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This latest volume of the Prince Valiant comic strip is largely concerned with Prince Arn’s visit to North America. About three-quarters of the volume details his journey there and back. The last section mostly concerns Prince Valiant trying to stop a plot by Mordred to take the throne.

Prince Valiant 15 — the the bottom right panel is from a storyline in which Val enters a crypt in Scotland and uses a skull to scare off a druid following him.

I hate to admit it, but this was one of the dullest books so far in the Prince Valiant series. The illustrations, as always, were splendid, but something was missing in terms of the storyline.

It all begins well enough. Arn hears tales of how his parents had once gone to North America and visited with the Native Americans. His mother was regarded as a goddess and the Natives were sorry to see her leave. When she did leave, she told them someday her son might return to lead their people to greatness.

Foster is playing on the myth of the white man being thought of as a god by the Native Americans—a myth that goes back to the first white explores to the New World like Cortez. However, Foster is writing in the 1960s, so he’s a bit more up-to-date.

In any case, Arn decides it’s time for him to fulfill this prophecy, even though he’s only just shy of fifteen, and his parents agree to let him go, with a shipload of warriors and Tillicum, his Native American nurse.

Once they arrive in North America, however, the plot gets dull. Foster understands whites have a tendency to think themselves better than Natives, and Arn is no different. He wants to bring civilization to the Algonquins, but with the guidance of his nurse, Tillicum, herself Native American—he learns to appreciate that Natives good qualities.

There isn’t much else to the story. There are a few skirmishes between the Algonquins and Iroquois. Arn finds himself in some sticky situations, having to hide out from Natives searching for him. Eventually, he helps the Algonquins defeat the Iroquois, and then the Ottawa come to befriend the Algonquins so they won’t be hurt like the Iroquois. In the end, Arn does succeed in leading the Algonquins to greatness, not by civilizing them, but by causing them to create a federation with other tribes that leads to the birth of the Algonquin nation.

I don’t have much else to say about it. What I’ve said about Foster’s depiction of Native Americans can be read in my previous blog on Val and Aleta’s first trip to North America:

https://childrenofarthur.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/prince-valiant-vol-6-1947-1948-the-north-american-journey/

Bottom line, however, more work needs to be done on Foster’s treatment of Native Americans. Volume 6 in this series, as noted in my blog from that volume, has a preface about how Foster tried to treat the Natives with respect, but I doubt Native Americans today would find it so respectful. Foster could also let racism seep into his depictions of other peoples, such as Arabs. Ultimately, he was a product of his time. I wish this volume had addressed Foster’s treatment of Native Americans in more detail. Instead there is an interview by an author who helped make Prince Valiant books for Dell—interesting in itself, but perhaps not as suitable for this volume.

That is not to say there are not breathtaking images in the book. The scenes of canoes on the lakes and rivers were particularly striking to me. Foster’s plots, however, are repetitive and leave much to be desired. Part of the problem is reading the strip in two year groupings. The strip at the end of 1966 ends in the middle of a new plot, and then we must wait several months for Fantagraphics to bring out the next book so we can continue the story. The strip itself has a serial, soap opera feel as a result of its weekly rather than yearly grouping of its storylines. One wishes Foster had more thought to how the strip might be packaged in book form down the road, but of course, he could not foresee that when he began it in the 1930s.

And so, this book left me disappointed, but I’ll go on to read the next volume regardless.

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