© Gary Gianni and Mark Schultz.
A while back I reviewed the art book about the making of the Prince Valiant Sunday pages by Gary Gianni and Mark Schultz, that review is here.
Now the first collection of the strip is out from Andrews McMeel, covering strips from November 2004 to May, 2008. The production values on this large trade paperback are high, with good paper, good reproduction and color throughout. At nearly 200 pages, it’s a great package for the price.
Prince Valiant, the newspaper strip begun by writer/artist Hal Foster back in the 1930s has had an amazingly long run with only three main artists or artist/writer teams, to be more accurate. Foster produced it for decades, followed by John Cullen Murphy (with scripts by his son) for more decades. Now the torch has been passed to this third team, and they’re doing a wonderful job. It’s too bad the popularity and heyday of the newspaper adventure strips has long passed, at least in America, so not many people are likely to be seeing it in their newspapers these days. Thankfully, there’s still a strong market overseas, and collections like this to give us all a look at Gary’s fine artwork and Mark’s entertaining stories.
Reading a Sunday strip takes some getting used to, it’s a dance of one step back and three steps forward on each page. The first panel is usually a recap from the previous page, the last panel contains a setup for the following week, leaving only a few brief panels between to advance the story. I believe this is the first strip Mark Schultz has written, though he’s well known as a comics writer and artist, and the pacing was choppy at first, but improved as I went along. (Or maybe it was me who needed to get used to the rhythm.) At any rate, by the end of this collection, I was fully involved in the exciting story of Val’s adventures. The saga begins in Scotland with what seem to be a family of Loch Ness monsters, continues with Val and his son Nathan being kidnapped by Vikings and carried south to the coast of France. Val’s son escapes to tell Camelot of the predicament, but meanwhile Val and the Viking captain Skyrmir become allies and overtake the ship, amidst more adventures ashore involving the legendary lost treasure of King Solomon. While Val’s wife and queen Aleta sets out to rescue him, Val, Skyrmir, and an African woman they meet, Makeda, manage to gain the treasure, but Makeda’s father shows up and demands the treasure be returned home to its rightful place, hidden away in a secret redoubt in Africa, in the lost kingdom of Ab’saba. Val and his allies sail there, and once in Africa, the story really gets exciting, as Ab’saba is in the middle of a civil war, and Val and the treasure are caught up in it. Meanwhile, Skyrmir has joined Aleta and Val’s knights as they race to his rescue. Lots of action!
The art by Gary Gianni is wonderfully detailed, yet full of great acting by the characters as well. Though his style is more pen-and-ink sketchy than either Foster or Murphy, resembling that of illustrators like Roy Krenkel and Franklin Booth, Gary is also a fine storyteller, and his comics background serves him well here.
In all, this is a fine collection and highly recommended.