Prince Valiant is wrapping up a very exciting storyline involving a dual to the death between Prince Valiant, and Draco. Draco's star rose in the court of Camelot, while Val's (thanks in part to the sorcery of Draco's wife Maldubh), declined almost to the point of being exiled.
This long sequence was a very serious one, and every week it seems our hero was suffering yet another setback at the hands of Draco and Maldubh.
Fortunately, the current creative team of Mark Schultz and Gary Gianni decided to insert a little comic relief. And they did so in what I consider to be an absolutely brilliant fashion.
Val complains that the armory is overrun with rats, and have ruined his gear by chewing through leather bindings and cloth (it's all a ploy to buy time for his wife, Queen Aleta of the Misty Isles to try some magical counter-measures). In the following sequence, the rat catchers arrive. And they look very... familiar.
Yes, the rat catchers are Laurel and Hardy. It's a great way to inject a little humor and also employ a bit of shorthand.
Because the characters are clearly Laurel and Hardy, we know that they'll be incompetent -- as they indeed are. But there's more.
Gianni didn't just stick this comedy duo in medieval garb. Their clothing is modeled on the costumes they wore in "Babes in Toyland." So for those familiar with that film, there's an additional level of humorous reference.
Gag-a-day strips are fine in the their place, but for me, the well-written and drawn adventure strip (of which there are few remaining) yield far greater reading pleasure.
(If you're interested in learning more about Prince Valiant, I recommend reading A Prince Named Valiant -- thoughtful analysis and wonderful background information from a truly knowledgeable fan).