Casanova III: Avaritia #1
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Gabriel Ba
Color by Cris Peter
Letters by Dustin K. Harbin
$4.99 / Color / 40 pages
Icon / Marvel Comics
If you’ve ever held an open laptop out before you like a divining rod, chasing an elusive wi-fi signal through some public terminal, you may commiserate with my own attempts to figure this shit out.
Though I’m in the site’s minority in actually enjoying some of Fraction’s Fear Itself, I am a third party when it comes to the Casanova game. There is clearly a transaction of passion between author and select readers which plays to me like those moments when R2D2 makes a series of blip-bleeps and Luke nods knowingly. Or the complex language developed by twins before they’re forced to play by society’s rules. Lassie indicating through barks that Timmy is not only trapped in a well, but that there’s dynamite down there too.
I’m just missing something. And I can’t define it.
Likely, this has less to do with intelligence or experience and much more to do with some mysterious factor we’ll call x. As humans, we simply don’t receive on all signals. It’s why we’re not best friends with absolutely everybody, regardless of shared circumstances.
Put it this way. Try as I might to tune in, I am simply not subscribed to the Matt Fraction premium cable package, leaving his most personal and idiosyncratic work decidedly incomprehensible. Though, like scrambled pornography, those infrequent flashes of ascertainable goodness are all the more a commodity. Forbidden fruit for the picking. To wit, I smirked at a few panels.
All this to say, I have no idea what I’m meant to glean from this wildly erratic narrative. Yes, Casanova Quinn remains a rapscallion man-out-of-time, miserable in his Kafkaesque task of unending temporal waste management for E.M.P.I.R.E. He peers through the long-crumbled 4th wall to acknowledge that metaphor and reality have never been all too discernible in this series. There are literal McGuffins walking in and out of this story, clearly labeled. Car chases. Nudity. Kirby Krackle. But to what end?
My takeaway, made all too apparent by the shared artist, is that Casanova–visually and otherwise–has nothing on Umbrella Academy, a series with similar themes and ambitions. Both aspire to ultracool, operatic heights, but it’s Way’s book that offers rip-roaring invention, bravado, and sheer fun. Where one goes about defying gravity by way of nitrous infused helium, the other is all hot air.
Since the language did not zero in on my ticklish places, I was left with plot and art. The former left me wanting, as it amounted to a superficial time travel romp with sleepwalking characters. Ennui for eons and eons. Clearly Fraction is passionate about something, but the characters themselves don’t seem so enthused as the overall narrative voice. They seem to be drowning in all the psychobabble. I’ve found myself mesmerized by complex metaphysics from the likes of Morrison and Ellis, though those instances always came with the understanding that there was true substance behind all the concepts. Here, it comes off as hollow. Depthless. The art is far muddier and inconsistent than other recent projects to which Ba has contributed, especially lately. There are a few laudable images, including a brief 3D sequence and a Mignola-esque page associated with “spatiotemporal holocausts” but nothing feels as lovingly polished as Daytripper or Umbrella Academy. Minus the lingo and assumed swagger, the Emperor–not unlike Cas throughout much of the issue–has no clothes.
Story: 2 / Art: 3 / Overall: 2
(Out of 5)