I’ll start off with an admission: if pressed, Casanova is probably the comic I would call my favorite of all time. I read a torrent of the original issues (sorry, Fraction, Bá & Moon) with all the backmatter and the single-tone shading, then, mind blown and still reeling, I bought the paperbacks in the span of a couple weeks from Amazon. Now, finally, we’re getting a slick hardcover collection of the series with the remastered coloring, the backmatter from the Image single issues and the backmatter from the Icon series. It is literally an embarrassment of riches, so let’s just dive in. For those unfamiliar with the plot of Casanova, Casanova Quinn is a superspy, the son of basically Nick Fury, and a complete bastard. He’s James Bond if James Bond didn’t pretend to social nicety and just fucked and fought his way through every weird thing that came across his path. There are moral quandaries, cheat codes for the universe, mysterious villains with mysterious acronyms, and a man who is literally three monks that meditated too hard, fused together, and became a villain. It’s got it all.
The obvious star is the backmatter; the essays, sketches, color palettes and more are things that we haven’t seen in Casanova since they were originally printed. They’re meticulous, footnoted, and super nerdy--just the way I like them. If you’re looking for an unfettered glimpse into the process of making a comic, this has every step of the way, from the way Fraction outlined some of the issues to Bá’s final decisions as far as switching the comic from the single-tone it was initially published with into the full-color spectacle we have now. As a bonus, some of the most honest, heartbreaking things Fraction has ever written are in the back of this volume, and I applaud him for not only living through some of that darkness, but being able to write it out and share it. It’s heavy, but it’s affecting.
This was the series where I first began to take notice of Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon’s artwork. I’d read Umbrella Academy and someone had loaned me Daytripper, but I hadn’t started it yet. For some reason, even after seeing Bá’s work on Umbrella Academy in its day-glo splendor, this was the book where it hit me that he was a force to be reckoned with. Every panel in this book is dynamic; he punches up jokes that are already funny, he deepens pathos when it’s already sad, and he makes the whole damn thing fun, even when you have no idea what the fuck is happening. It’s all part of the ride, Earthman. He does a fairly deep dive into the process work he put into not only the series sketches initially, but later steps, such as coming up with a palette for the full-color version that makes it full-color without losing the green shading that he was working with on the Image editions.
I wasn’t kidding at the beginning when I said this edition is an embarrassment of riches. You know how they always put out DEFINITIVE editions of movies on DVD and then a few years later a DEFINITIVE BLU RAY comes out and then later it’ll be DEFINITIVELY beamed directly into your brain? This book has reached an apotheosis of form; it’s hardcover without having some wonky die-cut slipcover to get torn, it’s sturdy, and the pages are a heavier weight, for a lush quality. If this book was $50 like the Saga hardcover (which, admittedly, houses 11 more issues than this volume), I’d be a bit irked. It’s a fairly slim volume, after all. Luckily, this book can be yours to a good home for $30. I would have gladly paid more for this volume, but the good people at Image and the DeFraction household and the Bá-Moon household have heard my pleas!
I don’t know what else you want me to say, guys. This book is the best out there, and it’s coming back as a continuing series in January. Get caught up, and get caught up right.
5/5 (they won’t let me give it a 6)
Writer: Matt Fraction Artist: Gabriel Bà and Fàbio Moon Publisher: Image Comics Price: $29.99 Release Date: 11/19/2014 Format: Hardcover; Print