Things I Loved About Comics This Year Part Two: The Secret of The Ooze

 

Favorite comic books of the year post, PART 2! (I almost typed Part @ cause I held down the shift key. And you would have been yelling “Part AT what, Paul? Part at WHAAAAAT? So you’re welcome for me saving you from that agita). As is common in this Western culture of ours, we must sum up the things we enjoyed during the period of the fiscal year in order to…well…seem smart to all our friends. I wrote part one yesterday, go read it if you haven’t. I’ll be waiting.

Today, I’ll be focusing on one book: Casanova: Avaritia by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba.

I wrote about the mini series preceding Avaritia, Gula, a little while back. That is one of the few things I’ve written that I’ve liked recently. But enough about me. I’m talkin’ bout Casanova. The interdimensional super spy that can’t help but hurt everyone he loves and hates himself for it. I read both Gula and Avaritia this year. As I mentioned, Gula floored me. Avaritia…it ALMOST floored me, but was still pretty damned amazing.
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Fraction’s second issue involves dimension hopping as well as airing his anxieties as a writer, AND some anxieties about the medium as well as genre that he’s chosen to tell this story in. Not in a “comics are bullshit and I want to be a novelist” way, but really in an honest, “step back and wonder what it is you’ve done and how much your audience is reading into things (answer: A LOT. See this post – Roy)” kind of way. It’s also done in a hilariously entertaining manner via Gabriel Ba’s kinetic artwork and Fraction’s self-mocking dialogue.

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But oh yeah, there’s also a story in this thing. This tale of a super spy living in the wrong dimension with no friends, no family, only a mission. His mission (which he didn’t choose to accept), is to kill every single version of his arch enemy Newman Xeno, sometimes destroying entire universes to do so. It takes a toll on the guy.
Screen Shot 2012-12-12 at 7.14.46 AMBut after killing so many versions of Newman Xeno before he can become a totally evil guy, something funny happens.

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Casanova has a conversation with the guy and sees he’s not so bad. He sees the potential to undo a wrong (turns out all this dimension murdering and time travel CREATES his archenemy) by making sure that one of the Xenos (real name: Luther Desmond Diamond) can live a normal life and be a good guy. He also manages to fall for him in the process. EMOTIONS? You just got taken on a ROLLER COASTER.

You can buy this series in all the places I tell you to buy things, but you really should start with the first book, Casanova: Luxuria. If you’ve already read that, as well as Gula, then you’re set! Go ahead and read Casanova: Avaritia, worry free (except for the worry that you might cry, cause there’s a good chance you will). This is one of THE BEST comics I read this year, and honestly one of the ones that restored my enthusiasm in the medium.

 

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Casanova: Gula or Bear With Me As I Talk About Comics and Emotions

I’m going to do something weird here, so bear with me.

Ok, ready to indulge me? Of course you are! I’m not going to start with the beginning, or with the most recent volume. Today, we’re talking about Casanova: Gula, the second of three volumes of Matt Fraction, Gabriel Ba and Fabion Moon’s Casanova series. You most definitely should start with the first book, Luxuria, and read the follow up Avaritia. And then read the four books that are to come (there’s supposed to be one for each deadly sin).

I’m talking about Gula, because as I mentioned in my post earlier this week, this book really moved me.

“I’ve told a lot of lies. Pretended to be a lot of things to a lot of people.” THIS. Man, on man. THIS. First off, this (again with the this?) is the titular character of the series, Casanova Quinn.

SUPER QUICK PLOT DOWNLOAD! Casanova Quinn is an international thief, hunted by his father and sister who are super spies UNTIL he’s brought into a parallel universe where HE is known as a super spy and his sister is a super criminal AND…shit, well, it’s complicated. And that’s mostly setup and dealt with in the first volume, Luxuria. This volume, the above panel? Well, it’s where shit gets real. 

But that panel, and the scene that it’s a part of? I felt it. I really did. I could go into the anxiety I feel in being someone different to different people, but it would get all rambly. Short version, this comic book series gets me. On both a “real shit that I feel” level and on a “crazy fantastical action-adventure level.”

That page? Both levels at the same time. Art talk: Gula is drawn by Fabio Moon, while his brother Gabriel Ba draws Luxuria and Avaritia. They’re very similar, but I feel like Moon draws everyone just a smidge bulkier. I love both their styles. They manage to pull off kinetic balls to the wall action while making their characters emote like crazy. Also, Cris Peter’s colors are insanely good. Aside from this book and Hawkeye (which Fraction also writes), I don’t know of too many that use colors so effectively. And this series started out as a book with a two-tone color scheme in order to save money on printing and keep the costs down (It’s great in two-tone as well, but THE COLORS, DUKE, THE COLORS! Um, disclaimer I guess…if you are color blind, you may not appreciate this book on a color level like those of us that aren’t color blind do).

I tend to, or at least used to tend to read comics fairly quickly. Sometimes missing things and needing to go back. Reading panel by panel digitally has helped with this, but Fraction adds a suggested soundtrack to some of his comics. I haven’t done this yet, but I want to attempt to read a comic, with the suggested soundtrack, at the pace of the music. I will report back when I do so.

SEX!

On top of you know, emotions and all that, this book is DRIPPING with sex. And not in a “Hey nerds” kind of way, but in a “We’re artists from Brazil, so we’re going to draw sexy art in a mature, artistic, sensual manner” sort of way.

And I think I mentioned balls to the wall action? What about…boobs in your face action? Like the “using an empty gun as a weapon move” that I’m so fond of, the “distract the opponent with boobs, then kick them in the face move” is one that isn’t used enough, despite it’s innate practicality, efficiency, and high success rate.

So I started kind of deep and then covered myself up with a few layers. This comic goes back and forth with that as well. There’s a lot of “Matt Fraction, Comic Book Writer” in this series, and how that makes him feel.

Casanova: Gula is something that worked for me. The book appealed to the part of me that loves over-the-top action (und comedy), to the part of me that loves slow-cooked food, to the part of me that loves sex (and sexy things), and to the part of me that’s gotten gut punched emotionally. It is most definitely not for everyone. But for those who know me, and in reading this site have gotten to know me a bit, if you feel we’re pretty alike, then you should most definitely READ THIS COMIC!

The First Comics I Read

The first comic book I ever read was an issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures. I was likely in Kindergarden or first grade. While at my parents’ friends house for dinner, I’m guessing my folks mentioned that I was into the Ninja Turtles toys and cartoon. So their friend showed off a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book. Soon after that, I was in my first comic book store, Flashpoint Comics. (The store closed when moving from elementary school to middle school. One of the last issues I bought was an issue of Ghost Rider. I cried. Cried due to the store closing, not due to Ghost Rider. I think).

One of the first Marvel Comics I read was X-Men. I started reading it before the cartoon, but can’t tell you exactly why. I know there were toys first. I had a Cyclops action figure before I ever had a comic book featuring him. The comic was probably drawn by Jim Lee, or one of the Kuberts. Rogue probably called someone “Sugah.”

The first Superman comic I ever read was Superman #75 which featured his “death.” (Spoiler: he got better).

I bought a lot of “Indie” books as I got into middle school. These were published by Image and heavy on the boobage. During this period, I bought a lot of comics that I thought were going to be worth something one day. (Spoiler, they weren’t, and won’t likely be worth anything. If anyone ever pays money again for the bulk of the comics I got rid of, they are a nostalgic fool). They mostly looked like this:

There was a lot of time spent…alone…with these comics…

I stopped buying comics in the middle of high school, the idea being, that that would make me cooler to girls. See also: buying stereo system, guitar lessons, and joining art club for other failed high school attempts at impressing the ladies. My first comic after this self imposed sabbatical was an issue of New X-Men by Grant Morrison and Igor Kordey. It was unlike any comic book I had read before. The art was ugly (by my understanding of what comics were supposed to be), and everything was confusing and different from the way comics used to be. I talked about this comic with my senior year art teacher, and the fact that an adult was into it helped legitimize comics for me.

 

My first non super hero, non toy-based comic was read in college. I don’t recall exactly which was my first, but my friend Chris Ritter introduced me to a lot. He’s responsible for making me aware of Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Brian Wood, Jim Mahfood, and generally, the idea that there were people making these books, and not just awesome characters punching each other.

I bought a lot of comics after college, mostly out of habit, not really enjoying them. The first comic I read that helped break me out of that, that got me excited again was The Nightly News by Jonathan Hickman.

 

Then I fell back into reading stuff that depressed me. Or maybe it wasn’t the comics that depressed me, but the act? The act of going to the comic store after work, looking for escape. The excitement caused by a cover, followed by the ultimate disappointment at either a padded or just plain old disappointing story.

The first digital comic I read was…well, I don’t really recall. But I got some gift cards at Christmas this past December. I had recently bought a Kindle Fire, had started reading some comics digitally, and the first comic I read in that format that really excited me, that really lit my comic book fire in general was Casanova: Gula by Matt Fraction and Fabio Moon. I had read Casanova: Luxuria (also written by Fraction, with art by Moon’s twin brother Gabriel Ba), the first book in this series, but Gula was so…heartbreaking.

You never see the aftermath of an action or horror story. You don’t get to see characters deal with things or try to fix things. Gula is that on a COSMIC scale. This is another comic that I’ve promised to talk about more, and will do so later this week. But anyway, these are a bunch of my “first comics.”

 

P.S. My LAST Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures comic featured a back up story with “The Mighty Mutanimals.” They were all similarly mutated or alien creatures that had teamed up with the Turtles at one time or another and had formed their own supergroup. They dealt a lot with environmental issues. They were all brutally murdered in this issue. It was…weird.