NOIRVEMBER 006 ~ Casanova

by ryankl

CASANOVA from Gabriel Ba/Fabio Moon/Matt Fraction [and now Michael Chabon] is one of my favourite comics of the past decade. It’s this pop spy comic about being cool and flipping through realities while flipping reality the bird. It’s very modern, with very psychedelic old stuff inspiring the actual core of it. It’s just so goddamn good.


The book is currently in its fourth volume, of which I believe there will be seven, and each volume is dominant for its own specific and varied reasons, which in itself is an insane feat of artistry and skill.

The first volume is LUXURIA and it introduces us to our hero, Casanova Quinn, and his world. This arc is impossibly cool, the characters wild and spectacular, and the structure is just introducing one gonzo thing after another and threading a line that is Cass’ circulatory system. He travels to another version of reality and teams up with his superspy family to take down the bad guys. The chassis of the narrative could almost be clean if it weren’t for the detritus of experimentation and fun the creative team layer into every moment.

Volume 2 was GULA where we followed a broader case across each of the issues and we got a real build to a climax that certainly wasn’t telegraphed, and was something that brought integrity to the title and our lead. If Vol 1 set ‘em up, this volume hit ‘em so hard they split the stuff inside atoms.

These two arcs are stupendous things, really truly great comics, and I could bang on all day about it but I’ll never say it better than Tim Callahan did over seven years ago so instead I’ll link to his essay “Why ‘Casanova’ Matters” and hope you dig [LINK]

Buy, y’see, the book then took a long break, where everyone in the creative team dispersed to create anything from books with Tony Stark to stories about life and love and truth. It was heartbreaking but these were the financial realities of Image books way back when. But then, because providence is real and it loves us, the book was given a chance to return. Something that happens so rarely and so very much needed to happen here. And so we, the few who tune in, were gifted:

Volume 3 – AVARITIA, which put Cass into a new mission and really formalised his place with his story nemesis, Newman Xeno, as they build a Ying/Yang dichotomy. Intertwined, sharing good and bad. Cass tries to wipe him out on all the different realities, and naturally that kind of one-man genocide takes its toll. Here, we got a sense of the true larger scale of all of this, which is fun because the first two arcs certainly weren’t closed door mysteries.

Volume 4 is ACEDIA and it’s playing out now and it’s stripped Cass back a bit and we watch him build back up. Considering AVARITIA had quite a large climax it makes sense to reset Cass a little, take his memory away, and see if he rebuilds in the same way again.

Which brings us to what is to come – because this isn’t a recap, this is a crystal ball into which we might dare to gaze. I can merely postulate, but knowing that Fraction has mapped the story against the seven deadly sins, and he’s burnt through lust, gluttony, greed, and now sloth, this means he has superbia, invidia, and ira to go [pride, envy, and wrath]. In what order those will come who knows, though they say pride cometh before the fall, and noir is the ultimate fall, so I have to ponder:

Is the tale of Casanova Quinn going to be a noir?

I say yes.

Cass is a character who has been built up and shown to make terrible choices. He’s a broken man, not quite doing what’s right, but doing what he wants to think is right. Manning the ship a hard north on a compass he knows won’t ever work quite right. As a noir lead, we desperately want to see Cass succeed but he’s going to need to overcome himself before that will work.

To consider the alternative, could we stomach an ending to the whole mess that’s Cass getting his happily ever after? Would that suit Cass, has he deserved this, and would he even let it happen? You get the sense Cass knows he’s spiralling and he just wants to take a few key players down into the void with him.

I could see Cass sacrificing himself to redeem Newman Xeno, and then even that doesn’t yield a positive result, making his move pointless. There’s a nihilistic streak in Cass and one he uses to his advantage, because if you believe in nothing then you are set free. Cass is so free he spreads his wings and soars through galaxies. And we could, each of us, wonder a variety of ways Cass could ruin his own life/story/world but then there’s always the angle that he’s left fine, and he ruins it all for someone else.

Ultimately, the noir end I feel is coming from Ba/Moon/Fraction, it’s going to be something that I know will happen, I feel must happen, but I get that sense of impending dread that it’s going to crush me just that little bit. It’s not going to be easy and that’s how you measure the quality of your noir. If it lays out simple, it’s dead before it hit the ground. If it’s on its back, sputtering blood into the air, gasping out as you watch, well that’s magic.

CASANOVA is a study in how to look damn fine even in your death throes.