Friday, July 17, 2009

Casanova: Luxuria

Here's how this works. I read a book or two and tell you about them and try not to get too long-winded. This time, a review of Casanova: Luxuria (volume 1, Image, 2007)

I picked up this nice hardcover edition of Casanova some time back on a friend's suggestion. It compiles the first seven issues of a completely wild spy series by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba and after giving it a second spin recently, I'm even more sold than I was the first time around. This is an excellent, very imaginative story which wears quite a few influences on its sleeve, but is still unlike anything else I can think of.

The story follows Casanova Quinn, a debonair master thief who is also an agent of the international law enforcement organization EMPIRE, but who's also double-crossing EMPIRE on behalf of the evil Newman Zeno, director of the evil WASTE. Oh, yeah, and after an incident in a flying casino, all the pieces get shaken up when Quinn starts afresh in a parallel universe where he had been killed in action a couple of days earlier.

There are robots, bloodthirsty cannibals, double-crosses, triple-crosses, other acronym organizations, sex-droids and serious daddy issues. It is a really immersive experience, told in black and white artwork with spot color, with hardly any pauses for backstory or catchup. Well, occasionally, a caricature of one of Image Comic's editor pops in between panels to remind you where you've seen a character before, but otherwise, this is a series which assumes you're paying attention, but began several pages previously. Just the experience of reading something so dense and told so well is a pleasure.

Casanova has been on hiatus for more than a year. Fourteen issues were published between 2006-2008 before Fraction moved on to to some Marvel superhero comics. Image apparently has held off on releasing a second collection until they can tie it into the title's return. Until then, readers have just this one book available. It reprints the first seven issues, and happily does not end on a cliffhanger, along with some sketchbook material and the original, gorgeous pop art covers from the comics. Some mature themes and visuals suggest that this may not be the best choice for younger readers, but if you enjoy over-the-top espionage stories with crazy technology, then I certainly recommend you check this out. Especially if you were digging Jim Steranko Nick Fury when you were a younger reader yourself!

The Bookshelf will be on a short break but should return before the end of the month.

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