The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor - The Twelfth Doctor (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 4 October 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Road to The Thirteenth Doctor -Twelfth Doctor (Credit: Titan)
"Tulpa"
Writer: James Peaty
Artist: Brian Williamson
Colorist: Dijjo Lima

"The Road To..."
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Rachel Stott
Colorist: Enrica Angiolini

Published by Titan Comics in September 2018

The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor ends here, with the Twelfth Doctor's entry.  Again, the main story of the issue seemingly has nothing to do with the Thirteenth Doctor, only a brief short comic at the end of the book actually seems to lead to the new Doctor, but at least this time the main story of the issue is fun and interesting.  

The story involves a weird alien parasite, that feeds off of a guy's dreams and imagination, and practically destroys the Earth to revive the long-dead species.  It's fun and creative and has some tremendous art by Brian Williamson, who has an art style I am always impressed with. Again, it is a story that could have easily just headlined the Twelfth Doctor's ongoing line, but that isn't a complete negative, it is really only a negative in terms of the marketing of the book.

The "Road To..." segment in this final entry takes place near the end of the Twelfth Doctor's life.  The Doctor, Nardole, and Missy are on the lift on their way to save Bill in World Enough and Time.  They see the glowing light,  the hand reaching towards them and the Doctor acknowledges that he saw it before as the Tenth Doctor (having missed it when it appeared in his Eleventh incarnation), but despite knowing it is a situation that will need to be dealt with, he must carry on to save Bill, leaving it a problem for another day. To Be Continued with the Thirteenth Doctor.  

While this overall issue was an improvement over the previous entries of the mini-series, I don't think the actual "Road To..." segments were terribly satisfying.  For one, I always find it a bit annoying when there is an adventure of a Past Doctor, and they shoehorn in another adventure in the middle of it.  While it can work (I rather liked Twice Upon a Time), it often just feels like fan service. They could have just as easily weaved the glowing vortex with the hand reaching out into the main story of the issue, which would have tied the whole concept of the mini-series together a little neater. 

On the whole, this mini-series felt a bit like a half-baked bust. None of it is awful, but it doesn't really feel like it is building towards the Thirteenth Doctor in any meaningful way.  It feels like they just took a regular issue of each Doctor's ongoing line, slapped a mini-story in the back of each issue, and then marketed as if the whole books would be about the adventures that lead to the Thirteenth Doctor, or at the very least lead to the main arc of her upcoming Ongoing Comic.  So that is a shame.  I wouldn't say don't read the books, as they are serviceable and mildly entertaining, just know going in that they definitely lack the marketed Thirteenth Doctor element.  





The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor - The Eleventh Doctor (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 2 October 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Road to the Thirteenth Doctor - Eleventh Doctor (Credit: Titan)
"The Steampunk Conundrum"
Writer: James Peaty
Artist: Pasquale Qualano
Colorist: Dijjo Lima

"The Road To..."
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Rachel Stott
Colorist: Enrica Angiolini

Published by Titan Comics in August 2018

The Titan build up to the launch of the new Thirteenth Doctor continues with this one-off adventure of the Eleventh Doctor, the second in a so-called mini-series prelude to the Thirteenth Doctor.  Much like the first entry starring the Tenth Doctor, the bulk of the issue has nothing to do with the Thirteenth Doctor and seemingly will have little story impact on her storyline in the comics.  It's a standard robot invasion story, and then after that story is told, we get another brief short story told over a few pages, which actually feels like the hint of things to come in the Thirteenth Doctor story.  

As a robot invasion story, fairly middling.  It really feels like a shame for Titan to do this big promotional thing for the upcoming Doctor.  A mini-series that leads to the new Doctor, and then they spend the bulk of the issue on a story that could easily fit into any standard issue of the respective Doctor's ongoing adventures.  

The actual "Road To..." segment takes place in the middle of a previous adventure. Much like the Tenth Doctor's segment took place in the midst of the episode The Girl in the Fireplace, the Eleventh Doctor's segment is in the middle of the episode The Power of Three.  Once again a hand reaches towards the Doctor from some glowing anomaly, only this time the Eleventh Doctor is so busy complaining about being bored while waiting on Earth, that he actually misses the whole thing.  That's at least creative.  

Mostly, this feels like another wasted opportunity from Titan.  They could have had an actual build up to a storyline. Lay some seeds in each story that would pay off in a bigger way for the Thirteenth Doctor.  Instead, the seed is just a glowing light and someone reach for the Doctor. The same seed in each volume, with much of the magazine telling a story that just feels like a random adventure. It makes the whole Road to... branding seem terribly misleading.  





Land of the Blind (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 19 July 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Land of the Blind (Credit: Panini)
Written by Dan Abnett, Gareth Roberts, Nick Briggs, Kate Orman, Scott Gray
Artwork by Colin Andrew, Enid Orc, Martin Geraghty, Barrie Mitchell, Lee Sullivan
Paperback: 132 pages
Publisher: Panini UK LTD

Available from Amazon UK

In the mid-90s, with Doctor Who off the air for a few years and showing no signs of returning, Doctor Who Magazine Editor Gary Russell tired of the comic strip playing second fiddle to the Seventh Doctor novel series, and decided it was time to change it up. Instead of continuing to have confusing continuities with a book series that possibly not all readers were reading, he decided that the Comic Strip should forge it's own path.  The first step to that was to stop the Seventh Doctor adventures in the strip. This was a bold move, because up to that point the Doctor Who Magazine strip had been pretty much running continuously in a variety of publications, but had always featured the most recent Doctor. Instead, the long running strip would now focus on different Doctor adventures.  Land of the Blind is a collection of the first batch of these comics, and features a story each for the First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Doctors.

The book opens with the Fourth Doctor story "Victims," which has the Doctor and Romana thwart a plot to take down the Human Empire via beauty products on a Fashionista Planet.  The story here is okay, and the art is pretty bad, but there is a bit of charm to the premise...it is just rushed.  We then move forward the Fifth Doctor who has an adventure on the Moon with some evil Space Cows.  That is just the kind of bonkers premise I like in Doctor Who, particularly in comic form.  Following from there we venture back to the First Doctor with Ben and Polly, in which they battle a giant slug that is eating cryogenically frozen people or something.  It is fast paced and hollow, with little substance. It also doesn't really capture the tone of those early 60s stories.

The next stop is the Third Doctor, who is reunited with his first companion Liz Shaw as they stop a Professor who is using psychokinetic powers to kill his perceived adversaries. This story captures the tone of the Third Doctor era pretty well, and tries to give more detail to the offscreen exit of Liz Shaw from the TV series, which is nice.  The final two stories both feature the Second Doctor.  First up is the titular Land of the Blind and has the Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe save a spaceport from some alien overlords who have trapped them there for decades. This is a pretty good story, with a good script and good art.  The last story in the volume is a one-off from a a Doctor Who Magazine special, called "Bringer of Darkness" which is told from the perspective of Second Doctor companion Victoria Waterfield, as she explains of an adventure with the Daleks that made her realize that her time with the Doctor was going to need to end soon.  It is a short but solid piece, with some good character development, including some stuff about the Doctor that surprisingly has paid off in the years to come.

While not the most cohesive period, for the strip, it is an interesting one.  There may not be a uniting factor behind all of the stories, whether that be a single Writer or Artist, or even a continuing plot thread.  But it does have some fun random adventures for these past Doctors. They are all pretty short and light, but that isn't always a bad thing.  Only a few feel like they rush to the finish line. I think this was sort of a lost period for the strip.  The Seventh Doctor had run his course, especially with all the Novel Continuity clogging up the works, and they didn't really find their voice again until the Eighth Doctor would finally launch as the star of the strip. So here is this weird little period, where they are trying to figure out their voice again, and they didn't even really have a regular Doctor starring.  As a bit of a novelty, this volume collects together some interesting stuff.  It may not be the best collection they have put together, but I still enjoy reading these old black and white strips.  





The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor - The Tenth Doctor (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 11 July 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Road To The Thirteenth Doctor #1 (Credit: Titan / Robert Hack)



"The Ghost Ship"
Writer: James Peaty
Artist: Iolanda Zanfardinoy
Colorist: Dijjo Lima

"The Road To..."
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Rachel Scott
Colorist: Enrica Angiolini

Published by Titan Comics in July 2018

Titan Comics can't actually show the Thirteenth Doctor before she debuts on TV in the fall, so they have decided to build to her Comic Book Debut with three one-shot comic books that leads into her debut story.  The first of these, in what is being called "The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor," is this story featuring the Tenth Doctor.  It is short and light doesn't really feel like it is building towards anything.  It isn't necessarily bad, but at this point doesn't really feel like it is on the "road" to anything. 

It begins with the Tenth Doctor and his two Titan Companions, Gabby and Cindy...as they land on a space station and face off with some creepy beings that the Doctor defeats easily, and exposes a creepy plot by the "Earth Corps" to create genocidal weapons.  And that is seemingly it. The conclusion feels quick and easy, nothing to write home about. The fact is the main story is just a regular Tenth Doctor story, which may or may not play into future events for either his series or the Thirteenth Doctor...but either way, it seems odd to build up and market this as a build up to her strips and then just give us an average story with an attached four page short story that is meant to sort of build to her. 

The short story that actually is meant to serve as the actual "Road To.." storyline, just goes back into the Tenth Doctor's first season on TV, where we see the Doctor in between scenes in The Girl in the Fireplace in which he finds something even crazier than 18th Century France on a space station, though it is left ambiguous as to what it is, as the Tenth Doctor races off to save Rose and Mickey before exploring anything further.

One can only hope this is actually going somewhere. I felt this story was too light, too easy an enemy to defeat...but I didn't quite know what it was they were setting up for the Thirteenth Doctor. I only discovered later that only the four page mini-comic had anything to do with the Thirteenth Doctor's eventual debut.  And I gotta say it was too short and ambiguous and relied a little too much on past continuity for me to get too interested. 

The art is nice, and as per usual for Titan, they just nail the characterization of the Tenth Doctor, but this ultimately is just a regular issue of the Tenth Doctor ongoing series, and anything that may be setting up the actual road to the Thirteenth Doctor feels like an afterthought...or something that might work better when the whole story is collected together. Right now, it isn't the strongest start for the big build-up to the new Doctor.





Doctor Who The Seventh Doctor: Operation Volcano #1Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 6 June 2018 - Reviewed by Dustin Pinney
Seventh Doctor #1 - Cover A (Credit: Titan )Writer: Andrew Cartmel
Artist: Christopher Jones
Published 6 June 2018

Something big is building in Operation Volcano. The entirety of the first issue is setting everything up for what promises to be a massive fallout. Characters from across the globe, as well as time, gather together in the Australian desert to inspect what appears to be a recently uncovered and massive, spaceship. At the same time (while also being several decades in the future) another spaceship appears above Earth, with a familiar character being held inside.

Upon first reading, I was disappointed by how cold the issue left me. I make no apologies for my fondness of the Seventh Doctor’s era, and I couldn’t wait to see what Andrew Cartmel and Ben Aaronovitch would do when budget was no option. There wasn’t much in the way of fun or humor, not many big sci-fi ideas were displayed, and the characters came off a little flat. Had Cartmel botched his return to Who?

After rereading a few scenes and mulling it over, I realized something: We are in Act One of the story. We need to round everyone up, get them talking, introduce any interpersonal conflicts they may have, then hit ‘em with something big at the end that leads into Act Two.

This is in no way an attempt to convince myself I enjoyed the issue. On the contrary, it’s simply a method of understanding what left me so unfulfilled. I thought maybe it was the art. While the landscapes and details are phenomenal, the lifeless expressions on character’s faces is quite unsettling. Eyes seem to be Christopher’s Jones’ only weakness. A forgivable one at that. There is such a breathtaking scope to the comic (only amplified by the color work by Marko Lesco) that one could easily ignore a few odd faces.

The realization that this was only the beginning of the story cinched it for me - the central mystery isn’t compelling. This is Doctor Who, why should I be so interested in the fact that an ancient spaceship was found in Australia? This is Doctor Who, what’s it matter that a guy from the ‘60s shows up in the future not having aged? This is Doctor Who, why should I be surprised that two of the investigators have nefarious intentions? It’s not enough to keep me interested.

That could all change in Act Two. Cartmel could explain why all this matters, why it’s different, why it’s special, and blow my mind. After all, you don’t call a story “Operation Volcano” unless you’re planning a shocking and sudden surprise.

 




Free Comic Book Day 2018 - Doctor Who Special (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 5 May 2018 - Reviewed by Thomas Buxton
Free Comic Book Day 2018 (Credit: Titan)
Writers: Nick Abadzis, John Freeman, George Mann and Jody Houser
Artists: Giorgia Sposito, Arianna Florean, Christopher Jones, Mariano Laclustra and Rachael Stott
Colorists: Marco Lesko and Carlos Cabrera
Publisher: Titan Comics

FC, 30pp, $0.00
On sale: May 5, 2018

With Titan Comics' regular Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctor strips each having reached the natural conclusions of their Year Three runs, and their recently-announced The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor mini-series still two months away from its launch, now seems as opportune a time as any for the publisher to take stock and prepare its readers for the adventures ahead. Enter their contribution to this year's Free Comic Book Day line-up, a 25-page one-off Special containing four bite-sized primers for the future of their regular Doctor Who strips, the Road saga and the Seventh Doctor's Titan debut alike.

There's every chance, of course, that the aforementioned annual event - held at comic-book retailers the world over to promote the industry and its physical purveyors - will be over by the time that you're reading this review, yet that doesn't mean you won't find some stores such as Forbidden Planet still housing the odd copy of this much-anticipated strip here and there. Should Titan's most dedicated followers and / or newcomers to the worlds of Who comics make the trip, however, or are they best off waiting for the Doctor's printed exploits to kick off again this Summer and beyond? Let's find out...

"Catch a Falling Star":

For any readers like this reviewer who've yet to finish reading the latest string of Titan storylines based in the David Tennant era, Special's opening tale might well prove rather disorientating at first, though that's rather the point; seemingly deceased companion Gabby Gonzalez seems just as perplexed as she's flung through outer space after the Year Three finale presumably detached her from the TARDIS with considerable force. How better to spend the time, then, than by taking a metaphorical trip down memory line, simultaneously bringing newcomers up to speed on her recent voyages across the Time Vortex?

From Sontarans to Sutekh in his reincarnated form, from Cybermen to Gabby's best friend Cindy Wu stepping aboard the Doctor's iconic Type 40 capsule, it's been one heck of an eventful ride for the despondent waitress-turned-pro artist over the last 36 months. True to form, Giorgia Sposito and Arianna Florean's dazzlingly whimsical artwork splendidly reminds us - alongside the awe-inspired sense of wonder and fantasy coming via the dialogue which writer Nick Abadzis affords Gabby - of the eclectic and unashamedly outrageous tone which made this particular TARDIS team's travels such an instant hit with fans of Titan's licensed Who output.

Naturally, though, few could blame Ms. Gonzalez for questioning her life decisions given her present near-fatal predicament, so that Abadzis briefly explores her justifiable doubts as well comes as a welcome surprise, in many ways enabling us to draw parallels between the character and past companions such as Martha Jones for whom the Doctor's entrance signalled virtually the destruction of their personal lives and family ties. Who wouldn't reconsider the same dilemma as that which was posed to Donna in "Turn Left", namely whether life would've turned out better had their path never crossed with "the man who keeps running, never looking back because he dare not out of shame"? As such, it would seem that Gabby needs affirmation that her story doesn't end on such a somber note, and while we'll refrain from revealing her just how "Catch a Falling Star" concludes, we can say that she might just get her wish and transform the Doctor's future in the process...

“The Armageddon Gambit”:

The best way to summarize the second narrative barrage in Special’s artillery is as an audition piece for Andrew Cartmel and Ben Aaronovitch’s impending Seventh Doctor mini-series, “Operation Volcano”. Unlike that five-part saga, John Freeman takes on writing duties for “The Armageddon Gambit”, but if his remarkably authentic rendition of Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred’s wit-laden, mentor-student-esque banter from their 1980s run as the Doctor and Ace serves as any indication of what to expect from “Volcano” upon its launch next month, then experiencing each issue over the coming weeks should seem remarkably akin to watching a McCoy serial on TV / home video / streaming platforms for the first time.

While Freeman’s relatively standalone narrative – which sees the ever-courageous time travellers chirpily interrupt a band of galactic tyrants standing on the brink of galactic conquest, having bested the Draconians, Chimerions and Voord alike – probably won’t win this year’s Pulitzer Prize for literary ingenuity, his script does at least enable the mini-series’ artistic / colour tag team of Christopher Jones and Marco Lesko to amply strut their stuff. Their bold style, in marked contrast to Sposito and Florean’s tonally befitting impressionistic imagery, does a splendid job of bringing the tale’s characters to vivid life, with Lesko’s choice to embroid the chief Kla-shi-kel clansman with striking golden armour for example visibly setting him apart in military stature and greed-driven ambitions. Look out in particular for their pitch-perfect depiction of the Doctor and Ace’s grand entrance, an instantly iconic raison d'etre for “Armageddon” which easily stands among Titan’s most memorable panels to date.

“Midnight Feast”:

Whereas Abadzis and Freeman both had their fair share of legwork in terms of painting a roadmap for the future flights of the Seventh and one other Doctor here, one can almost hear George Mann’s relief at finding no such pressure exerted upon his Eleventh Doctor contribution by Titan’s head honchos. “Midnight Feast” makes no apologies for its lighthearted tone or completely standalone storyline, then, with Mann instead affirming to newcomers his ability to capture Matt Smith’s zany eccentricity and energetic zest for life, all while re-introducing his ex-librarian companion Alice Obiefune along the way. Yet it’s fair to say that Alice rather laments her inclusion here, finding her travelling companion ransacking the TARDIS kitchen for edible delights before he zips off to the nearest alien restaurant to find alternative inspiration.

Laying many criticisms at the feet of a self-proclaimed “culinary adventure” such as “Feast” would seem rather harsh, especially with Mariano Laclaustra’s diverse menagerie of stunningly-rendered alien patrons calling to mind Star Wars’ Mos Eisley Cantina in its aesthetic inventiveness. The only warning that we’d give, however, is that those unfamiliar with Alice won’t find the same level of introductory exposition here as that which Gabby provided regarding her past in “Falling Star”, largely since the latter’s existential plight gave Abadzis the ideal plot device to justify such nostalgic reminiscing. Since Alice only features for but a few panels here, this reviewer would instead advise anyone wanting to catch up on her entry into the Doctor’s life – between Amy and Rory’s turbulent honeymoon and reunion for the Time Lord’s death in “The Impossible Astronaut” – to check out the first volume of Year One, After Life, ahead of Year Four’s presumed launch later this year.

"And Introducing..."

What of Doctor Who’s fast-approaching return to BBC One with a new face, though? Does Jodie Whittaker’s absence from Special’s multi-Doctor front cover mean that we shouldn’t expect to see her incarnation feature in Titan’s licensed roster for the time being? Not at all – browse past the insightful Reader’s Guide at the end of the strip, which details the various regular strips, crossovers and classic Doctor mini-series currently available, and you’ll find three panels featuring a strange new world, strange new fauna and feathered onlookers, a strange new TARDIS and its strange new occupant embarking on her first ‘canon’ journey, her face brimming with visible passion and already infectious joy at discovering the unknown.

Much as every fan relishes jumping to far-fetched conclusions from even Who’s most basic marketing materials, the rousing thrill that comes with turning the page and witnessing the Thirteenth Doctor in action for the first time can’t possibly be denied. That her increasingly coveted costume and intriguing extraterrestrial surroundings are drawn in such a majestic light by Rachael Stott, the upcoming Thirteenth Doctor regular strip’s resident artist, just goes to show that she’s fully aware of the significance of this watershed moment for the show. The same can be said of Jody Houser’s daringly dialogue-devoid script, aping Whittaker’s reveal video last year in building its structure entirely around the new incarnation’s gravitas-laden arrival.

A tremendous end, then, to a tremendous Free Comic Book Day special, one which accomplishes the remarkable joint feats of setting past Doctors on unexpected new trajectories for the coming months and making the Thirteenth’s debut – both on-screen and the printed page – that much more of an exciting proposition.

Be sure to follow our reviews of Titan’s The Thirteenth Doctor series as it kicks off in tandem with Season Eleven this Autumn…