Storm: The Pirates of Pandarve – Martin Lodewijk

This is a Titan Books republishing of the Dutch sci-fi title Storm. It is labelled book two but does not follow directly on from book one, which itself was not the start of the series. This book is the first of the 20 part Chronicles of Pandarve cycle and it is unclear if Titan actually published all of it, so you may get a nasty shock if you were planning on making it all the way through.

While the simple storytelling may hark back to when readers were less sophisticated and it can be quite nostalgic you may get bored of this quickly. There isn’t any character development or hard sci-fi concepts and it doesn’t have the charm of a proper pulp or noir piece.

The art is a full colour spectacular and testament to what British legend Don Lawrence can do with pencils and hundreds of hours of hard graft.

For the art and the nostalgia, Thumbs Up!

Storm: The Last Fighter – Martin Lodewijk

This is another in a huge number of tales concerning Storm, an astronaut who returns to Earth millions of years in the future where the planet has changed into the kind of primitive world that Conan would inhabit. Naturally his outdated principles of honour and courage get him into all sorts of trouble as well as rescuing his semi damsel female companion.

It isn’t in any way postmodern, it isn’t overstuffed with twists and rug-pulls and forced one-liners. There is peril and conflict plus anger at injustice but it is lean and unpretentious. This fundamental storytelling is rare and refreshing. But the shine wears off and it turns into a very old school Dungeons and Dragons adventure.

This is the second tale in this universe but nothing on the cover tells you that. A lengthy prose introduction fills you in on everything you missed, but gives no clues as to why our protagonist is called only “Storm.” The introduction handily tells you the first book is out of print. But thanks to the internet you can find it if you are willing to pay more than the original £2.95 cover price. Although the recap is more than adequate.

The art is astounding and you can tell it is hand drawn; by British legend Don Lawrence no less. There is no cutting and pasting or texture fill here. You can see each pencil stroke in the hair of the humans, the fur of the animals, or rocks on the ground. The anatomy and musculature of the people is perfect. It’s mindboggling to think how many hours must have gone into this work.

Storm’s female friend has had her name changed from Carrots to Ember thankfully so as not to be so anachronistic. But she is held prisoner for plot reasons and does not get a chance to develop.

There are seven more books in this series (before the next cycle starts). But they are hard to find in English and you will be paying quite a lot for them second hand.

Thumbs Up!

Storm the Deep World – Martin Lodewijk

This is an old school tale from the 1970’s but it draws on styles much older going back to Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon and even John Carter of Mars.

An Earth man goes into space and returns millions of years in the future where the earth has changed into a kind of primitive world (but not one ruled by apes). As per usual he meets a feisty female companion, who quickly shuts up and serves only as a prompt for exposition.

Both the art and narrative hark back to a time when storytelling was a lot leaner and more straightforward. This may be because it was aimed at young boys and wanted to cash in on the Star Wars boom. It isn’t overstuffed with twists and rug-pulls and forced one-liners, but there is definitely a villain who keeps coming back.

The art is spectacular and typical of the fantastic fully painted sci-fi vistas of the seventies that filled all manner of coffee table books. British artist Don Lawrence, who was best known for The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire (a similar book), does an incredible job. This was back in the day before pencilling, inking and colouring were developed as separate roles so these mere 48 pages must have been a marathon undertaking. Everything feels lovingly handcrafted in a style that seems so organic it would be impossible to recreate digitally.

There is the occasional bit of clunky writing such as the astronaut named Storm is sent on the Storm Probe spaceship to investigate an actual storm. And the female lead is called Carrots. With an ‘S’. But this could be the translation as it was originally published in Dutch and has been adapted into several European languages. This also means that the speech bubbles are either really tight or mostly comically oversized. Not enough to spoil the gorgeous art however.

It does suffer from being the first book (of many) and toward the end the narration seems hell bent on describing every single panel, possibly in a rush to finish as it is only 48 pages.

If you remember the sci-fi of the 1970’s or have a passion for Robert E Howard or Edgar Rice Burrows style adventure this is a must read.

Thumbs Up!