Reviewer: Saxon Bullock (aka @saxonb)
It’s been a long time coming. Fast becoming known as the ‘Velvet Underground’ of indie comics, Casanova is a sprawling, wild and deeply bizarre mix of sci-fi and demented spy thriller that built up a major following when it was first published in a stripped-down, adventurously cheap ‘two-colour’ format back in the mid 2000s. Now, following a full-colour reprint of the first two series, we’ve now got the first brand new Casanova material in years… and it’s unsurprisingly tricky. Matt Fraction’s since risen to fame as one of the biggest new writers at Marvel (especially for his work on The Invincible Iron Man), but Casanova is something different, and weirdly personal in spite of its seemingly too-cool-for-school mix of spies, sex and alternate universes. Everyone involved in Casanova has moved on in one way or another during the ‘hiatus’, so it’s no surprise that this feels different – for a start, we have an uninterrupted 32 page chapter (which also means the price has gone up to $4.99 an issue), and also the storytelling is a little bigger, and not quite as fiercely compressed as before. That isn’t to say Fraction and his team aren’t still experimenting like crazy – there’s a dizzying whirl of techniques here, including seventies-style freeze frame captions, genuinely effective thought balloons, and sixteen different alternate universes on a single page. But with the story much darker, as Casanova finds himself stuck annihilating realities under orders from his ‘father’ (only to then discover something much more significant), this isn’t quite the full-on, no-holds-barred explosion of pure comics that Casanova has managed before. New arc, new theme, new style – I may have been ever-so-slightly disappointed with the first instalment of Avaritia, but I’m willing to give Fraction the benefit of the doubt and settle in for what’s sure to be a wild and unpredictable journey.
Oh, Morning Glories. You had me. You really did. I was buckled in for the ride – the first six issues hooked me with their mix of Lost, The Prisoner, and the early (best) years of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. You even had Nick Spencer, one of the most promising writers out there, and the man reponsible for the Jimmy Olsen special that was, frankly, close to being the comic of the year. So why exactly did I end reading issue 12 of Morning Glories by deciding that 12 issues, frankly, was quite enough? Honestly, it’s because the second six-issue helping (I hesitate to call it an ‘arc’) started really well, but has ended up leeching all the momentum out of the story. The concept of doing character-centric issues is a good one – it’s very Lost, and it should have given us time to get to know our characters. And it did, in a manner of speaking – but Spencer’s decision to pile mystery on top of mystery has ended up with lots and lots of intrigue, but a glacial storytelling pace that feels like it’s going nowhere.
Added to which, most of the mysteries haven’t been followed up on in the slightest, meaning it’s been rather like reading six issue ones in a row, and I’ve gotten fed up of waiting for the story to start. Lost-style longform storytelling is risky in a monthly comic book format, because you’ve got to give the audience enough meat to feel like they’ve gotten their money’s worth, and with Morning Glories it’s as if I’ve been buying 22 pages of tease for the past few months. Even issue 12 (which features some strong moments, seriously intriguing reveals and a couple of big revelations) still manages to introduce another new character and a whole selection of other things we don’t have answers for, and the results are more frustrating than entertaining. Added to this, there’s Spencer’s occasional moments of dialogue clunk, particularly when someone decides to say something significant in bold and italics for extra emphasis in case we hadn’t gotten the message that this was important… and then there’s the art. I’ve given artist Joe Eisma twelve issues to convince me, and his line-heavy, slightly bare style simply hasn’t won me over, while it’d be nice if he could draw more than one female character (Scarlet) who doesn’t have the same face as everybody else. It’s a real shame – Morning Glories has tons of potential, and properly entertained me for its first six issues, but right now I’m leaving this high school thriller to it. I’ll check in once the third arc is out in trade, but for now, Morning Glories is on its own.