Casanova: Acedia #1

Casanova Quinn is back in "Casanova: Acedia" #1 by Matt Fraction, Fábio Moon, Michael Chabon and Gabriel Bá. Fraction picks up the story many months after where "Casanova: Avaritia" left off, with the crash of the time machine in Hollywood. It's not clear why this is the "Acedia"-subtitled story, since there's no sign of sloth in the action or themes yet.

Right off, Fraction sets up two plotting gimmicks that quickly build structure and suspense. Casanova now has amnesia, a rare condition in real life but ridiculously frequent in fiction. Amnesia is popular because it's such an irresistible provider, gift-wrapping suspense, mystery, motivation and a shortcut on exposition in one tidy package. Amnesiatic protagonists usually have the motor and intellectual abilities of their true age in combination with the self-knowledge of near-babes. Casanova has been reborn as a detective of his own life, on a built-in quest to recover the lost knowledge of identity and history. Every encounter is tense with the promise of a lead.

Fraction conveniently pairs up Casanova up with a fellow amnesiac, Amiel Boutique, and the two strike a deal to work to discover each other's true identity and history. Amnesia makes "Casanova: Acedia" very friendly to new readers, but two amnesiacs is too much to swallow if Boutique truly doesn't have his memory intact either.

The other gimmick is a doomsday prophecy. The title of the story, "Nine Days Now," refers to this countdown clock. While neither Amiel nor Casanova seems to take it seriously, Fraction clearly does, and so the two amnesiacs have an artificially shortened timeline on solving their mutual mysteries.

These two manipulative plot elements are executed just fine, but they've been done before. Take them away, and what is left? Mood, images and rhythm. "Casanova: Acedia" is still a great read for the prose and artwork alone. Fraction's attention to word choice is a pleasure, even when he's making puns about elephants or having his character quote Apollinaire. His textboxes dance with Moon's page compositions, the beats of words perfectly placed like lyrics falling in line with music notes. The text boxes give Casanova's internal life dimension when Fraction writes, "every new face he builds a new memory...every new name he learns he doesn't forget."

Moon's artwork is full of pleasures. The shading of the bottom of a bridge is gorgeously brushy, and the exhaust fumes of a fabulously curved car look like waves left by a boat in water. The architecture is Modernist with a Frank Lloyd Wright-like vibe. The lines of the buildings assist with establishing dual tones of wide open spaces and decadent languor. Moon does transitions with flair. The first look at the LA public library is gorgeous because of how he directs the viewer's eye to the light fixture that descends, like the cylinder of a telescoping pole, to the ground floor where Casanova sits. As Boutique's party dissipates, Moon thins out the crowd quickly but with such resonance that the reader can almost hear the fade of voices. The deflating balloons scattered along the steps and throughout the grounds are beautiful visual shorthand for the passing of time and the measurement of space.

Cris Peter's colors are sensitive and restrained, and her palette choices of gray, blue, peach and pink provide both visual depth and mood. Her work enhances Moon's linework, particularly in the pool scene post-party. The way Peter colors the water reflections in lilac lines and pink, leaving so much white negative space, shows a poetic and exceptional appreciation for the interaction of light and liquid.

The backup story, "Kawaii-Five 0" by Michael Chabon and Gabriel Ba is less successful because it's a lot more confusing. Chabon plays with the timeline and a large cast even though the story fragment is only nine pages. Ba's transitions are difficult to follow at times, but the gist of the story gets through. The result is confusing but enticing for its enthusiasm and rock 'n' roll nostalgia. The dialogue is excellent and the art is exciting, and future installments may improve coherency.

"Casanova: Acedia" is on par with its predecessors, and it's an accessible, rewarding read for both new and returning readers.

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