We live in a comic world where Skrulls are invading Manhattan and the heroes of the universe are too busy fighting doppelgangers of themselves in a jungle in the middle of Antarctica. We live in a comic world where Crises abound and the universe’s heroes are fighting their own doppelgangers from parallel Earths. We live in a comic world where Buffy Summers is “batting for both teams,” living out fanboy fantasies from page to page. It’s all big and epic and crazy and just good comics. But none of that matters right now. Because Casanova Quinn is back. And all is right with the world.
There is something very immediate with Casanova 14. I don’t emotionally react to comics very often. It’s an escapist medium. It’s designed for fun and lighthearted goodness. Even those big emotional stories like Identity Crisis always come with some sense of detachment. But this issue hit me. And it hit me hard. There is a Zephyr Quinn internal narrative that runs throughout the book. The way that Fraction writes it just leaps off the page. Zephyr Quinn is screaming for her life. Screaming for mercy. Screaming for release. Screaming for absolution. And it’s all in her head. She’s powerless and aloof and cut off from the world. She has the chance for it to all go away, and she will do anything to let it happen. All this whacked out crazy shit is going on with the space time continuum and alternate universes and giant guns and family issues, but none of it really matters. Because this entire book is about Zephyr Quinn’s chance to get rid of it all. And then Fraction drops the bomb, twists the story up something good, and nothing is what it was. We get one panel in the old pea soup green from the first album with Cass flying through the air with a smile on his face. And everything comes together.
Now comes the part of the review where I start throwing out hyperbole that will probably make this look like fanboy ranting to most people who happen to read this. There is only one other comic I have ever read that elicited the caliber of reaction I got from reading Casanova 14. That book was Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, which I read in 12th grade for an English term paper. It was really the first comic I ever read that wasn’t in strip form. Crisis, Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns, Kingdom Come, Marvels, none of those books struck me like Maus and Cass 14. High praise indeed, and I’m probably crazy for making this claim, but I don’t care. This comes from the heart and the gut. It’s instinctual. And you don’t fucking argue with instinct. You let it take you wherever the hell it wants to go.
And that’s just the story. I haven’t even gotten to Fabio Moon’s incredible art or the crazy framing device of Fraction providing us with a scene by scene mix tape soundtrack that is not only designed to set the mood for each set of pages, but also serves to describe Fraction’s mood and inspiration for every single issue of Casanova. It’s a microcosm of the entire series. It’s layered reference and pop culture at its finest. And Fabio Moon continues to astound. The stark blue coloring remains the stuff of some striking and beautiful fever dream, and Moon’s characterization and expression work (especially as pertains to Zephyr and Casanova) is second to none. The release of the crows is a breathtaking panel. His sequential storytelling is nuanced and fits the script perfectly. As I said before, everything comes together.
This is the perfect storm of comics. Flawless writing combined with flawless art. The culmination of fourteen wonderful issues. A massive twist that doesn’t come off as cheap or manipulative, and allows for a completely different rereading of the second album. You come to realize that all this time, Fraction has deftly and seamlessly written two different stories for the past seven issues, allowing the books to read as both illusion and truth. As someone who’s seen some of his Marvel work (Punisher mainly) decline in my eyes, this is the type of thing that makes me not care. He can write Casanova for the rest of his life, even if it means dropping every other book. It’s big and it’s powerful and it’s emotional and it’s cool and it’s complex and it’s exploitation and it’s pop culture and trash culture personified and it’s awesome. It’s all of those things and more. And it might be the best comic I have ever read.