Ninth Doctor Issue 3 - Doctormania (Conclusion)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 26 November 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
DOCTOR WHO: THE NINTH DOCTOR #3 - Cover B (Credit: Titan)
"Doctormania - Part 3 of 3"

WRITER - Cavan Scott
ARTIST - Adriana Melo
COLORIST - Matheus Lopes

LETTERER - RICHARD STARKINGS AND
COMICRAFT’S JIMMY BETANCOURT

DESIGNER - ROB FARMER
SENIOR EDITOR - ANDREW JAMES
ASSISTANT EDITORS - JESSICA BURTON & AMOONA SAOHIN

Published 29 June 2016 - Titan Comics

On the planet Clix, Rose Tyler has gone from kidnapper to game changer in the blink of an eye, having exposed a ploy to use the Doctor's likeness by one of a rogue Slitheen group.

However now both Rose and her former captor Slist are made to run for their lives in a jungle with predatory Jinglatheen in keen pursuit.  And as a conspiracy truly begins to manifest itself, the Doctor will need his trademark ingenuity and wits to quash it before a brutal civil war fully takes form.


 

My concerns from previous reviews as to how this monthly series' art will hold up are now beginning to recede, as the visual side of things stands up quite well here. Various emotions are conveyed authentically and vividly, be they for the protagonists that Who fans have come to know so well, or for the humanoid and non-humanoid guest characters. Some of the more frightening elements, such as the effect of acid rain are not as relentless as they might be. This is likely paying respect to the original TV show/ source material. It is also clear at this point how much Adriana Melo enjoys using the broad canvass of situations that this particular fictional universe can offer her.

Cavan Scott's work in keeping the reader gripped in both the story and the fates of the characters is as effective as ever. Rose is once again portrayed as likable and caring, which fits her Series One character to a tee. Many human companions of the Doctor would harbour a grudge for being kidnapped by an alien who has some malignant intentions in their wider schemes, but when the Slitheen in question becomes a victim, Rose is steadfast in fighting the corner for a former foe.

Jack gets some decent moments at times, and it is notable that he is still a bit shallow and brusque as he yet to go through the humility process of his endless 'resurrection' status. The Doctor does however seem to be rather more comfortable with him at this point, and this is part of Scott's intended use of this comic to bridge the gap between The Doctor Dances and Boom Town, so the camaraderie viewers suddenly saw amongst that trio will now be that bit more organic.

Some nice wider continuity or canon links feature at times without being too ostentatious. I especially enjoyed the mention by the Doctor of the Shadow Proclamation, in a way that highlighted that whilst a do-gooder, he was never one for being part of the establishment.

 

Whilst the key storyline is on a rather epic scale with the unity of a system hanging in the balance, and the threat of acid rain is a grim one, there is still a welcome amount of humour or self-awareness. And I feel this is quite appropriate for a story featuring the Slitheen. I enjoyed the reversal of how these ruthless clawed creatures manage to fit into their victims' skins. The rather macabre concept instead now has a fun counter side to it, as the Doctor and Jack impersonate natives so as to go incognito. And later on, there is a comical moment as the Doctor tries to tame a beast in the manner of a cowboy on his horse.

It is also a plus point to have some use of the TARDIS in this story which is  other than just having it as a gateway from one story to the next. The main villain gets their comeuppance thanks to the Doctor's confidence in manoeuvring his ship's location and time setting .The final closing panel of this issue also highlights how the Doctor can sometimes meet people out of order (such as when Tennant's Doctor did with Queen Elizabeth).

 

In a nutshell then, this is a quite satisfying closer. Perhaps the two issues would have been enough for the storyline to have pace and twists in abundance, but it is great to catch up with one of the best TARDIS teams, and now know there will be more perils for them to negotiate on a regular basis.

And what a nice hook into the next ensuing story, with Mickey Smith ringing the console room telephone (and also distracting the Doctor from a worrying mystery). However this is a Mickey that is clearly somewhat more mature and battle-hardened than the clownish figure that assisted the Ninth Doctor on a semi-regular basis. Will all their be a happy reunion then, or is such an occasion best avoided? Issue Four will certainly offer a number of answers..


 

EXTRAS:

Readers are granted a (very welcome) 'behind the scenes' insight into how Scott, Melo and Lopes work together to plan the layout and look of a given portion of the issue. This not only highlights the dedication and thorough preparation that go into these comic books, but is sure to inspire new talent to take up the mantle of contributing to the comic book market and/or the Doctor Who phenomenon one day in the future.

A clutch of four different front covers also feature; being particularly diverting and vivacious for this edition.





The Eleventh Doctor (Year Two) #9 - Running To Stay StillBookmark and Share

Saturday, 8 October 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
ELEVENTH DOCTOR #2.9  (Credit: Titan)

   Writer - Si Spurrier
Artist - Leandro Casco
Colorist - Rodrigo Fernandes

[Abslom Daak created by Steve Moore + 
Steve Dillon, appearing courtesy of Panini Comics, 
with thanks to Doctor Who Magazine]

Letterer - Richard Starkings + Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt

Assistant Editors - Jessica Burton +
Amoona Saohin
Senior Editor - Andrew James
 Designer - Rob Farme

Main cover - Mark Wheatley

"What is it? Is it Daleks? Did you find the secret Daleks? Can we fight the secret Daleks now?!"

"No. it's... odd. Not good-odd or bad-odd, exactly, just... odd. There was tech here once. Left traces. Extremely sophisticated. As in: Godlike. As in: not Dalek"

Abslom Daak and the Doctor in conversation.

 

The pressure on the Doctor and his friends continues to intensify. Before long, the normally effervescent River Song is rendered comatose, and placed alongside the (long-dead) 'wife' of Daak. The efforts to find a solution see a visit to a planet named Sshh.  The Master's TARDIS continues to be a tool of great value, but also a symbol of despicability and ruthlessness.

Furthermore, Alice suffers a rush of memories, that she would normally care to forget. Another companion makes a return to the fray, and in thrilling fashion, but could be risking too much for too little reward.

And amidst it all the Doctor shows a side to him that is far darker and more chilling than a good number of the foes he has defeated over the millennia..  

 

The main point of interest in this latest instalment of the Year Two arc is just out of character the Doctor is, and how indifferent he is to the suffering of others around him. Whilst glimmers of this happened now and again over the five-decades-plus history of the parent TV show, this choice of characterisation truly stands out. We get a real sense of an anti-hero at work, but one with somewhat less charisma and belief in his actions as well.

The urgency of the plot is kept reasonably high by having the 'Then and the Now' entity around and in no mood to hold anything back. We also see an interesting exploration of the Daak/Alice dynamic which was not really made too much of in previous issues, as they try and take the role of the Doctor in coming up with a solution. Daak had generally been just as much a millstone around the TARDIS crew's neck as an asset, but truly comes good here. By contrast, the Doctor shows a rather feckless and passive side to himself, when a truly harrowing sequence of events occurs.

Somehow though, a generally intriguing core to the story is not enough to result in a satisfying end product. Whilst myself and other reviewers here find Titan material to be of a generally decent, if not excellent, standard month-in, month-out, I have to go against this consensus on this occasion. Certain patches are lacklustre and there is an uneven tone and a confused sense of what the creative team are trying to say. Spurrier has done some decent work before on this monthly series, mixing the character work with the action. But the unusual portrayal of most of the protagonists just does not quite feel organic and convincing enough.

To be fair though, there are steps made forward in the arc, and the danger that especially Alice and the Squire face are of significance. The final stages of this issue are gripping and shocking in equal measure. Plenty of readers will rush to the ensuing issue 10 wanting to know what will come of the various frenetic twists of fate. Overall however, this is the first true blip in a generally confident second year, for Matt Smith's incarnation in comic strip form.

 

EXTRAS (Alternate Covers/ Issue 10 Preview Covers):

At this point the bonus mini story or humour strip is something of a scarcity, and once again does not feature. Perhaps with the plethora of Who comics now being made, and even a Torchwood one to attract readers, a decision was made to fully showcase the talent of the artists who deliver worthy covers that reflect either the actual issue concerned, or the general spirit of the monthly series.





The Third Doctor - #1 - The Heralds Of Destruction Part One (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 2 October 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Third Doctor #1 (Credit: Titan)

Writer - Paul Cornell
Artist - Christopher Jones
Colorist - Hi-Fi

Letters  - Richard Starkings + Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt

(Alastair Lethbidge Stewart - Created by Mervyn Haisman
+ Henry Lincoln, appearing courtesy of Candy Jar Books)

Senior Editor - Andrew James
Assistant Editors - Jessica Burton + Amoona Saohin
Senior Designer - Andrew Leung

Published September 14th 2016, TITAN COMICS

Newly released from the exile imposed by his own people - the Time Lords - the brilliant scientist Doctor John Smith is once again needed in order to help his friend Lethbridge Stewart and UNIT. A relentless, self-repairing metal menace has come to make life difficult for the natives of planet Earth, and that may be not be the only threat of consequence before too long.

 

Having had success with other Doctors from time past in the Eighth Doctor miniseries and, more recently, Fourth Doctor miniseries, Titan now unleashes another title. And how welcome that it features the undeniably charismatic Third Doctor, performed onscreen with such conviction by the late Jon Pertwee.

Paul Cornell knows exactly how to mix in the familiar elements which fans have come to know and love, but also add a sprinkling of his own creative skill to make something memorable and engaging. There is one returning foe, several returning secondary UNIT characters - Corporal Bell and Sergeant Osgood - and a key returning character who makes a sizeable impact in the customary end-of-issue cliffhanger.

The decision to set these new stories after The Three Doctors is a sound one, and potentially allows for Jo and the Doctor to go on travels across cosmos and time zones without yet another formulaic 'mission for the Time Lords' justification. It also allows for a properly fleshed out and well-knit 'UNIT family' - i.e. the Doctor and Jo, as well as the Brigadier, Captain Yates, and Sergeant Benton.

The art, from Christopher Jones, is a truly impressive selling point for this maiden issue, and earned the praise of Pertwee Era script-editor Terrance Dicks: "A handsomely-drawn epic". Key to having this miniseries work is a proper rendering of the Third Doctor, and this is certainly the case as we witness the 'James Bond/ Gentleman's Club' variant of our favourite Time Lord, as he goes about his heady business. Although the heavily stylised use of lines can be noticeable in the odd panel, the overall effect is compelling. Further, the use of palette, by the ever-reliable Hi-Fi, evokes with authentic impact the very first period of Doctor Who's history to feature full colour visuals.

 

The story undoubtedly will read well to old and new fans alike, with just the right balance of continuity and innovation. However, a certain clutch of early 1970s stories perhaps should be seen first, by those Who aficionados, who have tried little or none of the Classic era of the show. Not only will it add to the strengths of this particular adventure concocted in 2016, but it will be a reminder that the show was always able to deliver great acting and show initiative in trying markedly new things, both for science fiction and for TV in general.

Working splendidly both as set-up, and a showcase of incident and drama, also, this is a flying start to another promising new title from Titan.

 

EXTRAS :

* 'Behind the Scenes' Pencils and Inks are on display for one of the comic's most interesting panels, with the Doctor standing atop his car, Bessie.

* Three medium and full page-sized alternate covers feature, as well as two variant covers by Boo Cook and Andy Walker respectively.





Ninth Doctor: Issue 2 - 'Doctormania Part Two' - (Ongoing Monthly Series)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 28 September 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
NINTH DOCTOR #2 (Credit: Titan)
WRITER - Cavan Scott
ARTIST - Adriana Melo
COLORIST - Matheus Lopes

LETTERER - RICHARD STARKINGS AND
COMICRAFT’S JIMMY BETANCOURT
DESIGNER - ROB FARMER
SENIOR EDITOR - ANDREW JAMES
ASSISTANT EDITORS - JESSICA BURTON & AMOONA SAOHIN

Published - 25th May 2016, TITAN COMICS
 

The TARDIS trio continue to be separated, as Rose finds herself caught in the machinations of some other members of the Slitheen family. Their dreadful plan on this occasion? To undo a conference on the planet Clix, which is designed to bring some peace and re-bolster the Raxas Alliance. And they have the perfect way to do this, by impersonating their foe - the Doctor!

Meanwhile the real Doctor and Jack manage to escape custody, and in the process are accompanied by investigator Estiva.  Some impulsiveness from the young semi-humanoid leads to bloodshed. In the process however, it becomes clear just where Rose is.  

And back on Clix the Slitheen's plot is soon uncovered, but the by-product is that an old and savage ritual is brought back from the annals of history. Rose's proactive nature may have led her out of the frying pan, and into the fire....

 

Intrigue, action and revelation are all that much more pertinent and effectual, now the initial scene-setting in Part One has been dispensed with.

Once again Cavan Scott is able to swiftly remind fans who first saw the Ninth Doctor onscreen over 10 years ago (or caught up on DVD/ Blu Ray), what a strong and engaging main protagonist he makes. Virtually every line of dialogue rings true. Thus, the many-talented Mancunian who helped 21st Century TV Who hit the ground running, once again has justice done to his A+ performances. Ecclestone's Doctor, despite the scars of the Time War, truly cherished all life across the Universe. This gives gravity to when one of the enemy Slitheen is shot down, in a mostly accidental way, by temporary 'assistant' Estiva.

Rose gets plenty to do in her storyline, and is likable and as engaging as the finest hours for the character in the 2005 TV run. She does suffer the rather standard and old-fashioned incapacitated fate at one point. But it is more a road bump in her way and she is basically proactive, bold and determined to get the just, and most peaceful outcome, to this newest adventure for her.

Jack is also quite well done here, if perhaps not having the same amount of development as in the Weapons of Past Destruction mini series. But there is still time in the conclusion or the ensuing stories of this monthly comic for some suitable character development to be done. He is of course a figure in the wider canon that was strong enough to justify his own spin off series (and indeed also now a separate Titan comic as well).

The art from Adriana Melo is decent enough. It is admittedly not close to the sleek and epic worthy miniseries visuals of last year, but still good enough to evoke memories of the Russell T Davies stories, when the natives of Earth encountered unscrupulous invaders who were prepared to kill in order to pose as replicas of their victims. To my particular tastes, the events of the story here unfold with undoubted clarity, but at the expense of any risks and notable visual creativity.

In any case, readers will find that the plot of this multipart comic is more than robust enough to bind events together. The allocation of three issues seems fair, although on occasion some twists verge on the predictable or rote. 'Doubles' of the Doctor is a story core as old as the missing Hartnell story The Massacre. However, it was a missed opportunity in the early episodes of the reborn TV era not to have the Slitheen pretend to be one of the protagonists. The particulars of those stories back then hinged on the need for these sharp-clawed beings to kill who they mimicked. In this story however, a new spin on the concept is achieved.

 

EXTRAS:

 

Another letters page is incorporated towards the end section of the comic. From times long ago, before the idea of an internet seemed credible, I found this a welcome part of a publication which often relied just as much on fan/reader reaction, as the fertile imaginations of the writers and art team.

Four alternate covers are also on display, both in a gallery collection, as well as full page splendour.





The Tenth Doctor: Volume 4 - 'The Endless Song' (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 11 September 2016 - Reviewed by Thomas Buxton
Doctor Who The Tenth Doctor: Volume 4: The Endless Song  (Credit: Titan)
Writer: Nick Abadzis
Artists: Eleonara Carlini, Elena Casagrande
Colorists: Claudia SG Iannicello, Arianna Florean
​Cover: Alex Ronald
​Released: April 27th 2016, Titan Comics

In a year almost completely devoid of new doses of televised Doctor Who, there’s more pressure than ever on the likes of Big Finish and Titan Comics to deliver quality plotlines set in the same narrative continuity as the TV series, albeit via other mediums of storytelling. Thankfully though, the latter publisher already seems to have plenty of great ideas as to how to fill the void until December 25th, as evidenced by the superb first five instalments of their ongoing Tenth Doctor comic strip’s second year in action, all of which have been compiled to form the aptly-named The Tenth Doctor: Volume 4.

Sub-titled The Endless Song after the first of its three contributory tales, this compilation of graphic adventures takes David Tennant’s incarnation of Who’s eponymous Time Lord – along with Gabby Gonzalez, better known as his first Titan-exclusive companion – from alien worlds fuelled by enchanting melodies back to the ages of Neanderthals and beyond. By and large, we’re presented with a fairly standalone set of narratives which can virtually be read in isolation of anything that’s come before or that Titan delivers in the coming months, yet which nevertheless keep us fully aware of how the explosive Anubis plot arc teased in Year One’s finale continues to develop behind the scenes.

Read on below for our takes on each of the three independent trips through time and space – “The Singer Not the Song”, “Cindy, Cleo and the Magic Sketchbook” and “Medicine Man” – as well as our overall verdict on Volume 4 at review’s end…

“The Singer Not the Song” (Issues 1-2):

Our first stop is the musical planet of Wupatki, a cosmic setting developed magnificently over the course of this compelling two-parter by Nick Abadzis as we discover the intricate inter-species dynamics formed between a band of human colonists, the seemingly benevolent Bovodrines – whose “photosynthetic processes” apparently form “the lungs of this world” – and most importantly the nigh-invisible Shan’tee, the latter of whom can only be perceived once their melodies are consumed through one’s ears.

That Abadzis even manages to find time amidst all of this world-building to offer up an equally engaging narrative is an achievement of itself, but rest assured that the Doctor and Gabby’s efforts to cure the plague infecting the Shan’tee before Wupatki falls, as a planned vacation turns into a race against time for the TARDIS crew, are just as much of a selling point as the tale’s setting. What’s more, the scribe even finds time to dwell on wholly topical themes like colonialism, perception and the power of undistorted music, all while paralleling the threat of the planet’s song ending with the Tenth Doctor’s own arc nearing its end and throwing in a melodic final set-piece akin to that of The Lazarus Experiment for good measure.

Occasionally, however, the – necessary – emphasis on action over nuanced character development here means that secondary players like the youngster who introduces Gabby to a range of toxic remixes dispatched from Earth to his colony and Allegra, a scientist whose disease allows her to see the Shan’tee without any technological aid, don’t receive quite as much attention as would have been the case in a less crowded, time-sensitive storyline. With that being said, there’s no doubting that as a season premiere, “Singer” more than fulfils its role of getting proceedings off the ground with aplomb, thereby guaranteeing that its readership won’t possibly resist the temptation of picking up future issues.

“Cindy, Cleo and the Magic Sketchbook” (Issue 3):

Unlike those fans who picked up Issues 1 and 2 when they first launched earlier this year, of course, Volume 4 doesn’t force its consumers to wait weeks for the next chapter in the Tenth Doctor’s escapades, instead launching us straight into the one-off tale “Cindy, Cleo and the Magic Sketchbook”. It’s here that resident artists Elena Casagrande and Arianna Florean’s dazzling panels come into their own, as the team finds itself graced with a far more understated narrative than its predecessor, one packed with – gloriously executed – visual opportunities such as a masterfully drawn opening sequence focusing on the sketches Gabby sends to her old pal Cindy on a regular basis; an inherently fantastical antagonist whose visage can’t help but stun the eyes and above all a final page reveal virtually no one will see coming.

The last of those three elements does admittedly confirm “Sketchbook” to be more of a stepping stone instalment, in that – despite investigating the emotional and psychological aftermath of Year One’s finale, “Sins of the Father”, on those constructs who didn’t join the Doctor and Gabby aboard the TARDIS before the credits – the true threat of the maleficent Mister Ebonite upon Cindy, her time-travelling colleague as well as the cosmos at large is only gradually teased here, as is the larger role of the beloved modern Who companion who makes a shock return towards the plot’s end. Whereas Abadzis ensured “Singer” could be consumed in isolation – barring a brief teaser of what was to come when the Doctor and Anubis next crossed paths – he clearly wants to set up “Medicine Man” in this instance, but in fairness, there’s plenty to be said for intrigue and that quality absolutely manifests itself in abundance, giving this one just as much of a page-turning appeal as Volume 4’s two other fully-fledged storylines.

Better yet, “Sketchbook” arguably ranks as one of the Tenth Doctor strip’s finest character pieces to date, with readers afforded a far greater insight into Cindy’s psyche as a TARDIS reject of sorts forced to live the slow, linear life as the rest of the human race rather than joining Gabby on worlds like Wupatki as she might once have hoped, along with further exploration of the psychological toll that Cleo’s displacement from her home in “Sins” has oh-so-clearly had on her in recent weeks. As discussed in our “Singer” commentary above, too often these strips are forced to prioritize their set-pieces over their character arcs, yet combined with the captivating intrigue powering its bridging storyline, “Sketchbook” makes one hell of an argument for why the alternative approach doesn’t hurt once in a while.

“Medicine Man” (Issues 4-5):

Last but under no circumstances least comes a prehistoric age-set outing, “Medicine Man”, which serves as more of a standalone affair than its immediate predecessor despite its final pages revealing that Abadzis likes to play a far longer game than readers could have anticipated. Tasking the Doctor and Gabby with determining the truth behind the disappearances of entire clans from their Neanderthal villages alongside one such caveman whose paintings – vividly rendered by Arianna and Azzurra Florean – allude to the nature of the extra-terrestrial hunters responsible, this two-part epic boasts impressive scale thanks to its air-bound battles, not to mention a genuine sense of heart thanks to Gabby and the aforementioned Munmeth’s discussions with regards to the inevitable evolution of sapiens into homo sapiens.

You’d be forgiven for assuming that the final chapter of Volume 4 would feel like a re-tread of previous cavemen-featuring Who romps like An Unearthly Child or the more recent DWM 50th anniversary comic “Hunters of the Burning Stone”, yet quite to the contrary, Abadzis goes out of his way to introduce surprisingly inventive creative flourishes along the way, delving into Munmeth’s inability to comprehend much of the Doctor and Gabby’s modern vocabulary as well as the struggle of the Time Lord’s latest companion to, in a similar vein to The Fires of Pompeii, understand why the TARDIS crew will eventually have to leave a species doomed to be lost to the history books behind for the sake of time’s preservation. These aren’t necessarily story beats we’ve never seen before in the history of Who, but even so, the tale’s scribe and art team alike make an admirable effort to ensure they’re implemented in such a nuanced manner that most readers will barely recognise any resemblance to serials gone by.

Unlike many of the previous Tenth Doctor volumes released by Titan Comics over the past 12 months, The Endless Song wraps up – perhaps aptly given its suggestion of the potential of this strip to endure “endlessly” until such a time when the events of The Waters of Mars must eventually kick-start the Doctor’s final days – on an entirely open note, leaving us desperate to discover how the events commenced in “Medicine Man” will resolve themselves given the seemingly intergalactic nature of the conflict to come. All the same, though, even if Issues 4 and 5 represent but a fraction of a longer-running storyline still to be fully told, what’s here will more than whet the audience’s appetites until Volume 5 lands in stores.

The Verdict:

It’s always a joy to come across a release which doesn’t sport much in the way of shortcomings, or at least nearly enough points of contention to warrant giving it a miss, and The Tenth Doctor Volume 4: The Endless Song absolutely falls into that bracket, presenting fans of Who with compelling futuristic voyages, fascinating historical drama, accomplished writing from Abadzis and above all utterly stunning aesthetic elements courtesy of the two contributory art teams to make it an absolutely essential purchase.

Three months may still stand between the fandom and its consumption of the long-awaited 2016 Christmas Special, but until then, judging by the stellar first five instalments of the Tenth Doctor’s sophomore run of Titan journeys through space and time, perhaps the most beloved modern incarnation of the eternal Time Lord remains in extremely safe hands.





Supremacy of the Cybermen #2 (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 28 August 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
SUPREMACY OF THE CYBERMEN #2 (Credit: Titan)

WRITERS: GEORGE MANN & CAVAN SCOTT

ARTISTS: IVAN RODRIGUEZ & WALTER GEOVANNI

COLORIST: NICOLA RIGHI

LETTERER: RICHARD STARKINGS
AND COMICRAFT’S JIMMY BETANCOURT

DESIGNERS: ANDREW LEUNG & ROB FARMER

ASSISTANT EDITORS: JESSICA BURTON & AMOONA SAOHIN

SENIOR EDITOR: ANDREW JAMES

MAIN COVER: ALESSANDRO VITTI & NICOLA RIGHI
 
Released: August 17th 2016, TITAN COMICS

Four Doctors, occupying four very different time zones and places, but sharing one common denominator: an old enemy, who spearheads the ambitions of a race of perennial foes. There is much chaos to cope with, and many problems to solve for the grey-haired Doctor and his predecessors - who favour exclaiming "Allons-y", "Fantastic!" and "Geronimo" respectively to signify reaction to major developments.

Silurians have upgraded to the Cyber Race, and prowl the startling environment that is prehistoric Earth. The Sontarans are desperate for an unusual alliance with a Time Lord, as they gather their armies together in their native Sontar system. And back in 2006, in a council estate area of London, the Ninth Doctor and his closest friends try to save London from devastation by Cyber Forces. The most pivotal action is on Gallifrey itself, in a time of unrest and anxiousness, as the recently Clara-deprived Doctor tries his best to figure out the plans of his mortal enemy, who was once a Time Lord deity: Rassilon!

 

**

"The Cybermen bend their knee to me, Doctor. We are Time Lords. We mold eternity."

That quote from the ex-Lord President, that the Doctor so efficiently deposed in Hell Bent, is a fine way to solidify just what power ratio exists between The Gallifreyans and the Cybermen that have joined forces. (I also cannot help wondering if some Game Of Thrones in-joke is operating, given that Donald Sumpter has also portrayed the rather more moral Maester Luwin). There also is the fine concept of there being factions on the home planet of the Time Lords, which perhaps was not always explored in Doctor Who as much as it might have been over the many years since The War Games first was transmitted.

Rassilon works well enough as an engaging antagonist that clashes with the current Doctor's familiar righteous fury. It is also useful to have a clear figure that gives the Cybermen foot soldiers that extra dimension, even if all their dialogue remains much the same.

Also, he seems to be the exception to the rule that a Cyber Leader or Controller has all his emotions removed to the core. If anything this character at times is that bit more moustache-twirling and revelling in evil than any onscreen or off-screen depiction of the Time Lord's founding father from the parent TV show. And for the purposes of a mini-arc series released over summer this is acceptable enough.

Perhaps, however, writers in general could resolve to abandon one of the less engaging Who catchphrases. The Cybermen look great here, but some of their dialogue could be better, not least a certain catchphrase of theirs. I really do scratch my head that "Delete! Delete!" is still alive and well, eleven or so years after it's 'premier outing'.

 

Some of the Doctors get to shine better than others here. Obviously, the Capaldi incarnation cannot be shunned as he is the contemporary one, and he has all the sections most pertinent to the main plot. Tennant's doctor is bustling and full of giddy energy too, and quick to adjust to changes of circumstances like a top level pro chess champion. I also enjoy the interplay with his two female companions, and appreciate there is little reliance on continuity references, given that quite a few readers will not be reading the Tenth Doctor range that often, if at all.

 

The material for Doctors Nine and Eleven must be declared as rather ordinary in comparison to their counterparts. The Eleventh Doctor shows he knows the Silurians but there is no need for his keenest wit or skills. Someone else who had taken moments to read the TARDIS logs or diaries could easily have the same thing to say. Perhaps the most appropriate substitution would be River, who knew Madame Vastra, and would have some emotional engagement as a result. Things do pick up later on, when the Doctor uncovers evidence of the grander scheme by Rassilon and his armies, and explains to Alice the threat of 'Ark' ships.

 

The Ninth Doctor sections can border on the run-of-the-mill, barring a potentially decisive accident that may leave this TARDIS team stranded or severely wounded.  This last development is one of the quite common 'mini cliff-hangers', that immediately precedes the actual one to end this instalment on. The knowledge that Rose will encounter the Cybermen for the first time, with the Tenth incarnation of her best friend - at least if the Web of Time is restored to normality - makes her sections with them here feel very ephemeral, but also interesting in that these remorseless beings are such a menace to her beloved home city. (And as Noel Clarke once commented, the Cybermen have that raw physical intimidation to them, in that they can kick down the front door of your home.)

 

I am still hopeful that the various plot threads that intermingle in this epic crossover event will become less opaque. This progression would then allow for a fine execution of the core premise, and perhaps bring some new groundbreaking changes for the various ongoing monthly series, including: the well-established one for Doctors Ten and Eleven, the increasingly confident sequence for Doctor Twelve, or the fledgling first year proper for the much underused Ecclestone Doctor (after Scott's splendid miniseries).

Art is generally of a pleasing quality, although I again find myself struggling to hear Tennant's voice carry through during the Tenth Doctor sections, as the likeness here for this ever-popular incarnation is not the most representative. This has been a problem several times in the main range involving him before, and is somewhat puzzling.

Colouring is something I almost take as a given when I do these reviews, but in these two issues of the mini-arc so far, I feel like some attention is necessitated. With such a busy storyline, and so many characters involved it is welcome that Nicola Righi manages to make everything cohere that bit more, such is his considered use of palette. A lot of scope is required of the pencils/inks, and they need a particularly illustrious colourist to breathe full life. Consequently this is one event series that will reward re-readings simply for the enjoyment of scrolling through the visuals.

 

EXTRAS:

Two variant covers are presented both in mid-size, and full-page variants. The first is a photo cover, and the second is a striking effort by Fabio Listrani.








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