Thursday, November 11, 2010
by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba
What the FUCK did I just read? It's like old Marvel 'Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD' comics thrown in a blender with Grant Morrison's 'Invisibles' then trying to repaint Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius books. Granted it's all done with Matt Fraction's indelible wit and chock full of chunky ideas and action packed segments.
It's an attractive hardcover, with a 60's-70's vibe plastered all over it, from the trippy color palate and stark design, to the moody Paul Pope/Nick Cave-ish face of Casanova himself. It's quite unlike any other book out there in packaging, if not concept, but it comes with a hefty price tag of $24.99. Is it worth that?
Not really. The gags and action are quite awesome, and the general concept of a time swapped thief turned superspy caught between various warring factions, well that's just all kinds of awesome, tossing in all the things I love. But it really tries to be too clever. The plot is all over the place and I find myself trying to work out what happened and it really is nearly incomprehensible.
And I'm a well trained comic book reader here folks, with twenty years of experience, so I know what I'm talking about. The story has its moments, and the clever ideas are indeed quite clever, and mostly well executed, but the rest inbetween, that little thing we call the plot, it's about as flimsy as it comes.
It reminds me a lot of Fraction's earliest comic, 'Rex Mantooth' from Planet Lar/AIT, which featured a giant talking gorilla supersecretagent in a tuxedo that was illustrated by the lovely Andy Kuhn, and was also chock full of fun (especially the annotated Mantooth which has a running commentary beside each page). But where that was goofy and played it, I feel like Casanova wanted to be taken a bit more seriously, and it falls short.
Granted it does play with the spy tropes and throws in a lot of comic book idioms, but really it's just a big mess of a story with tasty bits. Now, the artwork is quite stunning, and even though the single color shading throughout took some getting used to, it was cool to see something new and when it worked, it worked well. I never was lost to what was happening visually. Just I didn't quite follow the leaps in logic and story structure.
Now, similar critiques could be made about Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius stories, which I love more in theory than practice, but at least he was out there doing it first. Instead this story feels like a cross between a failed pulp novel and an old SHIELD pitch for Marvel with a few hip ideas swiped from today's more polished and esoteric writers.
This isn't a Fraction bash-fest mind you. When the man is on, he's on. His work on Iron Man started rough but rose to brilliant levels, and the previously mentioned 'Rex Mantooth' was thoroughly enjoyable. Maybe I just had high expectations from the concept for the story (sexy superspy sci-fi pulp) and the reviews of it from friends who've read it.
All in all, it wasn't NOT worth reading, and it does set things up in the end (the rather blunt and abrupt ending that wraps up NOTHING) that could potentially make for a really cool second attempt at telling this type of story, but this arc I would consider a failure, and as all spies know, failure will not be tolerated.
I give you all license to kill this book from your reading list.