Prince Valiant marked a major milestone this past Sunday -- it was the 4,000th installment of this weekly adventure strip. The current creative team of Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates lead up to event nicely. In transit to their next adventure in the Misty Isles, Val, and his family see portentous omens. (Click on images to enlarge).
And page 4000 has the appearance of a milestone. Val's assembled family and friends harken to his speech, as they look ahead to the future.
But it's that speech that bothers me.
Look at how the previous creative teams marked similar events. Hal Foster, for page 2,000 recapped some of the highlights of Prince Valiant's career.
For page 3,000, Foster's successor John Cullen Murphy recounted other key events from Val's past (all of which were dutifully chronicled in the strip).
But for page 4,000, Schultz & Yeates have Val saying "The past is dead and gone and holds no claim on us. There is only the here and now, and we are masters of this moment."
Maybe it's just me, but that sounds like the language of a reboot. Wipe the slate clean and start the story from scratch, changing characters, events, and back stories to suit a reimagined Prince Valiant.
If so, that would be a real shame. Prince Valiant is an ongoing saga with a rich history and a wealth of characters. Val has grown from a young boy to a mature adult during the course of the tale, and his children have grown into adulthood as well. There are places scattered throughout medieval Europe, Asia and the Americas where Val has made friends -- and enemies. But unlike the cluttered continuity of the Marvel or DC Comics universe, there's still a very large world for Val to explore.
There are small kingdoms to discover, new characters to introduce, and lands to explore (like South America). Unlike the comic book universes, Prince Valiant's world is full without being confining.
The backstory of the supporting cast adds richness to the saga and rewards long-time readers for their loyalty. And it's not an exclusive club -- Prince Valiant reprints are readily available, as are chronologies. We don't need a Crises on Infinite Earths here -- just keep telling the story of Prince Valiant as he explores the historic and mythic world of 500 AD.