When we first see Casanova Quinn in the open pages of Avaritia, he’s like we’ve never seen him before: sad, angry, hating his job after years of loving it. After the events of Gula, our favorite E.M.P.I.R.E. agent is destroying alternate realities in an attempt to stop his nemesis, Newman Xeno, from ever existing. But it’s the more subtle thing that continues to blow me away every time I revisit this story: when we first see Casanova — he has Xs for eyes.
It’s one of many signals that this arc of Casanova will be unlike we’ve seen before.
The third volume of writer Matt Fraction‘s creator-owned series saw a few changes, including a move from Image to Marvel’s Icon imprint (before moving back to Image — such is the life of creator-owned comics) and being designed from the start for full color production (the first two volumes were published at Image in one color in order to save money on production costs). Needless to say, Avaritia was a much different Casanova beast than what we first started out with in 2006.
The four issues that compromise Avaritia are tighter and more deliberate in their pacing, a changeup from the more standalone nature of the first two arcs of the series. This pacing allows Fraction to really dig into some meaty material for Cass as he discovers the man behind his arch nemesis. These issues move like a freight train, with barreling narrative moment and an ending that not only changes the Casanova status quo in a major way, but also provides what could be an endpoint for the series. This pacing makes it so that Avaritia isn’t quite as frantic as past Casanova stories, but only slightly. There’s still plenty of parallel universe jumping to take out the various versions of the man who will become Newman Xeno (including one universe with a Xeno that’s modeled off of Fraction himself and could be the springboard for an entire thesis for how creations often kill and/or overshadow the creator).
Casanova has been about what it’s like to finally grow up and take responsibility of your own life, as well as the relationships between parents and children, but Avaritia is deeply steeped in the latter. Cass’s father is revealed to have cancer and the relationship between the two is the driving force for the events in the series. Cass is rudderless throughout Avaritia, drifting and floating as the killing machine his father needs him to be — but that punishment is just as much for Casanova’s previous screw ups as it is for his own father’s. The tone is decidedly darker than what’s come before and the color palette reflects that.
Speaking of the art, Gabriel BÃ¡‘s pencils and Cris Petter‘s colors continue to prove themselves more than willing to play ball with Fraction’s mad science. BÃ¡ in particular gets some great stuff to draw and shows true kineticism through his pencils, making Cass and the others in the world come alive and off the page. As previously mentioned, Patter’s color palette for Avaritia bounces between dark shades of red, bright shades of pink, orange, and green, and without ever feeling out of place in this world. And while the visuals help to reinforce the world(s) that Casanova visits are strange, they’re never that far removed from our own reality. Dustin Harbin‘s lettering is another standout, as he’s able to juggle a variety of different kinds of lettering styles, all to great effect.
It’s hard for me to recommend this collection to anyone who hasn’t read the series, as it’s a culmination of the title’s first major story and thus would be very difficult for new readers to get the full depth of what’s happening between the all the characters. But for fans of the series, the collection is a must-own as it’s the most complete edition of Casanova to date.
Throughout the entire publication of these new collected editions, I’ve been very impressed with the overall design and features of the book. These Image editions are easily the Criterion Collection versions of Casanova, as it’s the most complete and feature-heavy version of this story. As per the other collections, there’s the reprinted backmatter with new annotations from Fraction himself (essential reading to see how Fraction responds to statements he made years ago) as well as some sketch pages from BÃ¡.
Casanova: Avaritia is about growing up, letting go, and moving on into the unknown. It’s a coming-of-age story filtered through music, Grant Morrison, James Bond, and whatever else Matt Fraction has on his mind. And sure, sometimes that means we have pandas getting their heads cut off with katanas, but Avaritia is Matt Fraction and his team at their best, telling an inherently relatable story in the way only they can tell it.