The very first post I wrote on this blog, long since deleted (yes, occasionally I prune this unweildy bush), was on the first issue of Casanova from Image Comics. This was back when I thought I’d be blogging mainly on the subject of funny books, which I seem to have wandered quite a distance away from over the course of only 18 months and 140 or so posts. It’s weird where the muse takes you.
Casanova is now on issue 11, and is still the best comic on the racks. And still I am unable to quite articulate what is so perfect about this little gem. Guttergeek took a rather good stab at it, and identified a lot of the things I hooked onto (the Morrison/Doom Patrol comparison particularly) and the babbling messiahs on the barbelith forum are trying their best too. But, if I were to attempt and boil it down to one thing, it would have to be this – it’s dense. In a good way. Dense with plot, style, cultural references. Dense. Oh, and it’s sexy too. Sexy and dense.
Back in 1988, there was another comic that had a very similarly feel to it – Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin’s Tank Girl (twenty years ago! shit), which ran in Deadline. It looks rather dated these days, but that’s okay, because it shows how much a part of the zeitgeist it was when it was being published. One thing I really loved about Tank Girl was the way you got a sense of what they were listening to as they were creating it (Morrissey, The Pixies, and the other great indie stuff of that period). You get this same sense with Casanova too, but with a wider range of cultural influences mushed in. And if you don’t, the creative process behind the issue is discussed in the back matter, which involves the reader even more. Tank Girl‘s experimentation with the form is there too, breaking panels, subverting expectation wherever possible. In 1988 it all felt a little more anarchic, but after two decades of political correctness, Casanova’s slick storytelling can still feel like a shot in the arm.
The plot is basically cross-dimensional sci-fi super spies, pure comics in a Silver Age style, but with a very modern sensibility. Imagine James Bond, or The Man From UNCLE, on drugs, naked, snogging their own sisters, and you’ll be getting close.
Incidentally, it’s funny what you can get away with in a three colour book. If you’d got Adam Warren or Frank Cho to draw this amount of nudity and perversion in full colour, the book would be just porn. But with the abstract lines and limited colour palette used by Gabriel Ba, and more recently his brother Fabio Moon, this becomes something much more lighthearted and groovy. Ba, incidentally, is now working on The Umbrella Academy, which may just be the second best comic on the racks right now.
Matt Fraction, the writer, is starting to make a name for himself at Marvel, so it is only a matter of time before he sells out and wastes all his crazy ideas writing nothing but X-shite for a living, so we should enjoy this book while we’ve got it. I urge you to give it a try. There is a hefty hardback of the first seven issues available, but this is really one that makes more sense in singles. Issue 1 is still available free online here, so make your own mind up and let me know what you think.
And if Cass doesn’t do it for you, or you need other suggestions of something to read, check out Mighty Matt Brady’s picks of 2007. He’s a man of taste.