Best Shots Reviews: CASANOVA - ACEDIA #8, INJECTION #11

Image Comics March 2017 cover
Credit: Image Comics
Credit: Image Comics

Casanova: Acedia #8
Written by Matt Fraction and Michael Chabon
Art by Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon
Lettered by Dustin K. Harbin
Published by Image Comics
Review by Matthew Sibley
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

It’s taken a long time to get here, but we’ve finally made it to the (presumptive) midpoint of Matt Fraction, Gabriel Ba, an Fabio Moon’s masterpiece series. Yes, that means it’s taken longer Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver’s S.H.I.E.L.D. (even though it may feel like we’ve been waiting an eternity), longer than it took for Nonplayer #2 to release and longer than Planetary ran for. That in mind, Casanova: Acedia #8 doesn’t present us with a dramatic reveal that drastically shifts the direction the series will take in the back half a la The Wicked + The Divine. Actually, if it were to do so, we likely wouldn’t realise for another couple of issues, but to take it as it is with the information we have now, this issue is a flashback and that allows a chance to look back and see how exceptional the series continues to be for sticking with some ground rules.

I should be completely honest with you: the plot of Casanova is dense and I don’t believe I have the word count that would allow me to properly explain what’s happened in the lead-up to this, but you should know that the last issue left off on a massive explosion, and this doesn’t pick up there. Instead this is a flashback that takes a deep dive into Ms. Boutique’s life, detailing how she grew up and her growing awareness that her instructors keep disappearing once they’ve taught her all they can. It picks up in medias res in the sense that Fraction never stops telling his story in order to count you in and let you jump on. This is the fourth arc of the run, it’s just as dense and obtuse as it always was and that’s why I love it. There are so many people that write for the trade, that idea that they have to pump the breaks to ensure the story lasts one extra issue so it fits in one collected edition. Instead, Fraction’s writing for himself and it’s incredible to see a creator in his element in this way.

If this were any other book, this would likely be something that falls in the cons column instead of the pros one, but it’s all part of the style. Casanova consists of fully formed and realized dimensions where every line doesn’t make sense the first go around. The serialised nature of the series means these issues have insane value for money because they invite rereads to parse everything. A common complaint levied towards Jonathan Hickman is that he jumps in with high concepts and technobabble that makes no sense, but really he gives you the information necessary to understand the issue at hand, even if this doesn’t provide complete context for the entire series. What Fraction does is toss you a morsel as and when he feels like it.

Even with this, there’s a level of consistency. Not just in how Fraction refuses to show the cards in his hand, but since the start, he’s referred to each volume - Luxuria, Gula and Avaritia - as albums. Perhaps more so than over forms of media, albums have a real sense of cohesion and one of the main factors that this is an accurate reference point for Casanova is how each album has had a core color set. Luxuria was green, Gula was blue and maroon for Avaritia. Set in Hollywood, Fábio Moon colors his brother Gabriel Bá’s lush and textured linework in teal and orange, the colors that have become synonymous with contemporary Hollywood. While they are normally used in a blended fashion, Moon is unafraid to separate the two at times. It allows for interesting compositions and benefits the book with how it weaves through different time periods. While each one doesn’t have a corresponding color, there being a noticeable difference helps to make the distinction.

So, yes, this didn’t advance the serialised plotting of this album per se, but on a wider level Casanova’s about change. Or at least, it is to me, that’s the nature of avant-garde comic-booking, that you get out of it what you can find. It’s because of this that the issue works so well, even if I’m not clear on all the details the first go-around. It demonstrates a commitment to never slowing down, to never staying on one thing for too long. Sure, it’s dense, it’s confusing, it’s bombastic, it’s immoral at times, it’s suave, it’s cool. That’s Casanova. And the only way it’d disappoint me, is if it wasn’t.

Credit: Image Comics

Injection #11
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire
Lettering by Fonografiks
Published by Image Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Injection returns to shelves with a moody new installment that returns the series to its grim British magick roots. Keeping in line with each “season’s" single character focus, Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, and Jordie Bellaire expand on the life and skill set of Brigid Roth, an informatics specialist who has just caught another occult-infused case that is more than likely tied to the ever evolving Injection code lurking in the background of the series.

Standing as the trio’s warped and sweary version of Doctor Who, Injection #11 is a bit slower paced than most of the title’s arc opening installments. But what it lacks in propulsion, it more than makes up for in crazy, science based ideas as well as another dynamic lead character, keeping the title’s affinity for broken, but compelling leads intact.

Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire also keep the visuals at the level fans expect from their weird little book, spreading a grey-blue fog across the issue as well as its numerous panels of lushly ominous British countryside and a vibrantly novel take on flashbacks. Injection #11 isn’t the most exciting of returns for the creative team, but their cross and slightly off-kilter version of a British sci-fi staple is enough to keep fans happy until it can get well and truly bonkers.

While long time readers will get a bit more enjoyment from Ellis’ quick check-ins with the rest of the cast, one of Injection #11‘s real strengths is its accessibility. Now if you’ve gone a bit aghast because I just described a Warren Ellis comic book as “accessible,” stay with me, because it really is. With a cold open straight from Fringe involving a dead body found chained to a undiscovered stone circle, Ellis allows readers an easy in to the world of Injection and continues the trend until the issue’s final beat.

#11 is all about Brigid and that is really the best possible thing it could have focused on. Instead of trying to jam all sorts of previous story material into the script, Ellis instead allows Brigid ample time on page allowing her personality and wonderful tech to shine. Brigid is a classic Ellis protagonist, but without all the baggage and personality quarks that previous protagonists Vivek and Maria had. Brigid is focused, acerbic, and completely in love with her Sheela, an all encompassing series of wearable tech upgrades that gather and analyze information for her. The plot itself is something that fits in well with the Injection narrative, but if #11 has a real solid selling point, its Ellis’ continued attention and development of character.

Aiding in that development are Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire who give life to one of the fastest and funniest bit of character building I’ve seen here recently. Before she heads out to the circle to investigate, Brigid boots up Sheela, and Shalvey and Bellaire take the moment and run with it, basically laying out her inner monologue in her door length mirror display that compiles every horrible threat men make against her on social media along with the lewd pictures they assault her with and her important communiques in a pale blue layer on top of a single page splash of her reflection.

The hits don’t stop there for Shalvey and Bellaire. The pair’s take on the British moors and occult sights look pulled directly from a creepy guidebook left to you by a crazy uncle you never met. And they even manage to pull the crazy vortex of colors from their cover into the main story in the form of a flashback of Brigid buying of her current accommodations. Instead of making these scene sepia toned or a hacky black and white, Bellaire infuses the panels with almost negative, Bizarro colors, drawing from the palette of the cover and brushing it across the sequence, giving the series yet another jolt of inspired color choices that set it apart from the usual crop of science fiction.

Warren Ellis described this new arc as Doctor Who starring a pissed off woman of color and judging by the quality of Injection #11, that is a regeneration I can completely get behind. By taking a surprisingly new reader-friendly approach, but still keeping the same level of visual acumen, this newest issue shows that the title is willing to work with new fans while still delivering the same experience die-hards have enjoyed. It is a fine line to walk but walk it Injection #11 does with plenty of sass and style.

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