They say you can never go home again. They are right.
However, you can bump into an old love years later in a trippy disco full of people who aren’t your friends and have an intense and in-depth post-coital discussion over microwave pizza that’ll leave you questioning the existence of love. There is no love, there is only the moment and that fluid existence in the present is dependent on so many external variables that you might as well stop planning and stop hoping. Que sera sera and you mean nothing.
That is what “Casanova: Avaritia” is about.
This is not the same book you no doubt loved originally. That’s a strange thought because even that book is no longer the same; it’s been rereleased with new colors and letters. It’s changed publishing houses, it’s been deconstructed into tiny shards, and it’s been deemed not quite good enough by the creator. What something once was can change over time. As much as “Casanova” changed from Luxuria to Gula, it has now transformed once more. Different is not necessarily bad, but it most certainly is different. To read “Casanova” and love it, you have to be prepared to accept all changes.
Casanova Quinn, the man, is the most drastic change in this new arc. He might also be the worst thing about it. Casanova held the title together, even when he wasn’t there, through his sheer force of character and will. Now, his will is broken and he’s lost much of his character. The verve of Casanova is gone and as such the pages lose their shine a little. Before, it was hard to keep up with Cass. Now, you almost want to run away from him and his hard knock life. Casanova has always been a character unafraid of change and growth, and now we must assess if this turn is better or simply different.
“Casanova” is a book that is about something; that much is always certain. This issue works hard to be about something, but in the process seems to forget to be about anything. There’s some high quality meta analysis you can throw at these words and images and yet when you look at the actual meaning of these pages the summary comes up short. Cass isn’t happy with his new job. That’s a very short version and one where you get the point. But do you care?
The opening scene is a great call back to the original intro all those many moons ago. Back then, Cass loved his job and worked with vigor. Now, Cass hates his job and yet he’s still as technical and successful as before. Is it that Matt Fraction is afraid of ruining his best creation? Or is this his avenue to expose the inner angst and truth of his feelings about his work-for-hire doldrums? Fraction must continue his Marvel work if he’s to pay the bills, regardless of the quality of that work, and he also needs that platform to continue making things like this book. It’s a Catch 22 or a temporal paradox or just a fat pain in the ass. No matter how you split it, Fraction’s stuck and so is Cass. Or are they?
The one thing that remains a constant is the feel and texture of this book. Gabriel Ba excels at making “Casanova” the sort of book you could read upside-down in Spanish and still enjoy greatly. This is a universe completely independent and no one else could ever recreate it, except Ba’s twin brother. The best pages are the ones that don’t rely on the psychedelia to lure you in. There are some truly garish colors on display and yet the standout moments are the quiet touches of Sasa Lisi in the dark, the pink page of singing, or the white of the final page reveal. Sometimes the simpler things are better. While Ba draws the hell out of a tiger-Kali universe tree he also makes me care more with a simple zoom on Cass’ eyes.
“Casanova” is one of the greatest books of all time and this return is not as triumphant as anyone hopes. There are moments of brilliance here and yet they can’t overcome the absence of depth overall. “Casanova: Avaritia” is an ambitious comic that, while successful in many places, will be heavily judged against the previous entries. In this regard, it lacks the raw nature of the original series. This is a good issue, no doubt, with some very fun ticks but it is not sublime.