Corto Maltese is an adventurer and a rather unlikely hero because he tries very hard to not do anything heroic. He looks out for himself and not for much else. But nonetheless, he has a lot of charm - the lone wolf.
In Ballad of the Salt Sea, he gets caught in the middle of the war between the Germans and the British in 1914 and in the schemes of an almost mythical man called The Monaco.
The book takes place in the Bismarck Sea and the Solomon Sea and you get to see and hear a lot of folklore of that region, most of it just in the background. I loved the many masks Pratt drew, the Museum of Ethnology here has quite a collection and I recognised a couple of designs.
The weird thing about Ballad of the Salt Sea is that it goes from stereotypical natives with bones in their hairs who go ugh (yes, really) to actual characters who do a lot more than just serve as exotic background. The only female character, Pandora, I found incredibly whiny. She pretty much gets shuffled around like a piece of baggage. As much as I'm for female characters, if you can't think of anything else for them to do than having them sit around clutching a blanket to their chest, then just stay with an all-male cast.
The art is quite striking, with almost minimalistic backgrounds and characters that are instantly recognisable just with a few brushstrokes. The story ows a lot to Joseph Conrad, R.L. Stevenson ect. and while Corto Maltese is quite the cynic, there's still a lot of romanticism in his story.
1. book for the Graphic Novels Challenge