The Deep Appeal of Casanova [Essay]
September 3, 2015
Bá, Moon, and Fraction have covered a lot of ground over the course of the series, but one thing that's remained at the center of the orbit of the series is the idea that you should love what you do and that living your life often involves suffering. Characters mourn loves lost and lives wasted, be they ground into dust beneath the heel of Good vs Evil or wiped from history thanks to the expedience of realpolitik. Casanova Quinn himself crushes dreams and snuffs out lights, even as he fights to retain control of his own. The cast of CASANOVA tend to be both victims and aggressors, doing and receiving harm as a matter of course.
Casanova Quinn himself is a super spy generally cast in the Gentleman Thief mold—a James Bond who is self-aware, a Lupin III who puts the job before the fun. He's great at thinking on his feet and very good at his job, but his job tends to bring him misery. He's capable of achieving anything, but happiness? That's just outside his reach, even when he specifically plans for it. And so: he suffers.
That description of CASANOVA sounds grim, but it's more accurate to call it free-wheelingly introspective. We go through highs and lows in our life, and Casanova does, too. Casanova's experiences feel familiar, because they track to things we've experienced in our own lives, though perhaps without the super-spy acrobatics.
Fraction, Moon, and Bá get away with telling a story that ranges from out-there to abstract to intricate because the feelings ground everything. You understand on a very deep level that while Casanova is fighting against an evil empire, or an organization like W.A.S.T.E. ("We're All So Terribly Excited," maybe, or "We Always Start Things Early"), his motivations and goals ring true on a basic human level.
On the one hand, this is true of any story. Grounding elements are what make us believe in stories and keep us focused when things get weird. But CASANOVA is a particularly good example of how grounding elements can enhance a fantastic story.
A little bit of pain goes a long way. It isn't necessarily true that you can't have happiness without sadness, but sadness certainly makes happiness much more enjoyable in comparison. By adding moments of despair to CASANOVA, by leavening the action with a few bursts of sadness, Fraction, Moon, and Bá elevate a fun action comic into something that resonates deeply with readers by paralleling their lives and fears, even as it soothes away from those dark feelings, if only for a moment.
CASANOVA: ACEDIA #4 went on sale yesterday. In addition, there are three hardcover volumes collecting the story arcs Luxuria, Gula, and Avaritia.