Ninth Doctor: Issue 1 - 'Doctormania Part One' - (Ongoing Monthly Series)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 11 May 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Doctor Who: Ninth Doctor  #1  (Credit: Titan)

Writer - Cavan Scott

Artist - Adriana Melo

Colorist - Matheus Lopes

Letterers - Richard Starkings and Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt

Senior Editor - Andrew James

Assistant Editors - Jessica Burton + Gabriela Houston

Designer - Rob Farmer
 

Published April 13 2016, Titan Comics

 

Their epic encounters with the Unon and the Lect now some way behind them, the Ninth Doctor and his two human friends Rose Tyler and Jack Harkness are ready for trials and tribulations anew. A visit to a world, where the cult of a certain "Doctor Who" seems to have taken popular cultural entertainment and its consumers by storm, causes consternation for the last survivor of the great Time War between Time Lords and Daleks. As much as he has a healthy self-regard, he is not prepared to be the cause of such unbridled joy and reverence. But metallic beings with considerable weaponry are also operating close at hand, and this challenge may be up the centuries-old-hero's street to a greater extent.

 

The triumvirate of Rose, Captain Jack and the Christopher Ecclestone variant of the ever-enduring Doctor only had a small clutch of adventures on TV together (especially if taking into account that two-parters were always just the one overall story during that time of the show's history).

The decision to persist with this particular TARDIS team after the success of the mini-series was a wise one and most welcome to my mind. The lack of complete trust the Doctor and Jack have with one another, coupled with a grudging respect ensures that things are never that cosy. Rose's naivety on one hand, but great ability to empathise and give good counsel on the other, make her one of the best companions even to this day. Cavan Scott knows his Doctor Who as well as anyone and makes sure that the three core characters are front and centre and take the reader along with them on their journey full-bloodedly.

 

This is a relatively straightforward and no-frills action adventure beginning, but it also plays out in a coherent and meaningful fashion, which sometimes is a noticeably lacking trait when a TV tie-in product is concerned. The traditional cliffhanger is well done, even if to some long-term fans it trades of the much-used device of having 'an evil version' of one of the regulars.

We meet a good clutch of supporting characters who do their role in fleshing out the latest world the TARDIS has landed on, and it remains to be seen which play the largest role in the plot. Yani and Penny are two intriguing female players in the mix, the former being sweet and deferential, the latter having various hidden layers much alike an onion.

Dialogue is consistently up to the mark that the initial Russell T Davies series of modern Doctor Who was so celebrated for. I have repeatedly stated my regard for the Moffat/Capaldi era we are currently in (even with a noticeably longer season interregnum), but the work of the versatile RTD still sets respectably high standards to this day - whichever of the many forms Doctor Who fiction can take its form in.

The art here perhaps is still to win me over as much as I ideally would like it to. I was very impressed by the combined efforts of Blair Shedd and (on a semi-regular basis) Rachael Stott for the 2015 mini-series. Now, for this new arc taking place within a regular monthly series, Scott has been united with the services of Adriana Melo. Whilst the consistency and textures needed to tell a coherent visual narrative are all perfectly sound, they seem to portray the main three protagonists in a way I do not associate from my various memories onscreen. Taken as a different interpretation in its own right, there is nothing technically wrong. Sometimes a whole story, complete with its visual twists and turns, needs to play out in full for me to truly appreciate its merits. Hopefully this is such one instance in the ensuing 'episodes' to come.

 

BONUS MATERIAL:

 

My many years as a comic addict have involved just as much anticipation with the letters page section (complete with pithy responses from the editors), as with the main comic story itself. So it is welcome that Titan have opted to make views known in this somewhat traditional form, and bestow some small honour on devoted followers of these well-crafted tales. A clutch of three letters is included here this month, although it is actually Cavan Scott himself who kindly responds to comments on the stories he puts so much thoughtful work into.

                                                                                                                ***

Once again there are some nicely done (full-page) alternate covers, and (smaller-sized) previews for next months' allotted selection, and in generous quantity for this inaugural issue. These serve to demonstrate the many artistic voices that can be so finely aligned with the evergreen Doctor Who core concept.

 





The Ninth Doctor Mini-Series - Issue FiveBookmark and Share

Thursday, 31 December 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
DOCTOR WHO: THE NINTH DOCTOR MINISERIES #5 (Credit: Titan / Lee Sullivan)
Written By: Cavan Scott,
Artwork: Blair Shedd + Rachael Stott
Colouring: Anang Setyawan,
Lettering: Richard Starkings + Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt

Editor Andrew James, Assistant Editor: Kirsten Murray
Designer: Rob Farmer
Released December 2nd 2015, Titan Comics

Weapons Of Past Destruction: Conclusion

 

This climactic finale to the mini-series manages to combine enough for readers' hearts and heads, with also some pure sensation and bursts of colour that serve to enliven any given panel. The Doctor gets to have a lot of morally sound commentary on the actions of the misguided Unon and show his deep concern for the all but extinct and forever distorted Lect.

Plenty of material of note also features for Rose Tyler and Jack Harkness. Rose has had to absorb a lot of alien planet history in a relatively short period of time and feels a bond for the half-crippled Lect, who now rely on battle 'tanks' and barely resemble the scientists and artists that occupied their now-destroyed home world. Jack is separated from the Doctor and Rose, and faces the prospect of an eternal limbo. But whilst captured he manages to realise that while the Unon have done some monstrous things, not all of them are irredeemably 'bad'.

The shades of grey that war is inherently all about is a strong theme, and that theme is effectively explored in this epic. It is also as relevant as ever in our own society in the 21st century. The title of the story misquotes a frequent headline that cropped up during the early part of the last decade, and that phrase still resonates and still has foreboding meaning now.

Although the  Lect would seem to have the more just cause, there is no dispute over their having a 'bull in a china shop' manner. By using such formidable war machine shells they have roamed parts of space and operated in a way that has shaken those with less battle-minded priorities, who may be present. The Unon may have a didactic and sanctimonious leader in Arnora, but still her intentions in shaping the universe have some substance and grounding.

Satisfyingly, we see the Doctor decide to ultimately let the war 'resolve itself',  although some help from Captain Jack ensures the Time Lord does not get cut down as a result of being somewhat passive this time round. It is reasonable for the Doctor to be an observer, as this war was not really his doing on a fundamental level.  Important figures on both sides of the battle die, but ultimately a peaceful solution does present itself, with a little help coming in the form of the Doctor's ship.

 

I have not discussed covers in any detail in any of my prior comic reviews for this site, but would like to on this occasion. Most of the ones used for this now-concluded mini-series look at least eye-catching if not mesmerising; my personal favourites being issues Three and One. Somewhat disappointingly this fifth issue bucks the quality trend in its choice of the main cover, which effectively acts as a close zoom at our heroic trio.

And as regards reflection on the miniseries as a whole and how each individual 'fifth' stands up: Issue Four perhaps was the highpoint of the run. It certainly had both incident and plot development but also gave the art team a free rein at showing their skill and ability to present such wonderfully 'out there' concepts. This issue is almost a bit more closed, (if also focused), and evokes the early issues again. But having a clear ending to the story which seems organic and fitting is a good quality. Also,  readers that committed to this long-running story do have their patience rewarded now, and indeed in the near future.

 

Several times this year Christopher Ecclestone showed his typical warmth and generosity - when the main spotlight and cameras are engaged elsewhere - of reprising the Ninth Doctor for respectively an engaged couple, and later a poorly fan of the show. Of course the chances of his ever coming back on-screen for a proper new story are as sparse as that of Paul McGann being entrusted with a fully fledged TV spin off. But clearly the readership and the critics think that the character that succeeds the worn "a bit thin" War Doctor deserves as many extra stops in his travels as can be made possible.

As much as this publication is a decisive end to a story that began quite some time ago now, it is in fact just the beginning as far as the Ninth Doctor comic book series goes. Cavan Scott will again be the writer, but will again other able artists on the endeavour; starting with Adriana Melo. I look forward keenly to a more flexible and experimental run from spring 2016 onwards that can utilise all manner of stand-alone, multi-part and arc-linked monthly editions.

A final word then before any more 'missing adventures' materialise:

Fantastic!

 

Bonus Material:

Once again some alternate covers are presented, in the absence of a humour mini-story.

 

Image result for ninth doctor comic issue 5 covers         Image result for ninth doctor comic issue 5 lee sullivan          





The Ninth Doctor Mini-Series - Issue FourBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 11 November 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Paul Hudecek
Ninth Doctor Mini-Series - Issue Four (Credit: Titan)

Writer - Cavan Scott
Art/Color Finishes - Blair Shedd
Colors-  Anang Setyawan
Letterer - Richard Starkings + Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt
Editor - Andrew James
Assistant Editor - Kirsten Murray
Designer - Rob Farmer
Released October 21st 2015, Titan Comics

This penultimate component of the miniseries makes the thoroughly widespread consequences ofthe Time War very apparent, and the Doctor is forced to make another choice that will affect countless life forms across all of time, space and potentially all reality as well.

Thrilling incident follows astounding revelation in this story, as we have every right to expect given the potential demonstrated in prior months. Captain Jack has to somehow control an especially emotional TARDIS stranded in the Vortex which faces an imminent threat from the Unon.

The Lect reveal that their considerably bulky and powerful frames are just a shell for a very much organic alien life form. As that happens the captured Rose is forced to hear their side of the story and possibly change her very attitude to the scenario previously assumed to be clear-cut by the TARDIS crew.

The Time War has already been explored in much length by both TV Doctor Who and the recent Four Doctor special event series. But yet more secrets are un-mined in the narrative as the Doctor converses with several of the Unon. This prompts him into doing the most direct and game-changing action since the adventure first commenced. As that happens his more proud, even pompous side is on full view for all to see.

Whereas previous issues were wholesale action or slower paced showcasing of lovely scenery and character imaging this issue is a smooth blend of the two.

Now we have the more light hearted characters dispensed with, and perhaps rather brutally given the supernova that has decimated Fluren's world, focus swings squarely onto the two opposing forces of Unon and Lect. More personal clashes are resumed in the case of the two alpha males that are Jack Harkness and the Doctor. Whilst it may be a bit more of the same dynamic, and so lack the freshness when employed in issues One and Two, but is still enjoyable and offers up some choice dialogue. It also does not distract from all the important new plot developments.

The writer is also possibly still trying to wrong foot his readership as although we see much of the background of the Unon and marvel at their articulate and noble personalities, there is still scope for them to actually be a lot less benign than they seem. The Lect forces make sudden contact with Rose apparently their newly-appointed and seemingly non-coerced spokesperson. The fine cliffhanger leads the way for a  finale that will almost certainly see a decisive and big battle. And more immediately of concern is just what will the Doctor have to do to regain the Rose Tyler that he thought he knew(!?).

As ever Cavan Scott's characterization and dialogue are well above par - even by the strong Titan Comic standards. I eagerly await what he has to bring in Issue Five, as much as I dread having to move on as the mini-series comes to its end.

Of course, presentation is the bread and butter of any comic book; be it intellectual, emotive, a romp or a heady combination of all these. Blair Shedd goes from strength to strength as he has the stern test of having to convey so many large-scale concepts. Fans will enjoy the fleeting re-visits to foes of the Doctor such as the Sontarans and the Cybermen that had three digits on each hand. The colour work is simply top-notch, and i continue to enjoy the silhouette change-up which almost is the signature touch to this mini-series.

It is also probably the most realistic and photo-style artwork of any Titan range I have reviewed thus far, and for my tastes anyway this is a great approach. Artistic licence is never a bad thing but can sometimes be pushed too far in order to stand out from the crowd. With Series One of modern Doctor Who being such a leap forward in terms of visuals, it seems appropriate to have a 'cutting edge' style here which almost an irrelevance of the decade since Ecclestone, Piper and Barrowman first played their parts together on TV.

 

BONUS:

There is no humour strip in this issue, but we do get a nice insight into the artwork process which only reinforces the care and attention Shedd brings to the table. Some alternate front covers are also present so as to add full value to this edition.





The Ninth Doctor Mini-Series - Issue ThreeBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 1 September 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Doctor Who: Ninth Doctor #3 (Credit: Titan)Writer - Cavan Scott
Art/Colour Finishes - Blair Shedd, with Rachael Stott
Colours - Anang Setyawan, Letters - Richard Starkings + Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt, Designer - Rob Farmer 
Assistant Editor - Kirsten Mu rray, Editor - Andrew James
Released July 29, 2015. Titan Comics

With a good amount of set-up and outer world building achieved in previous entries, Weapons of Past Destruction begins to gather focus in this latest must-read comic book from Titan.

The TARDIS crew of the Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack are now forced on the back-foot as not only does the standoff between the heavily armed Unon and the Lect make escape near impossible, but the nearby star which strongly dominates the horizon is on the verge of becoming a supernova.

Through the Doctor rolling the dice for the highest possible stakes, he finds himself confronting the main leader of the Unon. And this a female leader called Arnora, or 'The Mother Empress'. The Doctor's knowledge and wits will certainly be tested against such a keenly aware entity. Most would-be opponents  the Doctor has encountered are not equipped with telepathy, and so he can keep his solutions safely hidden. Not this time though, as Arnora is almost thinking of his responses before he himself is fully aware of them. 

And of course without the Doctor,  Rose and Jack must use their 'fight or flight' instincts to deal with the time bubble that is going to pop and so permit the lethal supernova to proceed with annihilating everything and everyone..

 

Now at the midpoint of this (hopefully not long-term) one-off series, there is a change of focus in terms of reducing the spectacle and heady travelling and doing some solid character work - especially for the Ninth Doctor himself.Where perhaps other versions of the Time Lord would be a little more careful or calculating, the Ecclestone brand places himself in the path of seeming fatality. Some enemies as we know are more than strong enough to over-ride the power of regeneration, although some of us fans would perhaps pretend the Borad was all talk. Luckily Arnora. who is a key figure at the top of Lect hierarchy, is for the present interested in having a somewhat reasoned debate with her captive.

Rather more disturbingly it appears the Lect see the Time Lords responsible for a corrupt and fatally flawed universe which needs fixing, and they will stop at nothing to achieve their 'vision'. It still remains ambiguous, and quite deliberately saw by the author, what the Lect want and how it ties in with their struggle with the Unon over the ancient Time Lord inventions and such products of their vast time and space knowledge base.

For me anyway this is not a problem and certainly not a procrastination as most readers are coming to this knowing Series One reasonably well, and wanting the focus to be on the Doctor's struggle to cope with the after-effects of the Time War - doubly so with the new wrinkle introduced by The Day of The Doctor.

Dialogue is still effortlessly enjoyable and convincing, with this forthright Doctor showing the right combination of wit and suitably respectful awe for the Mother Superior figure of Arnora. Jack and Rose get involved in their own little story of timey wimey which is neatly illogical if I can allow myself to use that oxymoron. They are rightfully worried if they have truly lost the Doctor, but like the heroes they are proceed to move on anyway. 

I have been impressed for some time with Blair Shedd's work. and this issue sees the introduction of a co-artist in Rachael Stott. Shedd still gets most of the credit for the aesthetically strong barrage of eye candy (and some disturbing images too, given the themes) but having someone clearly in line with the intended end product means their is a seamlessness some comic books decide not to attempt or only half succeed in, and so I give even more credit for this third instalment,

My hopes now are that Cavan Scott and his team will unleash a real powerhouse of suspense, thrills and revelations, and fully realise the obvious potential thus far demonstrated.

 

BONUS HUMOUR STRIPS:

Both of these are from AJ (who again handles both the story and the visuals), and are focused on the actual dynamic set up by the main story. The first features the headache for Rose of Captain Jack creating myriad versions of himself by crossing his timeline over and over. The second is all about the Doctor somehow rationalising that being stuck in a Void is the perfect way to relax and reflect. An interesting decision really, as these add more to the 'Weapons' story - or suggest a variant in terms of events in a parallel timeline - and still remain faithful to the style we have become used to from AJ's considerable body of prior work for Doctor Who.





The Ninth Doctor Mini-Series - Issue TwoBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 14 July 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Doctor Who: Ninth Doctor #2 (Credit: Titan)

Writer - Cavan Scott, Art + Colours - Blair Shedd

Letters: Richard Starkings/ Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt

Colour Flat Assist: Anang Setyawan

Designer - Rob Farmer, Editor - Andrew James

Assistant Editor - Kirsten Murray

Following the near catastrophic events abroad a war ship, there is more peril facing the TARDIS trio. Rose happens to be the most immediately in danger as she is exposed to the volatile Time Vortex. The Doctor races to save her, but appears too late. But help for the Londoner with a heart of gold may come from the most unlikely (and inky) of individuals.

However the bigger picture soon comes into play as the legacy of the Time War is felt. Super-weapons that were never meant for 'lower beings' than the Gallifrereans are available for the right price, which could have some cataclysmic results.

 

This is another splendid effort from all concerned once again; reading very well and never losing pace or incident as one page follows another. As one would hope there is an attempt to fit into the well-woven 'Bad Wolf' arc which Russell T Davies executed to a tee in the maiden series of modern Doctor Who.

The settings and way that the story is told alter somewhat as there is less violent action and instead some more picturesque imaging and emphasis on character growth. Yet we still get some more backstory for both the Time War and Captain Jack as well, and the mix of different ingredients is effective to say the least.

Superb characterization and dialogue makes this story really come  to life. This is as much as a paper or electronic comic can fizz with energy.

It also feels like the Ecclestone incarnation of our heroic Time Lord is back to dominating the immediate action before us, albeit with all his foibles and volatile emotions. We gain some very pertinent insight into Captain Jack's exciting life as a time traveller, and even a time when he was young and green. His loud confidence and the Ninth Doctor's snappiness continue to be involving; the one being the perfect foil for the other.

Yet not only is there this uneasy relation between Jack and the Doctor, but also some sense of bonding. I feel this which is what this 'missing adventure' really should be offering fans - especially given the camaraderie that opened Boom Town (which felt very rushed when the initial stories first aired in 2005).

Rose's stoic reaction to what should be certain death is engaging, and her enforced employment for a squid/octopus-like alien is one of the most entertaining examples of Doctor Who's ability to mix people from different places and times and yet feel credible with something to say about society in real life.

Most of the guest characters are certainly not in the right morally but they are hardly villains either, forming a motley collection of arm-wheelers-and-dealers from every corner of the cosmos.

 

A perhaps shameless homage of Star Wars' Tatooine desert world manages to just about feel fresh, thanks to the use of an impending supernova plus a sun dominating the skyline. Of course such liberal borrowing of iconic sci-fi can also fall flat in Doctor Who, as the The Rings of Akhaten  sadly proved.

Perhaps the overall arc is not being advanced as much as it can be, but later instalments will hopefully justify this creative decision by writer Cavan Scott. We are still left in some doubt just which major space power locked in war - the Lect or the Unon - will cause the most damage with munitions that belong back in the 'inaccessible' Time War. But still much impresses, not least the Doctor's attempted auction of one of his most prized assets. His companions reacting in panic to this is the comedic and dramatic highlight of this issue. The ensuing cliffhanger falls into place well enough but maybe without offering the 'gut-punch' that the best interruptions in Who stories manage.

 

Blair Shedd's work with art and predominant colours continues to be grandiose, and yet also intimate when needed. This is the calibre of art strong enough that any given panel would be worthy of being a screensaver or wallpaper. Both the regulars and the original characters get strong facial expressions which are pertinent to both the types of individuals they are, and the themes that connect them to the plot. 

The management of foreground, middle ground and background is commendable also. This degree of composition reflects Scott's story needs and almost always comes off as effortlessly strong. Also, the use of the TARDIS and Time Vortex in the opening few pages is especially riveting and helpful in establishing the well-judged pace that makes this a very fine read.

My views then on this new addition to the Titan range then have not changed. It is the very best of a fine bunch, and I hope issue five will end up being instead the 'end of the beginning'.

 

Bonus Humour Strip:

Given some of the efforts we have been treated to in other editions, Hot Springs Eternal from AJ is just about worth a look. The overall joke would be funny to a total newcomer but otherwise makes the Ninth Doctor look like a buffoon. This is only meant to take place when he is attempting to look carefree, and not the lonely alien he is so conscious of being post-Time-War. This Doctor for me is meant to be full of gravitas when showing off his superior knowledge of space and time, and not just clumsy and headstrong.

 





The Ninth Doctor Mini-Series - Issue OneBookmark and Share

Monday, 6 April 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
 Ninth Doctor #1 (Credit: Titan)

Writer - Cavan Scott,
Artist - Blair Shedd,

Color Flats - Jesse Durona

Letterer - Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt

Editor - Andrew James

Assistant editor - Kirsten Murray

Designer - Rob Farmer

Weapons Of Past Destruction - Part One

 

This brand-new adventure directly follows the Doctor's cathartic experience of ensuring that "Everybody Lives" despite the terrors of Blitz-torn London and some misguided nanogenes. Now he intends to show his younger friends the wonders of planet Excroth, at a time of 'enlightenment' and 'artistic freedom'.

But things are very much not to plan, as is often the way for the Last Of The Time Lords. And it would appear that powerful technology that once belonged to the Doctor's people has somehow emerged from the Time War and into the galaxies' black market instead. And this could mean that another major war could end in the most disastrous of ways...

This mini series will be with us for a number of months, and starts so strongly that I dearly wish we had a fully-fledged monthly title to join the others in the range. But some is better than none, and given Christopher Eccleston's determination to stay away from any Doctor Who projects this is one of the easier ways to get some new visual material that will remind people just why the very first series of modern Doctor Who was such a firm success.

Having the trio of the Doctor, Rose Tyler and Captain Jack Harkness was a smart move as onscreen they only had three adventures together before the sudden regeneration into Tennant's Doctor, and the abandonment of the 'un-killable' Jack,

This storyline really could not be any easier to follow, but that is quite welcome in an opening issue. In any case the characterisation and dialogue more than make up for the rather basic plot, and show a dynamic where the Doctor and Jack are clearly not comfortable with one another and both feel they offer more to Rose than the other. This story is designed to be read with the recent events of 'The Doctor Dances' in mind, so the 'chummy' camaraderie seen in 'Boom Town' is yet to be the order of the day.

 

Whilst the heady banter between the two seasoned time travellers works fine, there is room for improvement. Perhaps the wonderfully relatable Rose has been left with material that is a bit too 'old-school' in style, as she just asks questions relating to the oddness around her, with the odd pithy line thrown in to bring some levity to the drama. As many recall, she has by this point in the show proven herself to the Doctor unquestionably. Hopefully she gets to be more positively proactive in later events to come.

The ending sequence is believable enough given the characterisation that has been presented to the reader, and no doubt many will speculate just how apparent disaster can be overcome as the cliff-hanger ending throws a real game changer into play.

As Cavan Scott elegantly manoeuvres events and no doubt has a number of ways to bolster the story arc over the course of a generous helping of five instalments. There is a scattering of material which only leaves us with more questions, such as the effect of time on events, and why the technology of Gallifrey has come to be in this location and point in history.

The visual work from Blair Shedd is very strong indeed, with Jesse Durona's colours helping create a visual treat. I would venture that the end product is even more impressive than the sterling work done on the Twelfth Doctor line. As can be hoped for, these protagonists look and 'feel' very much like the wonderfully lively people presented on the small screen a decade ago. I almost forgot I was reading something that is trying to get noticed on the very competitive comic book market; instead I had  flashbacks to those Saturday nights when Doctor Who was finally back on UK TV screens and seemingly for the long term as well. All thanks to the brilliant efforts of Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner, Phil Collinson and many others.

            What worked especially well for this reviewer was the decision to have a number of silhouette panels; a technique that I have seen sparingly in the past from various comic book lines. To me they fit the tone and themes of this story handsomely. Also the variety of panels, size of images, and use of different scales as required for establishing events and characters also manages to work most effectively.

 

BONUS HUMOUR STRIPS:

On offer is just the one story this time - entitled 'TARDIS Holiday'. This is notable in being done as two linked episodes that occupy the latter pages of the comic. AJ writes and draws another amusing piece, where his distinctive 3D artwork stands out in a comparatively simple story. The TARDIS crew - identical to that in the main story - have decided to go somewhere special to break up the usual fare of monsters and/or political intrigue. However achieving an end result that will please all three of them is far easier said than done. 

 








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