Friday, September 9, 2011

Review: Casanova - Avaritia #1

Casanova: Avaritia #1
Matt Fraction (w), Gabriel Bá (a)

It's September! The start of fall! The best and weirdest time of the year! A time of transition, new beginnings, false starts, reboots, fuck-ups, manning up, getting real! DC is pretending to start over from scratch again, we're pulling our sweaters out of storage (or fantasizing about it, depending on your climate), and Casanova is back and having a terrible time.

Are you having a terrible time? I know I am. America is. The comics industry is. If I could name the current zeitgeist, I would call it "WE'RE HAVING A TERRIBLE TIME." Suffice it to say, this new arc of Casanova feels relevant as hell.

If the first two arcs of Casanova were about pushing escapism to its limits, Avaritia is about the consequences of doing that. You can run, but you can't hide. If you're going to tear a hole in the multiquintessence, you have to rebuild it, painstakingly, at whatever cost. Doing the right thing is almost never fun, and responsibility and autonomy are almost always mutually exclusive. You start out as Diabolik and end up as George Bailey. Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

As presaged by the death of Ruby Seychelle in Gula #3, killing is no longer fun or impermanent. Violence is mean, exhausting, and (literally) sickening, right down to the bruisey, rotting fruit color palette (equal parts gorgeous and nauseating). There are literal Xs over the twinkles in Casanova's eyes. The breakneck speed and crowded pages that made the first arcs of Casanova an exuberant romp make Avaritia like running an obstacle course with a hangover.

It's basically fantastic.

As much as, in my innocent heart-of-hearts, I would love to see Casanova keep being the fun, sexy, super-spy forever, there is something sad but heartening about watching him take the tough road, even though it means endless misery (this is why The Long Goodbye is my favorite Raymond Chandler novel--a moral compass is a white elephant of a gift). Fraction makes much, both in this issue's backmatter and in this excellent interview with Laura Hudson on Comics Alliance, of the fact that his creator-owned and work-for-hire comics are apples and oranges. That said, a lot about this issue reminds me of so much of what I liked about his run on Invincible Iron Man (especially #500). It's safe to say, between the two comics, that responsibility is a big concern for Fraction, which makes sense, given his history as a recovering alcoholic. Not to mention, you know, America. "WE'RE HAVING A TERRIBLE TIME." (Not that Fraction is having a terrible time--it sounds like he's doing pretty great, actually! Nice going, Matt! You've earned it! Your wife seems cool as well! Dinner Thursday?)

So, much as it was an unmitigated delight to run away from our problems with Casanova in Luxuria and (to a lesser extent, given the shades of darkness to come) in Gula, it is also reassuring to muscle through the shit with him in Avaritia. God willing we'll all come out of it like an army of Iggy Pops, worn and tattered but still laughing, fighting, and fucking.

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