We all know James Bond. We may not like him, we may lovehim, but the fact of the matter is I say "James Bond" and you say "super-spy".On a more comic-related note, I say "super-spy" and you say "Nick Fury". Notthe Nick Fury you see nowadays standing in the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier lookingat a screen smoking a cigar and swearing. And I'm not talking about the baldblack Samuel L Jackson imposter. I'm talking that 60s Steranko, Nick Fury vs.Hydra and AIM and a lot of ass-kicking and shit blowing up.
It seems like that old style espionage thriller is prettymuch dead in comics. At least it was until breakout talent writer Matt Fractioncame out with Casanova. I won't get into Casanova's publishing details, but let'sjust say it's the front-runner in a new line of Image books.
When I'd first heard of Casanova, I wasn't interested, but Idid have my reasons. I wasn't sure about comics, and I had no idea whatCasanova was about. The name "Casanova" brings up recollections of a man whoseduces women. That's only half the case here. Casanova's ability to seducewomen comes from espionage ability, because Casanova, in simplistic terms isyour new James Bond.
Yes. I said it. But like every genre of literature, theespionage thriller must be injected with another genre's genetics. In Casanova,Matt Fraction takes the espionage of James Bond and throws in the contemporarytropes of modern superhero comics: alternate universes, anti-hero, telekinesisand super-villains.
What makes Casanova special is that it's not your typicalespionage thriller. The art is reminiscent of Steranko's Nick Fury, and theminimal colouring on the comic really harkens it back to a kind of old-stylespy that we all know and love. What really makes Casanova innovative is the wayFraction writes.
In the first issue, Casanova is an anti-hero,anti-establishment and looking to break all the rules. To make thingsinteresting Fraction employs the idea of the alternate reality and has thenumber one bad guy Newman Xeno steal our Casanova and stick him in a timelinewhere Casanova is the goodie-two-shoes. Bang! This is the first instance of thesuperhero universe that we know from DC and Marvel bleeding into the espionage.
If we put this against the idea that Casanova is notnecessarily on the side of good or evil, or at least not in the traditionalespionage thriller context. In old Bond films, it's always Bond vs. theRussians or Bond vs. the Koreans. Whoever the world's enemies are, Bond fightsthem. One of the staples of the espionage thriller is that the agent is out tostop the world's worst enemies from setting off a bomb that will blow up theworld.
Casanova would rather set off that bomb. Okay, maybe not setoff the bomb but he'd want to cause as much of a headache to his father as hecan. That's the beauty of the series. It's not the typical secret agentfighting for the greater good of the people (or democracy). It's the secretagent fighting for whatever he really wants to, which is what I believe is themain ideal at the core of the super-spy hero.
Casanova fights his father, the director of E.M.P.I.R.E., atop-line SHIELD knock-off. The thing is, Casanova also fights Newman Xeno,Fabula Berserko and just about any super-criminal you can think of. Fact of thematter, like Hellboy, Casanova does whatever he wants and he makes sure he doesit well.
The important part of Casanova is that it's about doingsomething for one's own self. It's a story about liberating the self, and doingwhatever the hell you want. It doesn't really sound like espionage, but whenyou have a double-agent working against both angles, it really buggers up thetraditional idea of espionage thriller, and that is what evolving the genres ofcomics is all about.