REVIEW: Casanova – Gula #1

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Or – “Following A Hunch And A Man Named Fraction…”

I’ve been a fan of the works of Matt Fraction for some months now, but I had never looked at his creator-owned series before an issue appeared in my inbox at work, destined for the back issue bins.  There’s always a danger in jumping on an established series while in motion (the same goes for trains, by the way) but I had faith in Matt’s writing skills and took the plunge.  Now, a new Casanova cycle has begun, and I’m coming along for the ride…

CASANOVA: GULA #1
“In Media Res”
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Fabio Moon
Colors by Cris Peter
Lettering by Dustin K. Harbin
Published by Marvel Comics – Icon
$3.99

Previously, on Casanova:  Casanova Quinn is the black sheep of his family, a sneak thief who never quite made it as a wise man, but found a knack for being a poor man stealin’.  Of course, this is somewhat more impressive when you realize that Daddy Quinn is the head of E.M.P.I.R.E., a sprawling super-spy agency of which Cass’ sister Zephyr became top agent.  Dragged back into his family’s madness by Zephyr’s death, Casanova is thrown into an alternate timeline where it was HE who was the greatest superspy of them all, and started playing both sides of the fence.  Now finally free, Casanova has saved his family, has figured out what he’s really good at, and has set out on the path of the righteous man, but it is yet unclear as to whether he is truly free of the tyranny of evil men…

The first page offers an intriguing question, “When is Casanova Quinn?”  My first impression of this issue comes in the coloring, using primarily blue and green hues rather than full color, which really does add to the overall effect of the art.  Fabio Moon’s work is reminiscent of Rick Veitch or Moebius, and I’m suddenly seized by the nostalgic feeling of reading Epic Illustrated or old-school Heavy Metal.  We are treated to two stories this issue, the first of which starts with a man calling himself Benny Alpha, currently in the hospital (or in hospital, depending on where you are) on an intravenous drip as he meets his doctor, a mean little man called Klockhammer.  The doc makes a big deal about the I.V., insisting that he keep it in as it is “the only thing keeping him alive,” but messes up when he calls the patient “Mr. Quinn.”  Casanova, thus revealed, takes the man out (and does it in a very strange and entertaining manner) and exits the hospital with a particularly wicked touch.  He then calls for his ride home and passes out as he has “prolly been poisoned or somethin’.”  Heh. 

Cass returns to E.M.P.I.R.E. and we’re quickly given a lot of information in bite-sized form, rolling out many plot points and characters in quick succession, then suddenly going full-stop.  We’re shown a panel of a frozen forest, which slowly, over the course of a page, thaws and turns to spring, then suddenly a man races through in a battlesuit, shooting at someone chasing him.  If this page reads the way I think it does, it’s the single coolest “Six Months Later” bit I’ve ever seen.  Things get wacky again, with giant robots, and a sudden infusion of pinks and reds into the color palette, a beautiful touch.  The masked man turns out to be Kaito Best, Casanova’s partner, and his attacker a multi-armed super-hot blue girl from another planet and/or the future.  The page where she reveals herself is absolutely beautiful to look at, by the way, even in an issue full of pretty wonderful art.  We get a bit of business with Casanova’s no-longer-dead sister Zephyr (or IS it?) and his father interrogating the alien girl, with the overarching question being “When is Casanova Quinn?” and a literal final Dun DUN DUNNNNN from the villain of the piece.

I’ll be honest, I have NO idea what any of that was about, but I know that I liked it.  The art is beautiful, an amazing concoction that reminds me of a dozen different guys while not being a clone of anything, and the color palette works to the advantage of the story, getting more and more complex throughout the issue.  The intrigue of wondering who is who and what is up works to the story’s advantage, making me want to delve into this strange little world rather than turning me off, and the letters pages are devoted to a discussion between Fraction and Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O’Malley, which is a treat in and of itself.  Time-travel is in play, double-crosses are evident (especially for poor Zephyr, if that is really who she is) and the whole thing is pretty fascinating to read.  Fraction’s dialogue sells a lot of it, but the little touches in the caption-boxes and the clear tone of the story help as well.  I’m honestly going to be picking up the rest of this series to see where it ends up going, the most successful sign of a good #1 issue.  Casanova: Gula #1 earns a very impressive 5 out of 5 stars overall, making me wish I’d been onboard with this title since day one…  To the back issue bins!

Rating: ★★★★★

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  When was the last time you were flat-out stunned by a new title?