Prince Valiant Vol. 2: 1939–1940 has all the virtues of its predecessor: lively adventure, painterly colors and fine-scale detail in action and rest. But where the first volume revolved around Camelot, this installment sees the titular prince roam Europe in search of adventure
Val seems to grow through these pages, replacing a bit of his carefree mayhem with the responsibilities of leadership and loss. He’s still surprising savage to modern eyes and cavalier about his safety as well. He’ll kill for sport and sheath his sword for laughter. Crusades catch him, but none as forcefully as his need for amusement.
These adventures in these pages take him to the doomed castle of Anderkrag and Rome at the height of its decline. The bulk of the story, though, is taken up with a full war against the Huns (of Atilla fame). The full-page vistas give Val sufficient space to display actual strategy and reversals. Graded on the curve of the times, Hal Foster doesn’t dehumanize the Huns too badly, even if they are full villains.
The art seems more assured here. Some of the compositions break the grid to showcase a single stop-and-stare drawing. The action is fun, leavened with heartbreak. And the story ends with an excellent cliffhanger, making me look forward to my third round with the Prince.