Friday, February 24, 2012


Review by Nick Ahlhelm

Airship 27 is probably the best company currently in the new pulp field when it comes to reviving classic pulp heroes. And while they have introduced several new heroes in their two Mystery Men (& Women) anthologies, classic characters have always seemed to be their focus.

Challenger Storm: Isle of Blood is one of several novels that looks to change that. Challenger Storm is something of a Doc Savage sort, a heroic adventurer with a crew of allies and a desire to help those in need. He’s an exceptional man, a talented pilot and an all around Renaissance man.

His first adventure takes him to La Isla de Sangre, the Isle of Blood mentioned in the subtitle. He’s there to rescue a kidnapped young woman from a guerilla force, but he quickly finds he’s in the middle of an all out war. Ultimately, he and his men must take on the murderous Villalobos brother, would be conquerors of the entire island.

Don Gates develops a solid tale for the first adventure of his new hero. Challenger seems like a genuinely interesting character to lead the story. Unfortunately the tale sometimes feels like it gets bogged down with too many viewpoint supporting cast members. While reading, I couldn’t help but yearn for more Challenger in the book that carries his own name!

While this is Gates’s first novel, his artistic collaborator is far from a rookie. The book features a painted cover and interior line drawings by the legendary Michael Kaluta. Kaluta’s fantasy art is almost legendary in the field, but long time pulp fans might remember his classic, and gorgeous, work on both the 70s and 90s incarnations of the Shadow.

To be honest, Kaluta’s art is worth the price of the book alone. But Gates keeps up as best as he can with the superstar artist and delivers a solid adventure yard. While Challenger Storm: Isle of Blood walks little new ground, it is a rip-roaring adventure yarn, well worth a look by any new pulp reader.

The book is now available for $14.99 in print or for a cool $3 as a PDF download from the Airship 27 Hangar.


  1. Thanks for the great and fair review, Nick. I think your criticism has merit and fully expect Don will only get better as a writer with such positive critiques. Thanks so much, the Editor Guy.

  2. Hey, Nick! Thanks for the review. I'm glad you liked it. Expect more Challenger in the next book...! :)

  3. This is a really satisfying read. I believe it's to Don's credit that he chose to take the challenge of an ensemble dynamic here, giving dimension to players we are meeting for the first time. There wasn't a moment when I didn't see Storm as being central to the goings-on even when others were furthering the story in their dialogue.

  4. Really looking forward to the sequel. One of my favorite books in quite awhile.


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