Another excellent volume in the march of Hal Foster’s creation, Prince Valiant Volume 7: 1949-1950 shines on Princess Aleta.
You might think that birth of Prince Valiant’s son Arn at the end of the previous volume would have slowed down Val’s adventuring, but you would be wrong. After the baby has been christened, Valiant and Gawain are dispatched to investigate reports of black magic in Wales, ending up in pitched battle at the aptly-named Castle Illwynde. Then it’s off to Scotland to battle the Picts, and then home yet again for Val to visit his growing boy.
Valiant now enters the 1950s: The Thule winter is hard and bleak, and a prince who has designs on Aleta must be dealt with. Then it’s another epic-length story, “The Missionaries,” in which Val and several of his fellow knights and crew travel to Rome on a quest for teachers who might bring Christianity to Thule. The story also features an escape through the Alps, far too many red-headed girls, and a tragic, life-changing event for the young squire Geoffrey (a.k.a. “Arf”). And Foster charmingly ends the book with “The Prince Arn Story,” a three-week sequence narrated by the toddler.
- Author/Illustrator: Hal Foster
- Hardcover, full color
- 10.25″ x 14″, 130 pages
- Fantagraphics, August 2013
- ISBN-13: 978-1-60699-645-4
- $35.00 USD
- Order online: Amazon
Yes, Volume 7. Time has flown by and Fantagraphics has continued to release one new Prince Valiant volume about every six months. If you’ve been away from these books for a while any one of them can be picked up and read independently, but it felt like a change toward humour and family values and events happened the last volume. Starting with Volume 6 strips with Arn thinking and acting as an infant, and Aleta leading the action, are intermingled with the usual violent clashes of Camelot’s enemies. Val is now a family man with a wife and son, and so his priorities change and adapt.
Aleta leads the charge against possible foes with a wit and common sense approach that turns everyone on their head, including Val, his father and even King Arthur. Foster brings her as a multifaceted, extremely balanced character and gives the strip a far greater depth than previously experienced. It’s not just Aleta but a series of strong female leads that make me think Foster was ahead of his time.
Because of changes in newspaper layouts, as outlined in volume 6, Foster was sticking to a fairly strict panel layout to allow it to be dissected and rearranged. This means no sweeping grand splashes, with the image above about as large as they now get. Foster’s art stays at its high level, with many opportunities to showcase his detailed costumes and environments. For me, the writing really shines in this volume.
Prince Valiant Volume 7: 1949-1950 is another in this long line of superb reprints Fantagraphics brings to comic strips fans. Excellent reproduction from Foster’s print proofs, sturdy paper stock, solid binding that allows the book to lay flat, and a very low price point make this a must-have.