The Iron Legion (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 14 December 2017 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Iron Legion (Credit: Panini UK)
Written by Pat Mills,‎ John Wagner,‎ Steve Moore‎
Artowrk by Dave Gibbons
Paperback: 162 pages
Publisher: Panini UK LTD

The Iron Legion is the first of two Volumes of the Collected Fourth Doctor strips from Doctor Who Magazine, it also happens to be the earliest comics from the pages of Doctor Who Magazine version of the strip. It is a good read, not as strong a run of stories as the strip developed into, but these are the early days of the DWM strip, so while they are often entertaining, they hadn't quite developed their voice as a strip yet. That is a minor complaint really, because when you get down to it these early strips in DWM capture a huge leap for the ongoing comic strip adventures of Doctor Who. 

The book also features the debut of DWM's first original companion, and the franchise's first companion of a race other than white, Sharon Davies. I rather liked Sharon, she has a good personality and works well with the Fourth Doctor.  Tom Baker's voice is most definitely captured within these stories, and that is really why, despite telling tales that are bigger and more sweeping than anything the show could have ever done at the time these were written and released, it somehow still manages to feel like they belong within the world of the show. 

The often beautiful Black & White artwork by Dave Gibbons is the most notable uptick in quality from what I have glanced and skimmed at of the TV Comic version of the strip that immediately proceeded it. One look at the opening page of "Doctor Who and The Iron Legion" and it far surpasses nearly anything TV Comic did in all the years it ran the strip.  From his depiction of the Fourth Doctor (for the most part, there are occasions where he can look a bit off) to the big sweeping pages of armies and spaceships...Gibbons really managed to draw something special within this book. 

The stories are also pretty solid, though I believe the strip only got better as it went along, there is no denying that these early stories are quite good. From the titular opening story, to "Doctor Who and the Star Beast" and "The Dogs of Doom," it has some pretty solid stories underneath all the beautiful art. 

This is the early days of Doctor Who Magazine's strip, so much so that the magazine wasn't even yet called Doctor Who Magazine, but Doctor Who Weekly.  It may not reach the same heights that the strip would under the Fifth, Sixth or Eighth Doctor runs, but there are some solid storytelling and great artwork, and despite the fact that Doctor Who has been living in comic strips nearly as long as he has been off adventuring on TV, it says something that one could easily, and happily, start reading the strip from the moment the magazine took over. Panini has also restored the strips beautifully in this collection, being released in their original Black & White forms for the first time since they were originally printed, along with some commentary from the people who made it...it's a collection that comes highly recommended.