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‘Corto Maltese: Ballad of the Salty Sea’ (review)

Written and Illustrated by Hugo Pratt
Published by Euro Comics / IDW Publishing


I first heard of Corto Maltese and his creator Hugo Pratt in the early 1970s.

It was around that time that I discovered a number of foreign comics artists such as Jean-Claude Forest, Guido Crepax, and Guy Peelleart, all of whose styles I quite liked.

Pratt’s? not so much.

In the years since, I’ve taken a look at a Corto Maltese album now and then but I’ve just never been able to get into them.

That’s the problem with the one I just finished as well—Ballad of the Salty Sea.

I read it but just couldn’t get into it. There’s no denying Pratt’s superior storytelling skills, his clever and creative use of blacks (particularly in underwater sequences), his pacing, or his unique characterizations. I just didn’t care for it.

Our hero, if you aren’t familiar with him, is a hardened, well-traveled adventurer, here rescued by a pirate captain who had already “rescued” two teenagers—a boy and a girl. The conflict between him and his crafty, long-bearded antagonist makes the plot, with added issues from the secrets held by the teenagers.

Overall, it reads like early Terry and the Pirates by Caniff, a series I have not found to have aged well either outside of its flawless art.

But as I say, while it’s just me, I have never cared much for Pratt’s art style. Here it reminds me most of Spanish artist Jordi Bernet, with an obvious bit of Kubert style in some parts and maybe a touch of Toth.

If you’re a Corto Maltese fan, well, here’s some more Corto Maltese. If you haven’t tried Pratt’s work before, I’m afraid I can’t recommend Ballad of the Salty Sea.

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