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Image Comics

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Written by Matt Fraction and Drawn by Gabriel Ba

Casanova Quinn is a bad guy and a thief. His sister Zephyr, on the other hand, is a good guy. She works for their father, who heads up the global law enforcement agency, E.M.P.I.R.E. It all seems fairly cut and dry… for about three pages. But then CASANOVA runs right off the rails and becomes one of the more interesting pieces of comics surrealism in recent memory. Mid-story, Casanova is universally displaced, and winds up in a version of Earth where he was the good guy who worked for E.M.P.I.R.E. and his sister is a rogue. And in this universe, his counterpart has just been killed. Now, “our” Casanova finds himself in the good graces of his father, and blackmailed by the bad guy who runs the evil organization known as W.A.S.T.E, Newman Xeno to work for the opposition. He must also deal with the unstable and seductive version of his sister in this timeline, companionship robots, an island full of savage natives who are faking their condition, a Japanese superweapon left over from the war, and a town powered by sexual energy.

There’s a lot more to CASANOVA than that, but trying to explain it would be kind of pointless; the destination isn’t even remotely the point when it comes to this book. I’m not even sure that the journey is, either. The book really seems to exist as a way for Fraction to let his imagination go bug-fuck insane on the page and let his insanely talented artistic partner to go to town in depicting it. This lovely over-sized hardcover collects the first seven issues of the series, and the first four barely come across as stories; there’s so much going on that it becomes difficult to follow. You just have to throw up your hands, invest in the madness, and go with it. And if you do, the back half of the volume turns around and makes the rest of it make decent sense, and the book pays off.

As a caveat, I would only recommend CASANOVA to the most intelligent readers, and those who have a genuine attention span. Those who look for more flash and eschew material that they can’t finish in ten minutes will hate the book. However, for those with the ability to appreciate the concept of delayed gratification, plunk down your cash on this trippy, attractive collection.

Marc Mason

Written by Antony Johnston and Dan Evans and Drawn by Mario Boon

Image a world where the history of the United States took a wildly different turn. A world where magic was the primary import of the European settlers who came to North America. Where the elves that lived in the west were able to halt U.S. expansion. Where the Free Nation of Texas is the promised land for so many. But even the promised land needs a police force, and Texas’ is the best. Made up of wizards, elves, cowboys, and other strange creatures, the law is known as The Rangers. But the population has a different name for them: the Texas Strangers.

That rather lengthy set-up is the foundation for this cute and charming new effort from Johnston (WASTELAND), and marks what I believe to be his first foray into the world of all-ages comics. The story begins by introducing us to a brother-sister tandem, Wyatt and Jane, who have come to Texas to rid themselves of a strange knife they found in their father’s belongings. Unfortunately, being children and a bit naïve, they immediately run into trouble with a local gang, and get mixed up with two different groups of Rangers. They also manage to get thrown out of one saloon and run afoul of the owner of another. Let this be a lesson: phony I.D.s just aren’t worth it, kids.

The light, pleasant tone of the book is due in no small part to Mario Boon’s wonderful art. He has a clean, simple style that blends the unique look and populace of Texas with the kids and makes it all feel like it belongs together. The plot and story move at a steady pace, and I enjoyed the characters. Having read much of Johnston’s earlier works, this is easily my favorite of what I’ve seen out of him so far. TEXAS STRANGERS is a strong, solid debut.

Marc Mason

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