The Comic Book Club: Spawn and Casanova

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DOUGLAS: I really liked the material reprinted in CASANOVA: GULA #1 when it first came out a few years ago, and I’m happy to look at it again now that Matt Fraction and Fábio Moon are bigger names than they were then. It’s a mess of a story–Fraction’s so busy trying to cram everything into every page that the narrative through-line sometimes gets lost–but there’s this crazy, wonderful friction-heat about it. (And I sometimes wish more of Fraction’s mainline Marvel work were as freaky and risky as Casanova: there are touches of that liveliness in his Iron Man, especially, but I just read a stack of his Uncanny X-Men, and he’s been playing that very, very straight.)

GRAEME: Back when it was published for the first time, I thought that “Gula” was where Fraction lost control of narrative altogether, with an ending that was pulled out of its ass and a betrayal of what had gone before. On more recent re-read, though, I realized I was wrong, and that there’s a surprisingly tight plot going on, with clues being left all over the place. This issue, as I’ve said elsewhere, has the one line that outright gives away the ending, but you don’t even realize that it’s there.

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You’re right, though, about the “friction-heat” – it’s reminiscent in that way of Grant Morrison’s Invisibles, and so it was funny to see Fraction and Bryan Lee O’Malley discuss that series in the backmatter. There’s really a sense of this stuff being so important to Fraction that he’s in such a rush to get it down before he forgets that it almost doesn’t matter whether everything gets explained or not.

DOUGLAS: Also neat: Cris Peter’s colors for what was once a two-ink-colors comic. There’s a little note in the back of the paperback of the first Casanova storyline that came out this week about how Gabriel Bá suggested that green should still be its dominant color, and ended up coming up with a set of 45 shades that were the only ones used for the Marvel/Icon reprint of it. This one also looks like it’s got a limited palette, this time built around the cyan from the original version. It looks great, and it makes me wonder why more comics don’t use that sort of formal limitation. Graeme, do you remember when Detective Comics went two-tone for a while? Or, going back further, Max Collins and Terry Beatty’s Ms. Tree?

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GRAEME: God, I loved the two-tone Detective. It was such a visually stunning take, especially with the Dave Johnson covers to boot.

If anything, I think that Peters’ palette this time is even more limited (and closer to the original), and it’s to the benefit of the piece. It’s not “full color” as most superhero comics have, but it’s much smarter color, and really helps the art here. I can remember feeling as if the heavy cyan of the original version of these pages was too much, overwhelming my eye as I read it, and that’s thankfully missing this time around.

Also: Dustin Harbin’s letters! It’s such a small thing, perhaps, but Harbin’s re-letters really change the book for me, in a positive way. I can’t even really explain why, but it makes everything more… personal, perhaps? More relatable? It’s a change that I find myself constantly appreciating more than I expect.

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