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Masterful Reprint of a Comic Masterpiece

  • Aug 19, 2009
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What is the appeal of Prince Valiant? It seems so uncool, so dorky, with its stories of noble knights and that weird narration-under-the-art that I doubt we'll ever see it rebooted as its contemporaries, such as Batman (premiered two years after Prince Valiant) and Star Trek, which saw two series and two movies before Foster handed off to John Cullen Murphy.

And yet, here it is. Twenty years after Fantagraphics reprinted the entire series, the company's gone back to the well to launch another reprinting.
So it's natural to ask: is it worth it?

It would be no surprise to say that it is. For Prince Valiant's fans, even those who managed to buy all 50 volumes the first time around, it would be worth acquiring them again (you can always sell the old books off on eBay and use them to fund this reprinting).

There are several reasons.

First is that Fantagraphics has reprinted two years in each book, which means this will probably come out to 17 hardcover volumes which will look absolutely bitching on the shelves compared to the 40 soft covers that need to be propped up.

Second, the production values are fabulous. Sturdy hard covers, a few essays to sweeten the mix (not essential, except to note that Foster, like many geniuses, was neither not interested nor able to articulate his working processes), so those of us who enjoy well-made books will be overjoyed to have this edition.

But most of all, all but 17 pages were reshot from Foster's pristine color engraver's proof sheets housed at Syracuse University. The European edition that Fantagraphics used had been recolored, but this time, we get Foster's choices, printed correctly.

The differences are not just impressive, but shocking. Solid blocks of blacks fade to reveal the delicate line work underneath. A tapestry of squares and circles of orange, yellows and browns are replaced with a softer brown and a green tinted with yellow and reveal a knight on horseback. Details are revealed in night scenes impossible to see before. To support the claim that Foster was an expert draftsman with a keen eye for human expression, you need this edition.

Of course, Val's story still retains its narrative power. This edition follows Val as he grows the exiled prince in the fens of eastern England, his learning of sword craft, his journey to Camelot and befriending by the knights, his competition for the hand of Ilene, and ends with his return to Camelot to warn the king of the Saxon invasion. It's knights of bold, all right, but leavened with amusing minor characters and astute observations about human relations, especially between married couples.

In fact, the only complaint I have is that we'll have to wait until spring 2010 for volume 2.

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review by . December 25, 2009
I cannot adequately tell you how delighted I am with this publication. Prince Valiant, the comic strip that appeared each and ever Sunday in our newspaper is one of the first such strips I have a conscious remembrance of. This strip actually had a rather large impact on my life. First, it was read to me each Sunday before I was able to read and then I was required to repeat the story to my mother; in my own words. Secondly, I have been a history fanatic literally all my life and I lay this fact …
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Bill Peschel ()
Ranked #476
Bill Peschel was born in 1960 in Ohio, and grew up there and in North Carolina. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A. in journalism. At The Avalon Hill Game Company … more
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Starred Review. Medieval swordplay and adventure have never been as glorious as in Foster's Sunday-only comic strip. Although much reprinted (including an earlier version from the same publisher), this edition has been reproduced from pristine printer's proofs to give the gorgeous artwork its crispest version ever. The story takes young Prince Valiant, exiled heir to the conquered kingdom of Thule, from a witch's evil prophecy to adventure at the court of King Arthur, with stops for heroic rescues, conniving foes, beautiful maidens, Viking invasions and even a broken heart or two. Narrated in captions rather than told in speech balloons, Foster's script is literate and full of vivid characterizations, like the headstrong but cunning Val and carefree Sir Gawain. But nothing surpasses his artwork—rich with details of armor, weapons and dress, the story comes to life with a palpable sense of magic and danger. Each drawing is a flawless illustration, perfectly composed; even a battle of 20 men comes alive in a tiny panel, with every action clearly delineated. Prince Valliant is one of the best-drawn comics ever, and this new edition does ample justice to its achievement. Bonus material includes an interview with Foster and an afterword by editor Kim Thompson for context.(Aug.)
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ISBN-10: 1606991418
ISBN-13: 978-1606991411
Author: Hal Foster
Genre: Comics & Graphic Novels
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
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