So today I thought I would collect two random observations about Casanova 1 through 6, and say a few spoiler-free words about the upcoming 7.
1. Matt Fraction has Grant Morrison's skill at jamming a series of dense and silly words together so that they hit you in one insane burst. Morrison's tend to be sci-fi: "silver, morphing hyper-dimensional gel" and telepathy that works across the "infra-somber bands of the mood spectrum" (both examples cited in my book). Fraction most often goes pulpy: "sexed up shut in" and "grand mal doll kink nutjob" are two of my favorites.
2. Fraction's device for transcending influence in Casanova is to just slam one influence against another. Watch the way he avoids feeling like Grant Morrison or the Ellis's Authority by shifting from one to the other in a split second:
"He's a big mutant brain. Three, even. I heard he's three monks that practiced some form of occult Zen for so long they fused together in a wad. Whatever -- he's an arrogant special effect and I'm going to fuck him up for money."He is such a master at this that you don't feel Morrison is being ripped off even when he is: digital HIV from Casanova 2 is taken directly from New X-Men, and the pop escape artist who is also in touch with the gods, from Casanova 4, IS Morrison's Mr. Miracle. By making them details in an ocean of stuff -- I didn't even notice the significance of the digital HIV line till the third time I read issue 2 -- Casanova owns them. (The device by which this is achieved is called Transumptive Allusion, and I will talk more about it in the future). As a very young Bob Dylan answered when asked how he felt about stealing so much from other songwriters: "they're mine now." When Fraction quotes South Park in issue 6 -- Zeyphr says the backward "you go to hell, you go to hell and you die" -- you simply don't hear it. The surface of Casanova is too dense to pick apart at a single reading, and you are forced to go for the ride.
In much the same way, the cover to Casanova 7 is an allusion to that Star Wars poster where Leah is hanging sexually on Luke's leg (if you can find an image, please link in the comments) -- in Star Wars, the incest is kept to a minimum, but Fraction has been playing up the incest between his two main characters for so long, why not expose what Star Wars should have been about?
Casanova 7 is every bit as good as every issue before it, which means Fraction and Ba have created, not only some perfect comic books, but a perfect seven issue collection. A new, very fun, character is introduced and the volume ends with quite a coup -- in seven issues this dense the thing manages to end with an open, forward looking final page that transforms a perfect book into the perfect PROLOGUE: with the threads of volume 1 wrapped up, readers can freshly jump on for volume 2 (GULA, the Latin word for Lust), which looks like it will be the next logical step; if volume 1 was about insane characters, volume 2 looks like it will be about an insane TEAM.
Deeply surprising in a completely different vein is the back-matter of issue 7. Talking about the cosmic nature of inspiration and art is an all-but-impossible task; on a subject that demands failure, Fraction makes a strong go of it, one of the better I have seen, and it is a fun read. He also makes some heartbreaking auto-biographical confessions which I will not repeat here (you will understand why when you read them). Casanova is a lot of things -- the epitome of superficial pop-comic tongue-in-cheek-but-not-really genius -- but it is not an emotional or sympathetic book. All of the emotion and sympathy (which are, it turns out, the personal origins of this book) spring, like the Freudian repressed, in the pages after the story's conclusion. On the one hand it is a bit like the E. M. Forster quote about standing a man a drink so he cannot criticize your opinions; but it is also genuinely moving, and surprising, and provides, in an odd apocryphal way, the only thing the book lacks. After seven issues of being surprised on every page, I thought I had this book all figured out.
I have used this Newsradio joke before, but I am going to use it again here: Jimmy James is telling Dave Nelson that when it looks like he is going to zig he zags, and when it looks like he is going to zag -- and Dave cuts him off, anticipating him, and says "that's when you zig." Jimmy replies seriously -- "no. That's when I ZOG." Casanova zigs and zags for seven issues. Then Fraction, in his concluding essay, ZOGS. It's nice to be perpetually surprised by a comic book.