Casanova, Vol. 1: Luxuria
written by Matt Fraction
illustrated by Gabriel Ba
With Casanova, Matt Fraction presents a trippy, energetic sci-fi spy thriller that spans the breadth of the space-time continuum with awesome results. Casanova Quinn is the black sheep of the family: a freelance thief whose hated father runs a global paramilitary espionage agency called EMPIRE. His heavily favored twin sister is the agency's star spy until she is murdered while investigating a temporal breach.
Everything starts to go sideways for Quinn when he is abducted into a parallel universe by Newman Xeno, the leader of a terror network hell-bent on the destruction of EMPIRE. In this alternate reality, Quinn is the superstar agent of EMPIRE, while his sister is alive but corrupted by Xeno. Working under Xeno's behest, he is given counter-missions to conduct during his assigned operations in order to undermine the goals of EMPIRE. Both Xeno and EMPIRE have one mutual interest, if not similar desires: the destruction of Sabine Seychelle's criminal empire. In a series of double- and triple-crosses, Quinn struggles to stay one step ahead of everybody in order to survive.
There is a lot going on in Luxuria, the first volume of a proposed seven-part series, and readers will be rewarded for paying close attention. Fraction juggles time-bending alternate realities with spy shenanigans, as Quinn visits exotic locales to grapple with traitors, assassins, sexbots, and ancient military hardware that could destroy the world. Fraction's writing is smooth, filled with smart dashes of humor that occasionally break the fourth wall. Characters, sometimes God Himself, narrate events directly to the reader, bringing them up to speed on the storyline's various threads. Interspersed are a few moments of ironic self-awareness amongst the book's characters that are entertaining, such as an early scene where Xeno is compared to a deranged comic book villain. The plotting is tight across the story arc and the characters are well-defined to the point where an earlier bit of funny, innocuous dialogue reflecting Casanova's speech patterns is later repeated with an "oh, no" sinking feeling. Casanova is a fun ride, but further enriched with a story that, at its heart, is just as much about family and overcoming the old wounds that only those we truly love can inflict upon us.
Gabriel Bá's artwork is nicely stylized and exhibits a strong use and sense of space, especially with small moments where an element of scenery, like a mirror or a knife, can provide a reflection for him to cleverly spin the artwork in a different direction. His close-up portraits are illustrated particularly well, the action scenes are deftly crafted and fluid, and the panels are packed with important detail. Bá has a cinematic style to his framing, working with establishing wide-angle shots that demand attention and inspection, before moving in with closer views that keep the visual element of the book moving swiftly. The illustrations are a terrific marriage with Fraction's script, as the imagery is every bit as cool and evocative as the written element.
Matt Fraction and Gabriel Bá imbue Casanova with an old-style sense of cool, molding their futuristic story with the atmosphere of a bygone era. Filled with action and sexuality, it has a kind of 1960s spy story vibe to it, with a bit of European slick for good measure, which adult readers should find entertaining and rewarding. Combining the sexy panache and action of Sean Connery's James Bond with thrilling, oftentimes crazy, elements, it is among the best sci-fi offerings to come along in recent years.