Monday, July 02, 2007

Casanova: Luxuria

Shitty review written for University of Windsor Lance. Not actually a review of the collection since I only own the issues. Ah well.

Casanova: Luxuria
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Gabriel Bá
Image Comics
144 pgs., $24.99 (US)

Okay, so Casanova Quinn is a world class thief whose twin sister, Zephyr works for an international anti-terrorist agency called E.M.P.I.R.E. run by their father except Zephyr just got killed and Casanova just got kidnapped by an evil villain named Newman Xeno from another universe where Zephyr is the thief and Casanova is the good one, so that our Casanova will infiltrate E.M.P.I.R.E. and generally mess things up for them.

And that’s just part of what happens in the first issue.

Luxuria collects the first seven issues of Casanova by writer Matt Fraction and artist Gabriel Bá and never lets up for a moment. Despite the fact that each issue collected has fewer pages than the average comic, Fraction and Bá throw everything they can into each issue, creating a dense, but still quick-moving read.

The general story of these issues has Casanova trying to fit into this new universe, but has problems because each mission E.M.P.I.R.E. sends him on has a counter-mission dictated by Xeno, and he must walk the fine line between the two. In the second issue, he is sent to recall an undercover E.M.P.I.R.E. agent, but Xeno tells him to kill the agent, putting Casanova in a very difficult position.

Most of the missions shown here involve an attempt to dismantle the infrastructure of Sabine Seychelle, a master at building robots . . . that he also likes to have sex with. As the series progresses, Casanova dismantles more and more of Seychelle’s organisation in increasingly strange missions, including kidnapping the next Buddha, sneaking onto an island that appears once every 20 years and posing as a fashion photographer.

Fraction’s writing is very light and quirky but, at the same time, remains grounded. While every issue is full of hilarious moments, Fraction never treats his characters like jokes. What makes the series work is that all of the beyond belief elements presented are treated with respect and complete seriousness.

As well, his ability to balance multiple plots at the same time is impressive. Most issues have three or four plots going on in some way and, while complex, they never become confusing. Fraction uses a blend of sharp dialogue and intelligent pacing to pull everything together.

Gabriel Bá’s art is also a major asset and a lesser artist would get bogged down by the sheer amount of information conveyed on every page. His style is cartoony at times, realistic at others and shifts between the two effortlessly when needed. The use of the single greyish-green colouring also adds more depth to the art.

One of the most impressive achievements of Luxuria is how Fraction and Bá manage to take the clichéd bad boy character of Casanova and, over the course of the seven issues, transform him into a complex individual who defies expectations. It would have been easy to do a series about sexy women, big explosions and witty dialogue, but the pair goes above and beyond to include some fantastic character development as well. In this alternate universe, Casanova is put in a position where he can look at the people he knew from a new perspective, as well as examine his former life.

One of the best comic series in the past few years, Casanova’s first seven issues is collected in Luxuria, a must read for lovers of action-packed super-spy thrillers that involve discussion of the Beatles, naked men fighting and giant Japanese robots. Casanova’s second arc begins with issue eight available in August. It features new series artist Fabio Moon and the question “when is Casanova Quinn?”