Friday, July 07, 2006

Casanova #1

Casanova #1, June 2006, Image Comics
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Gabriel Ba
Letterer: Sean Konot

This one's a squeaker. That's why this is a challenge.

Reading a comic book every day is no big deal. As I suggested in my introductory post, millions of geeks do it. Reading a comic, reviewing its contents and ultimate role in the overall medium, and posting these thoughts online, in the midst of a ten hour workday, is not so easy.

I intended to read and review DC's Brave New World, an 80-page $1 special offeritastesets of upcoming titles in the wake of their "Infinite Crisis" crossover. I wonder, if some of those characters, like the Atom and the Creeper, couldn't carry a series prior to this latest crisis, what makes DC think they can now? Realizing this, the 80 pages, even in small helpings, were difficult to swallow.

So I moved on to Casanova #1. If you thought you had a busy day at work, consider this episode from Casanova's planner: kidnapping a sex-bot for an alien underlord, battling your militant father's worldwide sanctioned foot soldiers, attending your beloved sister's funeral, slipping through the space-time continuum, and accepting employment from your family's worst enemy, who is working with another incarnation of your sister, who tries (successfully?) to seduce you. This is Casanova #1: an enjoyable roller coaster of spy games, science fiction, and macabre melodrama.

I liked some of the uses and abuses of the comic book medium in this issue. During the funeral scene, sympathetic mourners surround Cass, but their speech balloons are empty, revealing the meaningless of their words. Throughout the story, each character is introduced with an "aside" monologue, which doesn't interrupt the tone or pace of the adventure too distractingly. They don't contribute to the story, but they do heighten its entertainment value.

Incidentally, in his article at the end of the issue, Fraction reveals that Casanova is using the Fell format, but #1 is 28 pages. I assume subsequent issues will only present 16 pages of story, for a meager $1.99 even, like Warren Ellis's Image crime opus Fell. With seemingly so many angles to his universe, I wonder how Fraction will do it. I also wonder, why bother? I know Ellis intended for the Fell format to offer affordable, meaty comics, but to use the format for its own sake seems counterproductive. "I'll make it short because it can be!" Maybe a new format is in order: the Fell format, and for those with an extra buck, an extended version, with a few splashes or something.

Gabriel Ba's artwork is reminiscent of the 100 Bullets team, with a pinch of one of my favorites, Jim Mahfood. His ink work is so finely crafted that I almost didn't notice the book's lack of color; shadow is emphasized with just a flat pine green, adding a mod noir feel to the already off color tale. (Remember Rucka's run on Detective after "No Man's Land?" The colors look like that.) From both an artistic and a literary standpoint, with an introductory issue like this, it's difficult to determine if the contributors blew their wad too soon or if the series will offer such successful consistency. In contrast to Brave New World (which, because I started reading it, is now eliminated from the ACAD challenge), I'd place my bet with a newcomer like Casanova, rather than old horses like Martian Manhunter and Captain Marvel.

He may have a heavy workload, but with just one fun issue under his belt, Cass doesn't have the baggage.

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