Travelling Man's Blog

Review: Corto Maltese-Under the Sign of Capricorn by Travelling Man
November 23, 2015, 9:00 am
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: , , , ,

corto malteseWritten and drawn by Hugo Pratt

Published by IDW



This is the first of a series of 12 volumes designed to bring Hugo Pratt’s classic story to the audience it richly deserves. Pratt pioneered comic storytelling, working years before Eisner, with this epic story of an adventurer, sailor and occasional thug. Principled, ruthless and strangely calm, Corto makes his way through a world of conspiracy, brutal murder and long forgotten history.

Think Raiders of the Lost Ark crossed with Uncharted and a rich streak of noir and you’ve got the tone here. Over the course of this book, Corto rescues an alcoholic academic from himself, aids a rich orphan intent on finding the other half of his family, postpones war and suffers serious head trauma. Oh he also loses a battle of wits with a Seagull in one of the bleakest, and funniest, shorts here.

Pratt’s hero is intensely laconic but he’s also a strangely poignant figure for reasons you’re drip fed through these stories.  The ending of ‘The Seagull’s Fault’, the last and arguably best one here, is especially resonant. Seeing Corto do the right thing, again, lose everything, again and realize that turns out to be a surprisingly affecting read. The book’s full of moments like that.

Pratt’s art is, if anything, subtler than his writing. The bare minimum you need is on the page and a lot of the time it’s just whichever character happens to be talking. Despite this it never feels sparse, or phoned in. Pratt knew just what was needed and every page here is a textbook example of how to tell stories graphically. The fight scenes are especially well done, gritty and brutal but convincingly untidy and exhausting for the combatants.

This is a beautiful collection of one of comics’ many overlooked gems. It’s clever, occasionally dark, high adventure that’s been one of the foundations of an industry that had largely forgotten it for decades. Almost becoming the very kind of history Corto tries to plunder, it’s an all time classic and ripe for rediscovery.

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