Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Image Comics
Reviewed by Marc Mason
Two new series getting underway, and a really interesting graphic novel release…
I have a theory about writer Matt Fraction. The theory goes that Fraction, on occasion, deliberately eats bad sushi. In turn, this makes him ill, gives him insane fever dreams, and when he wakes he writes down those dreams and turns them into the “plots” of CASANOVA. Sure it sounds like a stretch, but when you think about it, it makes sense.
Because honestly, like each of the previous CASANOVA series, CASANOVA: ACEDIA #1 makes no sense at all. An amnesiac Casanova Quinn finds himself working as a driver and bodyguard for an older man with secrets of his own, and that’s about as much as you can take from the book. Yet… I enjoyed the hell out of reading it. It’s gorgeously drawn by Fabio Moon, the colors by Cris Peter are incredible, and the dialogue is oozing in attitude. This is the kind of thing that comics does better than any other medium.
The action sequences are excellent as well, and the pacing of the story is blistering. It’s a jolt of pop candy easily worth the time and money. And that’s before you throw in the insanely nonsensical backup story written by the great Michael Chabon and drawn by Gabriel Ba. CASANOVA is a strange animal, for sure. But I like it anyway.
On the flip side, THE DYING AND THE DEAD #1 isn’t exactly a wellspring of straight-forward storytelling either. But writer Jonathon Hickman does manage to make his mysteries a bit clearer for the reader, and this series gets off to a seriously strong start. Clocking in at 60 pages here in the opener, Hickman and artist Ryan Bodenheim get underway with a wedding that takes a horrific turn, then shift us to an old man whose wife is dying of cancer. Two things that seemingly have nothing in common. But when the old man heads off into the middle of nowhere to visit an underground city full of unearthly beings, that’s when this one seriously goess off the chain.
Yet Hickman does his damndest to start pulling threads together, and it works. It works not just because we get just enough to start seeing a tapestry at work in the plot, but also because Bodenheim draws the hell out of it. I mean, he has never been better. His characters pop off of the page, and the level of detail in the panels is wonderful. A modern comic with a protagonist who qualifies for the AARP discount wherever he goes is a gutsy move in this modern comics era. This is good enough, though, for that gamble to pay off nicely.
I loved the I KILL GIANTS graphic novel that came out from Image a few years ago, and a big reason why was the expressive artwork of Ken Niimura. Now he is back with a solo project, the graphic novel HENSHIN. This is an anthology of short stories that offer up tiny slices of modern Japanese life, and Niimura dives into the worlds of a variety of normal people to tell his stories – including himself! This is the kind of book I love seeing Image publish – a standard deviation away from the center of the market, yet one that deserves an audience. The book is printed in traditional Japanese style, reading from right-to-left, and it comes in at a hefty 280+ pages. If you like manga, then this is an easy sell. However, if you have been hesitant to try manga, this really is a good starting place. Niimura makes it simple for the reader to come along on his ride. Take the challenge; you’ll be glad you did.