“Death will always need those of us bold enough to keep our hands upon its till. My plague is a blessing unto you.” That is a direct quote from the first issue of the recently wrapped up reprints of Casanova: Gula. Casanova is the creator owned book by Fear Itself writer, Matt Fraction. Gula was my introduction to Casanova and I can only describe the series as pure insanity, but at the same time very intelligent insanity. After reading all of Gula in one sitting I’ve come to realize that it can be seen as a commentary on death in comic books; no one ever really dies. (SPOILERS will follow)
That quote pops up multiple times throughout the series and voices the opinion that many comics fans hold. There are people that die in Gula, but are they really dead? There are buckets of blood spilled throughout the four issues and countless acts of violence that accompany them. In these issues there are countless henchmen that are slaughtered. Sure they die, but do they matter? Are they anybody? I would say no. They’re nobodies, they don’t count. These people that die are nameless, faceless characters. They are literally faceless. All or nearly all of the henchmen have their faces obscured by something. In the first issue two surgeons are killed, they have masks covering their faces. In the second issue a bunch of henchmen for Dr. Toppogrosso, who all wear domino masks or masquerade masks, are killed in a movie theatre. The henchmen killings continue in issues three and four and it just hammers home the point that these characters are barely characters at all. They don’t matter. They can die, but who cares?
Issue three is, by far, the most death filled issue in the series, but at the same time it isn’t. Zephyr Quinn, sister to the main character Casanova Quinn, and her boyfriend Kubark Benday infiltrate the E.M.P.I.R.E. base. Zephyr cut through henchmen like a knife through butter. And she didn’t just go after henchmen she attacked main characters. She chopped her dad’s head off… or did she? Nope. He was just a robot; in fact everybody that died in this attack was just a robot. So at the end of the day the cost of human lives ended up at zero. There is one grey area here though. One of the dead robots was Kaito’s girlfriend Ruby. He could bring her back and have her old data put into a new body, but Kaito decides not to have that done. When Kaito is faced with “No one ever really dies anymore,” he responds by saying “Then no one ever really lives. I have to believe in her. In her intrinsic uniqueness. In her her-ness. My love cannot be duplicated, even if she can be replicated. She died, Sabine. Help me make that mean something.” Kaito has a good point. If people can come back from the dead on a regular basis, that lessens the impact of death and the importance of life. It’s ironic that the most meaningful death in the book was the death of a character that was never really alive to begin with.
There are three other deaths in the series, but they are all the deaths of minor characters. The first death is that of David X, well actually the two David X’s. They’re two escape artists whose deaths only serve as an intro to Zephyr and Kubark. Like the henchmen, their deaths don’t matter, but always remember no one ever really dies! David X isn’t dead. He’s alive and well and he shows up again in the fourth issue to help with a jail break.
In the second issue Dr. Toppogrosso is killed along with his henchmen. Like David X, he doesn’t matter. We know about what Toppogrosso does and why people want him dead, but beyond that we know nothing about him. Toppogrosso is a glorified henchman at best. Really he’s just a plot device to give us a better look at Zephyr and Kubark. It showed the lengths that Zephyr would go to get her job done.
Also in the second issue we see the death of Suki Boutique. Her death is different through. We actually learn about her past. She is a much more fleshed out character than the rest of the actual humans that die. But does she really die? She gets poisoned by Zephyr which means that we don’t see any sort of fatal wound. We just assume that she dies, but remember no one ever really dies. We see Suki show up again in the fourth issue in the completely new backup story. In the story she finds herself in the same situation that she was in with Zephyr. On the last panel of the sixth page of the backup Suki says; “You think I’m so dumb I’d let myself get poisoned.” To me that says she survived her poisoning from Zephyr and she learned from that experience.
Casanova: Gula requires more than one read through. The second time through little things stick out that meant nothing the first read. I didn’t realize the deaths weren’t really deaths until my second read. “No one ever really dies” is the motto of this series and could be said that it’s the motto of comic books as a whole. Comic fans know that if a character dies there’s a good chance we’ll see them back again at some point. Immediately after a character dies the very first reactions are that of people saying that they’ll be back. Fraction packed a lot into this book and I’m sure that there are many different things that different readers could take away from it. This commentary on death is what I took away from Gula. I recommend that you read it for yourself and find your own meanings in it.