Comics / European Comics

Corto Maltese Océan noir


By Hervé St-Louis
November 21, 2021 - 22:19

It’s 2001 and Corto Maltese is still a pirate, trying to solve the mystery of a Japanese Peruvian cult trying to dethrone Japan’s emperor. Can he figure out what’s happening, or must he just flow with the action and hope to come out alive?

Publisher Casterman has been trying to continue Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese, publishing new stories set in the original continuity and now, venturing out into new interpretation of the character in other time periods. This is what Corto Maltese Océan noir is about. It is a story about Corto Maltese set in 2001, where much of what he is about remains, but is updated for a new epoch. Océan noir has not been translated to English yet.

I enjoyed Océan noir as it felt like reading the usual Corto Maltese comic. There is something that Pratt always had in his comics which I can only define as “matter of fact” speech. Characters exchange with one another, without many filters. They just speak, understand one another frankly. The story had Corto Maltese and familiar character join, split, and meet all over the world, much like the old comics, often without a specific plot. If you are looking for a Corto Maltese that feels like the old ones, you will find that in Océan noir.

However, does Océan noir satisfies on its own. It does. The one thing that I did not like was the sex scene. Corto loved many women, but never told them overtly. It was never seen. Hints were sufficient. The updates are interesting, but I wonder why the story was set in 2001 as opposed to 2021. There is a little bit of the philosophical madness that Pratt would imbue in his stories, but not much. In essence, we are reading a Corto Maltese story but perhaps the originals were enough.

Visually, Bastien Vivès is a noir artist, but very different than Pratt. Whereas Pratt relied on lines with varying thickness to create his chiaroscuro effects, Vivès relies on shapes and masses of objects which he clearly paints as opposed to dominating the page with lines. Both can play with the abstract, but the result is not the same. While Vivès draws very good noir material, his pages feel more stuffed and filed than Pratt’s even though both are very conceptual and abstract. The one place where Vivès cannot beat Pratt is storytelling. Often, what happens on the page is unclear unlike Pratt where while he may have overburdened his pages with texts and relied to much on floating heads, we always knew who was who, who was speaking, and to whom.

The format of the comic was also too constrained, not allowing readers to have enough space to dream in Hugo Maltese' world. At least, Hugo always wore a baseball hat and sported a earring throughout.

Rating: 6.5 /10

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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