It is a shame that Hugo Pratt and his famous creation Corto Maltese, the early 20th century adventurer, hasn't been as popular in the UK as in the continent. His books are difficult to get hold of in the UK and one of the only ones that can be purchased is this superb adventure set in the Pacific at some point before WWI. A mysterious hooded criminal called the Monk in coalition with Rasputin has kidnapped two rich British scions...a collectors item
Hugo Pratt (1927-1995) was an italian comic book author, barely known in the English speaking world, whose life was reportedly full of improbable adventures. His books are sold mainly in the European Continent, where they have reached critical as well as popular acclaim. His most famous creation was Corto Maltese, a sort of mercenary living in the early part of the 20th century, and having a series of adventures throughout the world (historical events, like the Russian Revolution and the Russian Civil War, often appeared in the albums). Italian author Umberto Eco, for example, is a great fan of Corto Maltese. Ballad of the Salt Sea is Corto Maltese's first album, and probably his best. It concerns smugglers in the south Pacific islands just before World War I, as they try to accomodate themselves to a new international situation. One of the smugglers is Corto, the "good" one (though Corto is never an entirely likable character, and when he helps people in need he does it reluctantly, and like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, against his better judgement). The "bad" smuggler is Rasputin, a character that would appear in later Corto albums. All in all, a great comic book album.
Hugo Pratt presents us with a graphical novel that marks a generation of readers. Under the torrid black and white nights of the south seas, a cynic adventurer trips in his own romanticism between pirates, lost islands and greedy treasure hunters. Love stricken and betrayed, this anti-hero runs for the adventure rather than the money, keeping only the memory of calm oceans and caressing winds.