current Marvel super-scribe Matt Fraction spoke of his previous work Casanova. He described it as still being the most personal work of his and that he used it as a calling card once when he met the Hernandez Brothers. It got me thinking, what one comic could each creator use as their specific calling card, what is their pinnacle of achievement in the craft? I thought I’d go through some of my favourite creators and work out their calling cards, and try to describe why they should use that story.

Be warned this is just a rough, and personal, guide through a creator and what I view as their calling card work. Feel free to have your say in the comments below, discussion on this topic is encouraged, and possibly even vital. And I know I've probably banged on enough about Casanova  (with a Hype Machine and review) so far but I thought it best to launch this series with the creator who inspired it.

Matt Fraction – Casanova: Luxuria

When it comes to Matt Fraction it has always begun and ended with Casanova. It’s a phenomenal story of psychedelic spy-fu that takes extreme liberties with the medium and delivers a story that is both face melting and mind bending in quality and tone. If you only read the first trade collection of Casanova, which includes the first arc (Luxuria) in its entire 7 issues, then you will suddenly have a very good understanding of not only the entire universe that Fraction crated and how the people operate within it but you’ll also be given a piece of the writer. The work is so heartfelt and earnest, both in good ways, that you feel like you’re the only one getting to see this story unfold; which ironically isn’t far from the truth as sales would indicate that only a few thousand people in the world would have read the same story.

This story sums up who Matt Fraction really is as a writer, and even who he hopes to be as well. It’s hyperdense as it presents a multitude of realities and characters very quickly and each player in the game has their own stylistic voice and their own terrible vice in life to contend with. Fraction uses personal captions from the characters breaking the fourth wall to give us more behind the story. The language is break neck fast and if you can’t keep up then you’ll miss some snappy one liners as well as some extremely fantastic concepts. Fraction is a smart man, no doubt about it, and here he shows you. He’s either rubbing our face in the superiority it or he’s letting you enjoy the vastness of it’s majesty. How you take it kind of depends on you.

If you were lucky enough to read the series in single issues then you also got to enjoy the very personal back matter that Fraction fills each issue with. He lets you behind the curtain and it’s actually a more rewarding experience than usual. He’s candid and well spoken and you feel a part of the small studio system creating this comic. Many will argue the second story arc, Gula, is the superior work, but I feel that as a calling card Luxuria is the more holistic experience. Not to mention Gula has yet to be collected and no one wants a slippery stack of floppies as a calling card. If you are at all interested in the current or recent works of Matt Fraction then you owe it to yourself to dip a toe in the Casanova waters, they’re icy but it’ll toughen you up a little. It also helps that if you haven't dug Fraction's work on Iron Man or Uncanny X-Men this title is so mindblowingly better than all of that stuff combined.


Conclusion

I’d suggest Casanova to any fan of a comic that’s not just about capes and cowls. This is a frenetic look into the mind of a genius and the wicked world it can create when it thinks it is unfettered. And considering that Marvel's Icon imprint is now reprinting all of Casanova in large $3.99 issues, with new back matter, I can only hope that people get in on the ground floor this time around. Did you check out the rereleased Casanova debut issue? Do you think this is Fraction's calling card work? Let us know in the comments.


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13 comments:

brandon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
brandon said...

Nice review Ryan

I picked up the Icon Casanova a couple of weeks ago. This was my first look at the work. I wanted to love it as much as Criminal but just couldn't get into it. I just couldn't find much in the way that interested me in the characters. However, I did enjoy the backup material very much as it gave more insight into where the creators get their inspiration from. I'm not sure if at $4 I will be trying out the second issue.

Ivan said...

Alan Moore - Watchmen (even though he'd probaly disagree).
Grant Morrison - either Animal Man or JLA.
Warren Ellis - Planetary.
Brian K. Vaughn - Ex Machina.
Geoff Johns - His first Flash run.
Mark Waid - Kingdom Come (back off, I like it).
Kurt Busiek - Avengers run.
Neil Gaiman - Sandman.

Before you go "how could you choose Animal Man over The Invisibles?", keep in mind I haven't read most of these guys work yet.

Nathan Aaron said...

"how could you choose Animal Man over The Invisibles?" - Or Doom Patrol! He singlehandedly resurrected that book for the longest return run it's ever had, and so far he's been the only one to accomplish this. :)

brandon said...

I realize Moore is most known for Watchmen but I would rank that story fourth or fifth among his works in terms of perfection. But identifibility? Hard to argue there. I personally didn't care for it.

And for me, Morrison will always be Doom Patrol. I still re-read that stuff frequently.

I guess it all depends on what "calling card" means...

Kirk Warren said...

Calling card is sort of the defining work that shows off the writer's style and writing perfectly. It may not be the most critically acclaimed or a defining run on a title or commercially successful. It's a bit nebulous in definition and leave's room for personal preference, but hopefully when Ryan rolls out a few more of these, you'll see where he's coming from on each of them.

Jeremy said...

The Invisibles is Morrison's calling card, for sure. It's his most personal series, where all his excesses, ideas, themes, and everything he's ever wanted to say comes through it.

It's almost my least favorite run of his, but that's a discussion for another day.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

Nice, I can see these are going to spark some serious debate, the same sort of words I had with the boss, Kirk.

Calling Card, to me and so for the purposes of this column, will focus on a work that you can hand someone to define that creator. It might not necessarily be their best work but it's the complete (or as close to) definition of what they try to put into their work.

I chose Casanova here because it's exactly what Fraction wants to put on the page, it's dense, it's not superheroes, it's smart, and it's batguano insane. Whether you think this is your fave of hi work or his best is slightly beside the point, this is Fraction on the page.

I have already written up a half dozen more, and planned more after that, and I can see this is going to be contentious, as my views may differ from you guys. With people like Grant Morrison who have such a stellar career and many people have their own faves and opinions I know my decision there will divide fans, but that's the beauty of it, it's just my opinion in the end (but hopefully a well informed and thought out opinion) and I want some people to disagree. Discussion is the key topic.

Also, don't forget, it's just the one trade of a creator that you are dropping. It's something they, or you, could leave with someone and be leaving a piece of themselves with them.

Ivan said...

Eh, I don't know. Sounds very personal, something that should be asked to the authors themselves. Fraction named his own calling card. I'll abstain from further discussion, since I haven't read nearly enough to make this sort of judgement.

twobitspecialist said...

Jeph Loeb - Batman: The Long Halloween

I'm probably wrong, though.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@Ivan - it's personal, but I think it needs an outside perspective, sometimes a writer can try very hard to make something their ultimate work but it might not actually hit the mark, so here I want to try and pick what I'd give someone if they wanted to get into a creator. You don't necessarily give them something that's their best (it could be steeped in continuity or any other myriad of problems) but you give them the best entry card to that world.

Hopefully with a few more entries I'll win you over.

Brian Dickey said...

I like the idea that the calling card can only be one trade for the creator. Makes it far more concise and eliminates the recs for entire series (even though I guess one could pick one volume out of the series). So instead of calling for Morrison's Invisibles, maybe one could go for The Filth. Some of the same themes and frantic madness, but contained in one volume.

I'll pick up on the game here and give my views of a couple calling cards

Warren Ellis - Ministry of Space (or maybe vol. 3 of Transmet)

Kieron Gillen - Phonogram: The Singles Club

Johnathon Hickman - The Nightly News

Ivan said...

@Ryan - Haha, no need for that, dude. You and the entire Weekly Crisis won me over a long time ago. :P

I might not discuss, but I'll certainly stick around to see what other thoughts you have to offer on this subject.

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