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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #296

Yesterday’s entry fell into a hole in the space/time continuum and popped out today. You should definitely read it, however, as another fine reader of this column drops by with a homemade comic. Check it out and then join me for this one.

Back? Cool. Today, I feature a creator who has quickly become one of my favorite writers. (Where does Fonzie keep the old posts? In the Ayyyyrchive.)

10/23/07

296. Matt Fraction

I have this theory, and it’s that a writer has to be the smartest guy in the room. He could walk into a parlor filled with nuclear physicists and English lit professors and brain surgeons, and he’d still have to come out on top. Writers, you see, have to know everything there is to know in order to write. I think Matt Fraction pulls it off, and he does it with style.

Now, “Matt Fraction” isn’t his real name, no. It’s his sexy superspy codename. I mean, this is the guy who left a successful job producing music videos and stuff to write comics full time. (I told you he was smart.) He’s the Kansas City king of kickass.

Okay, major works: Well, there’s his first primo piece of work, entitled Rex Mantooth: Kung Fu Gorilla, but I told you all about that before. Honestly, if the title doesn’t make you want to buy it, there’s no hope left for you. Anyway, after that Fraction wrote some awesome graphic novels like Last of the Independents, a heist story drawn by Kieron Dwyer, and Five Fists of Science, a book about Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla and giant robots and other nifty things, drawn by Steven Sanders.

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Currently, Fraction writes my favorite comic, Casanova, drawn by twin artists Gabriel Bá and Fabio Moon. It’s a supercompressed spy comic from Image’s Slimline of two-dollar, 16-page comic singles. And my God, it’s the smartest book around, loaded with all sorts of fun references from all corners of pop culture and beyond. Heck, the main bad-guy-organization, W.A.S.T.E., is a Thomas Pynchon reference, for crimeny’s sake (I have since read the book from which it originates, The Crying of Lot 49, and it is awesome).

Casanova Quinn is a playboy spy baddie who travels to a parallel reality and replaces a good guy version of himself. So now, with a clean slate, will he side with the angels or the devils? Well, he sides with himself, mostly. The comic’s jampacked with awesome, from Ruby Berserko to Kleptomik to wherever the hell else it wants to go. I wasn’t into the book at first, but I stuck with it, and thank God I did. It’s the best comic on the stands, loaded with crazy ideas, clever dialogue, and marvelous characters. And the backmatter– I love Fraction’s candid talks with his readership. In some, he lays his soul bare, not only about the writing process, but about life itself. It makes for great reading. The first issue of Casanova can be read for free here, and the eighth issue– the first episode of the new “album”– can be read for free here. This comic never lets up– it is relentless in its awesomeness.

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Because Fraction was so cool, Marvel snapped him up, and he can now be found writing Punisher War Journal and the Order, and co-writing the Immortal Iron Fist with Ed Brubaker. I’m convinced all the good bits of Iron Fist are Fraction’s. His two solo series are good, too. Punisher #4 (Stilt-Man’s funeral) is one of the best single issues of the year, and this month’s #12 is ridiculously awesome, what with the gun that shoots swords and the crazy monster killin.’ Meanwhile, the Order is shaping up to be a great series, and it’s not just because of the zombie hobos, but because of the excellent characterization. Also, this year’s Sensational Spider-Man Annual, written by Mr. Fraction, is easily the best Spidey story of the past decade, if not longer. If I was in charge of the world, I’d have him writing a regular Spider-title. And also the Doom Patrol, but that’s another story.

The man’s written perfect pop comics, and I hope he keeps ‘em coming. Everything Fraction writes is worth reading, including his Poplife and Basement Tapes columns found on CBR (he also co-founded Artbomb). Read ‘em, love ‘em, live ‘em. His website can be found here. (Congratulations on baby Henry, Matt, if’n you’re reading this.)

12 Comments

Awesome choice, Bill. Even for a DC fanboy like myself, a new issue of Casanova is always the highlight of the week.

I love the broad “best ____ story in the past ___ years” proclamation. :)

But yeah, the Fraction Annual was awesome. And it was pretty funny, too, knowing that they were going to have that annual and THEN get rid of the marriage.

Overall, Fraction is definitely one of the best writers working for DC and Marvel right now. I’d put him in my personal top ten easily.

If you’re going to do a “Best Spidey Story In The Past Decade,” put me down for “Maybe Next Year,” which gets bonus points for being a baseball-themed issue written by an English guy (Paul Jenkins).

I haven’t exposed myself too much to Fraction’s work beyond borrowing “Five Fists” from the library. I should change that.

While I’m fairly positive I’m in the vast minority here, I haven’t enjoyed a single thing I’ve read by Fraction other than Immortal Iron Fist (which I attribute to Brubaker more than anyone). Punisher War Journal and Cassanova just totally didn’t click for me, and I gave both a good four to five issues to impress me. I dunno, it just seems like Fraction throws over-the-top stuff into his work based on how cool it sounds as an idea, not so much in the execution.

Nothing against the guy, just not my cup of tea.

I dunno, it just seems like Fraction throws over-the-top stuff into his work based on how cool it sounds as an idea, not so much in the execution.

Check out The Order. Full, distinct characterization is the name of the game.

I’m convinced all the good bits of Iron Fist are Fraction’s.

I’m not. Brubaker’s no hack either and it seems like a very collaborative effort to me. Whoever at Marvel thought of throwing ‘em together deserves a round of applause.

That being said, Casanova is pure crazy awesomeness on a stick, so good choice for today!

I’ll admit that I’ve only read his Punisher series, but it didn’t exactly blow me away. The first 3 issues showed potential but were wrapped up with the Civil War stuff. #4 was a poor knock off of Captain America #319. The storyline after that went on far too long, wasn’t that interesting and featured the Captain America tribute suit. I stopped reading after that but the latest World War Hulk tie in seemed like a low point for the character.

Dan (other Dan)

October 24, 2007 at 3:44 pm

All the Matt Fraction comics I’ve read have been great. Hurray!

Dan (other Dan)

October 24, 2007 at 3:45 pm

Oh, and not his real name? I never suspected–what an informative column!

Does anyone here know if Casanova is yet available in trade paperback, and if so, which issues? Also, how regularly Image plans to collect them in trade? I tried to find out on their site but I didn’t come up with anything.

The first storyline (#1-7, I believe) is available in hardcover.

They’re planning on collecting them at a prompt pace, I believe.

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