As regular Scoop readers know, during the disruption caused by the COVID-19 virus, we've featured reviews of individual back issues, runs, collected editions, and original graphic novels that captured and held our attention over the long haul. This week marks the return of “new comics Wednesday” for many around the country, but even as we start reviewing new comics once again we’ve decided to continue including great older comics among our features. Remember, once your store is open, checking out their back issue bins is a great way to #BackTheComeback.

Corto Maltese: Under the Sign of Capricorn
IDW Publishing; $29.99

As if founding Eclipse Comics and IDW Publishing’s imprint The Library of American Comics (LOAC) wasn’t enough, LOAC chief Dean Mullaney has launched another IDW imprint, EuroComics, with the ambitious goal of bringing some of the best European comics to American audiences.

First up is Corto Maltese: Under the Sign of Capricorn, the initial offering of a scheduled 12 volumes which will collect writer-artist Hugo Pratt’s seminal work. The first book collects Pratt’s first six interconnected short stories: “The Secret of Tristan Bantam,” “Rendez-vous in Bahia,” “Sureshot Samba,” “The Brazilian Eagle,” “So Much for Gentlemen of Fortune,” and “The Seagull’s Fault.”

And simply put, this book is a joy.

Even just part of the way into it, it’s obvious that the hype was right. Those of us who thought we had a great graphic novel collections and yet who didn’t have this one, well, we have most definitely been missing out on something.

If you want a study in pacing, a blend of deliberate action and fantasy, this is it. The material starts with baseline not distant from Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates, but it goes in wild directions from there.

Used in the book, a quote from the late Kim Thompson really sums it up superbly: “Corto Maltese was the first European strip to advance a mature, artistically serious sensibility within the traditional adventure format. The elliptical narrative of the stories, the pervasive sense of destiny and tragedy, the side trips into the worlds of dreams and magic all capped off with the exotic, guarded nature of the hero combined with Pratt’s hard-won craft, worldly experience, and scrupulous research to form a work of breathtaking scope and power.”

Printed in their original oversized black and white format, this book (like the others that will follow) features a new translations from Pratt’s original Italian scripts. Simone Castaldi, Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Hofstra University (and author of Drawn and Dangerous: Italian Comics of the 1970s and 1980s), and Mullaney have teamed up for the job.

And it’s a home run shot that is going to just keep going all the way out of the stadium and into orbit.

– J.C. Vaughn