Saturday, October 27, 2007

She was just seventeen/And you know what I mean...

One of the great things about Fraction's Casanova is that it is at once wholly accessible and utterly obscure. (To quote Fraction: "I'm fine alienating the stupid.") I could cite any number of instances, but I'll focus on one particularly silly one: the scene in which Zephyr watches a tape of her next target and remarks that "I want to shoot this guy so bad my dick is hard." It's a hilarious line, but it's made all the better when Fraction's notes at the back explain that it's a paraphrase of a line from New Jack City, as spoken by Ice-T's character. (Ice-T, of course, is famous for recording "Cop Killer" and feuding with the LAPD's chief - and now he plays a cop on TV. Zephyr, on the other hand, is famous for feuding with her dad, who's in charge of the SHIELD-like organization EMPIRE - and her parallel self was an EMPIRE agent.)

For the as-yet-unconverted: I feel it necessary to wax ecstatic just a bit about what Fraction (and, to a lesser extent, Moon) does with the final few pages of each issue of Casanova. See, each comic is only 16 pages - 6 fewer than the standard. Fraction fills up the remaining few pages with the equivalent of a director's commentary - sketches, biographical details that are pertinent to the plot, (and sometimes not pertinent whatsoever) and various other stuff about the visual and textual allusions that might otherwise go unnoticed. And after several of these notes - about a film collection, one about the first issue of The Order, a random Rolling Stones line... - he also admits that one of them is a total lie.

He doesn't explain everything, though. Take the title of the issue: "Seventeen". It's vague enough that it could be referring to pretty well anything. Two good possibilities spring to mind immediately, both of them speaking to the focus of this issue - Zephyr Quinn's unpredictability, desirability, and maniacal evilness (err, evilability?). The first is Seventeen, the Booth Tarkington novel, which is also a film. (And Fraction has made his love of old films quite clear.) Long-story-short, it's about a teen-aged small-town boy who alienates everyone in his attempt to seduce a big-city girl, only to fail when she leaves at the end of the summer. The second is The Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There", the song which features the memorable opening line, "Well she was just seventeen/And you know what I mean". The Beatles would subsequently explain that there's just something ambiguous and wonderful about the age of seventeen - no longer totally naive, but not yet world-weary - and seventeen year-old girls are a mystery to both the boys and themselves. It's not a stretch to suggest that we should have Zephyr Quinn in mind here.

Update: Fraction notes that the phrase 'asa nisi masa', which appears quite often in this issue, is from Fellini's 8 1/2. Double that number and you get 17. Also, the number of bodies (including Zephyr and Kubark) in the final panel of the comic? 34 - which is 17 doubled. I realize that I'm flirting with the Law of Truly Large Numbers here, but maybe that's part of the point?

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