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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Prince Valiant. Volume 1: 1937 - 1938. Hal Foster. Fantagraphics Books (2009)

A stunning outsize production that presents the first year of the Prince Valiant pages in the vibrant colours that Hal Foster intended. Prince Valiant, the son of an exiled king who lives on an island in a marsh in England, leaves home after his mother's death and heads for the mainland. After encounter with Sir Launcelot, Valiant decides to go to Camelot and become a knight. He become a sqire to Sir Gawain and launches himself on a series of adventures that include battling Morgan Le Fey and Viking pirates. The stories are superbly staged, the details are beautifully portrayed, the action is fierce and compelling and the cast are busting with life and energy.
The art dominates this book, it is extraordinary. There is a very rapid development from the initial pages as Hal Foster hits his stride and his flowing mix of panels, art and captions. The art is detailed and dramatic,the panels are full but never crowded. The varying size of the panels is used to strong effect to drive the story forward. The colouring is one of the most striking features, it is used to very dramatic effect to give depth and detail to the context.
The stories themselves are suitably dramatic and romantic, high adventures that have enough twists and turns to maintain the tension and suspense. The stories read very well in a collected volume, they do not trip over each other nor does the small recap at the start of each page get in the way. Hal Foster was willing to assume that he had the attention of his audience from week to week and concentrated on forward motion.
The large format of the volume allows the story room to be read to the full and the art room to breathe. This is comics archeology at its best,using technology to present comics in a way they deserve. Wonderful.

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