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New boost for the comic book icon Corto Maltese

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What is happening there? The sailor’s coat and cap are missing, a hallmark of Corto Maltese since Hugo Pratt created the captain without a ship in 1967 for his “Ballad of the South Seas”. Instead, a baseball cap. Bastien Vivès and Martin Quenehen move in “Corto Maltese – Black Ocean” (Translation Resel Rebiersch, writer and reader, 184 pages, €24.80) the main character in the 21st century, and not just for another adventure. As for a Marvel superhero, narrate Corto Maltese origin story new and allow them to take place in a parallel universe.

Aged Well: Corto Maltese in a scene from Black Ocean.Photo: writer and reader

To do this they give Corto a makeover. He is a pirate again and has yet to discover his superpower, so to speak. As he corresponds to an antihero, this is not easy to understand. It is probably a kind of instinctive sense of justice that reliably asserts itself against the supposedly pursued profit motive when it counts.

Vivès and Quenehen provide all the ingredients that make a good Corto Maltese story: a dash of mystical exoticism through a secret society with enigmatic symbols; a pinch of eroticism through mysterious women; and the laconic, often poetic verbal contributions, particularly in the dialogues with the inevitable “friend” Rasputin, the embodiment of a ruthlessness that Corto himself can never achieve. And of course there has to be a treasure, like the action-packed MacGuffin.

Wars are a good time for people to get to know each other, Pratt said. In the “Ballad of the South Seas” was the First World War. In “Black Ocean” there is also an epoch-making historical event at the time of history, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. However, Corto often remains on the sidelines of the events and simply uses the disturbing news of the events in New York as an Escape opportunity.

In Black Ocean, Corto becomes something of a modern action hero. Vivès forces the entire rhythm of the story at times, only to then drop a few gears again, especially in the erotically charged scenes with Corto and his old friend Freya.

Bad boy with sex appeal

It is more luxuriously drawn than Pratt’s rather delicate women and therefore comes optically very clearly from Vivès’s graphic universe, which, in contrast to Hugo Pratt’s contoured lines, is characterized by a flatter, softer approach. . Freya also gets closer to the hero than usual: Pratt always deliberately left him in the dark.

On the open sea: another scene from Corto Maltese – Black Ocean”.Photo: writer and reader

Despite all the modernization, the Vivès Corto has by no means lost its usual freedom-loving nonchalance. In contrast, Vivè’s entirely digitally created drawings perfectly capture the suppleness and sex appeal of the mysterious bad boy and, with their subtle gray tones and play of shadows, create a perfect, sometimes slightly washed-out setting for the faces of the protagonists, who are often only hinted at.

The album cover image discussed.Photo: writer and reader

In the city scenes in particular, the panels are occasionally more complete than Pratt’s, but his style is not copied either; it is an independent work, but it breathes the spirit and humor of the model. At the same time, Corto Maltese remains recognizable as Pratt’s character, thanks to the writer who, unlike the illustrator, has known the series since his youth.

It is not yet clear if one a drink remains. Corto’s gesture at the end of “Black Ocean” shows that the window of time for new adventures in the new universe is not that big: after the turn of the millennium, the digital age really begins and you really can’t imagine how Corto Maltese would do it. . managing the associated control (and self-regulation) is at his mercy.

But still: Díaz Canales and Rubén Pellejero, who have been given less freedom and who since 2015 have been continuing Corto Maltés in the style of Hugo Pratt, will soon send their protagonists to Prague.

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