Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Last Fighter

My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues. Earlier installments can be found here.

Storm: The Last Fighter (1979)
Art by Don Lawrence & Script by Martin Lodewijk

In the desert foothills of the Bahamas (the ocean waters had again seeped underground, or either last volume’s flood was very localized), Stom wrestles a deer-like creature to the ground, then he and Ember (Carrots in the last story) cook it over a fire. Storm again tells her about Jupiter’s Red Spot and his journey to the future. His story is met with incredulity by a man who has somehow managed to sneak up on them, riding what looks like a giant, crawling shrimp.

He them to join his troupe; he thinks Storm could be a star attraction. Storm and Ember decline. To persuade the, he opens a wicker basket and releases two bat-insect creatures--flix. Storm jumps the man and puts him in a headlock, but it’s too late:

Storm, too, is fitted with a flix, and the man (Tchell) leads them to meet Master Cush1 and his Travelling Show of “monsters, marvels, minstrels, and magic.” Cush is immediately impressed with Ember, thinking she’d bring a high price in the East, but when she tells him what she thinks of that idea, he realizes he’ll have to reconsider: Maybe she could be a gladiator?

Cush sees Storm's potential as a fighter. He gives him a tryout against Barledoon2, an imposing mohawked gladiator.  Storm surprises Barledoon with his agility and martial arts and knocks the big man down. Cush doesn't know what to make of all this; it looks like acrobatics more than fighting. He calls for swords. Barledoon gets the better of Storm here. Cush tasks Barledoon with turning the acrobat into a fighter.

Over the next few weeks, Barledoon trains Storm in swordsmanship. Whenever he’s not training, he still has the flix on him, and he’s told the telepathic creatures can even sense thoughts of escape! Soon, they seen the walled city of Soamandrakisal3 where they are to perform. The crowds turn out to watch as the troupe parades into town.

That night, Barledoon is chosen to fight the champion of the city in the arena. He seems fatalistic about it, which Storm doesn’t understand, given that Soamandrakisal’s champion looks like a complete amateur. Barledoon takes a drink offered him with Master Cush’s compliments, then enters the arena. Barledoon’s movements are sluggish, and he’s quickly killed.

Storm can’t believe it. Tchell reveals that Barledoon was drugged so he would lose to the city’s champion, so Cush could stay in the good graces of the city’s leaders. Barledoon knew he was going to his death. Storm is so incensed, he knocks the champion down even as Cush is praising the man to the crowd. Storm misses Cush saying the champion will “travel to the Valley of Bones and bring back the power of the Palace of Death.”

Cush tries to stop Storm, but to no avail. The champion gets a drop kick out of the Captain Kirk handbook and is knocked out. The crowd starts to turn ugly. Cush, thinking quickly, tells them that his traveling show acquired Storm and trained him for this moment—to be a worthy champion for Soamandrakisal. The town leaders buy it, and Storm (under threat of Ember’s life) is the new champion. Though he’s given a place of honor the rest of the show, all he thinks about escape.

That night, Cush exhorts his troupe to pack up quickly so they can get out of town before things go bad. They aren't fast enough:

The town father and his retinue of soldiers want to know what will motivate their reluctant champion to complete his task and return to Soamandrakisal with the powers of the Palace of Death. Cush assures him he has a way.

The next morning, the man lays out Storm’s mission—and its potential deadliness to him: He must be Soamandrakisal’s champion and fight against the champions of all the other cities to achieve the throne of the Palace of Death, and Soamandrakisal can rule the world. The man takes Storm on a little walk to a temple:


1. "Keng" in the 1987 Titan Books English translation.
2. "Karn" in Titan Books.
3. "Kalthike" in Titan Books.

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