Matt Fraction began "Casanova" by saying it was his version of Phil Spector's "wall of sound." He ends it, for now (and he's not scheduled to return for at least a year), with a homemade mix tape.
"Casanova" #14 wraps up the "Gula" arc with a conclusion that you probably won't expect and a series of scene headers that identifies the music you should listen to as you read. Fraction includes tracks from M.I.A to David Bowie, the Beatles to the Mountain Goats. You'll have to track down the songs yourself -- this is a comic book printed on paper, after all, not magical mp3 juice -- but listening to the jams on your iPod is a perfect way to enjoy the most satisfying conclusion of the year. You don't need the songs, of course, but since "Casanova" is all about layers, why not go the distance and make a "Casanova 14" playlist and pop on those headphones? What are you afraid of? Greatness?
Because "Casanova" #14 is great (even without the soundtrack playing in the background), and it resonates with a pop culture force missing from almost everything else on the shelf. This is Fraction at his best, hitting the story beats fast and furious while layering in the emotional underpinning. This is what "Casanova" is -- a serious comic that's never boring, a raging action epic that's about what it means to be alive. "Casanova" embraces life, embraces the medium of comics, and challenges all other comics to be better than they are.
The "Gula" arc, which began in "Casanova" #8, is a radical tonal shift from the "Luxuria" arc of issues #1-7. But it's not a thematic shift. Fraction still deals with issues of identity and family, but instead of the relentlessly rapid pace of "Luxuria," "Gula" has been slower. Not slower. Measured. Careful. Controlled. But still perfect. For "Gula" has been about absence, the absence of Casanova Quinn, gone missing in issue #8. And his absence has been felt throughout the remaining issues, changing the nature of the comic. It is no longer single-issue action-packed interdimensional super-spy hijinx. Now, it's turned into double-dealing dysfunctional family dynamics with time travel and assassinations. And a soul. A deep and meaningful soul.
I won't spoil this issue, because it's full of surprises that you must experience for yourself, but I will tell you that your questions will be answered in "Casanova" #14. The story resolves. Things conclude. And nearly everyone gets what they want, no matter how much they regret it.
"Casanova" #14 is an important comic, not least because it's fun to read. It is bold and passionate and full of everything a comic needs. It's also deeply personal and meaningful. You can feel the hearts of Matt Fraction and Fabio Moon beating here, beneath the icy blue color palate and bandaged evil geniuses.
When the dust settles, I wouldn't be surprised to see "Casanova" emerge as the defining comic of this decade. Not because it represents it so thoroughly, but because it transcends it. Just like great art is supposed to do.