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 Naturally his outdated principles of honour and courage get him into all sorts of trouble as well as rescuing his semi damsel female companion.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!

The Walking Dead 28: A Certain Doom – Robert Kirkman

This volume feels thicker. Side by side with the last one it looks thicker, but it still has the regular six issues. Despite the size it flies by as the Whisper War concludes and a tragedy happens. A real tragedy. Spoiler warning!

People die all the time and you have stopped learning the names of the minor characters as you know they won’t be around long. In this world it is hard to make death shocking, meaningful, and impactful. Kirkman finds a way and bravely reinforces the core maxim of The Walking Dead, that no one, literally no one, is safe.

The art is great and you would think after so many books that this straight edge panel format would become formulaic. But there are lots of exciting, emotional close-ups, clever perspectives and a very fluid panel count changing the pacing of each page where necessary.

Thumbs Up!

The Walking Dead: Here’s Negan – Robert Kirkman

Origin stories are for heroes. Whenever a villain gets one it always diminishes them as their sense of mystery and fear is gone. As much as you want to know where Lucille came from and how she got her name perhaps it is better if you don’t know.

This isn’t a bad volume but it is a little thin. Both in page count, which can’t be masked by the slightly oversize format and hardcover, and in content. Kirkman skips Negan through the 100 issues of time that Rick got to grow and develop, but does so aplomb. We also see some familiar names along the way.

The art is the same high standard as it the same people as the main issues.

As a fan of The Walking Dead you will want this and it is a lot more convenient than tracking down original issues. It’s a shame that it is so thin however.

Thumbs Up!

The Fuse Volume 4: Constant Orbital Revolutions – Anthony Johnston

This volume continues the high standard of writing we have seen previously and rewards those loyal readers that have been patiently waiting for the payoff. All those little hints about a larger conspiracy burst forth and are tied up nicely. So much so that this could be the last book for this wonderful world. It would certainly be a shame if Johnston doesn’t come back to this marvellous setting one day though.

The art is superb as always with great colouration helping to set the mood of the moment.

Thumbs Up!

The Fuse Volume 3: Perihelion – Anthony Johnston

This excellent Sci-fi police drama continues to deliver. Set against the backdrop of a carnival and all the crime and mayhem it brings this volume contains a complete story and as usual ends with a tiny teaser for the bigger picture.

The art is excellent with plenty of widescreen panels and lots of visuals to break up the dialogue.

Definitely a keeper.

Thumbs Up!

Usagi Yojimbo 30: The Hell Screen – Stan Sakai

It’s time for another bi-annual helping of your favourite rabbit. The contents page promises seven stories but one is three issues and it isn’t clear why each needs to listed separately.

Inspector Ishida makes a welcome return with another mystery and we also receive a visit from the Komori Ninja. You probably don’t remember Yamaguchi Kyosai from a rock delivering story but the reappearance of these minor characters adds weight and authenticity to Sakai’s world.

All of these feel original and explore cultural aspects we have not touched on before such as the problems Japan faces with its excessive rainfall.

Like normal there is a handy guide at the back which explains and enlightens you to the subjects covered.

The art is great as you would expect. The use of black in the night-time rain scenes and those set in caves are particularly effective.

Thumbs Up!

Crossed +100: Volume 3 – Simon Spurrier

Here is another book in the most interesting Crossed series to date. We leap forward five years, possibly as a jumping on for new readers, or possibly it ties into the number 13.

Like the first book this is another ‘grand plan’ epic in which Salt directs the fate of the Crossed – from the grave. Also like the first book we build to a shocking climax at the end. Or at least we attempt to. Having seen it done magnificently by Alan Moore the cat is definitely out of the bag and we aren’t going to have the rug pulled out on us twice.

There is an interesting family situation developing for ‘Future,’ our antagonist, and it will be interesting to see where Spurrier goes next having taken all this time to worldbuild.

Definitely worth a read but don’t expect lightning to be striking twice.

Thumbs Up!

Rat Queens Volume 4: High Fantasies – Kurtis J. Wiebe

The trouble with any book that follows a world-shattering event is where do you go from here? This volume feels very deflated as we almost go back to square one. Except we can’t because square one got blown up and not all the characters are still around.

But we love our Rat Queens and even if the plot isn’t up to much then just hanging around and laughing at their jokes will do for now. There is a nice old school D&D dungeon crawl that tickles the funny bones of any veterans out there and also a quirky flashback to some of the character’s origins.

Thumbs Up!