Evening's Empire (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 8 January 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Evening's Empire (Credit: Panini)

Written by Andrew Cartmel, Dan Abnett, Warwick Gray, Marc Platt, Andy Lane

Artwork by Richard Piers Rayner, Vincent Danks, Adolfo Buylla, Robin Riggs, Brian Williamson, Cam Smith, Steve Pini, John Ridgway, Richard Whitaker

Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Panini UK LTD

Evening's Empire is the fourth volume of the Seventh Doctor's adventures in the Doctor Who Magazine strip. To me, while it starts strong and has a few high points, it is mostly hampered by the attempt at keeping continuity with the Virgin books being published at the same time, and a tone that the strip and those books seemed to take on that I don't particularly care for.  Too dark, too dreary, too far removed from the fun I want out of Doctor Who.

The titular opening story was actually sort of a director cut of the original, as originally art fell way past the deadline and only the first part ran in DWM before the ongoing production issues ended up canceling the whole story. Then they apparently finished the story as a graphic novel in color later on, but this new version restores the original black and white art and a few tweaks that they never did, with the original artist contributing brand new artwork. And it was a great story! Shame it never got to run in the strip as originally planned, but nice that the Writer (Andrew Cartmel) and Artist (Richard Piers Rayner) finally were able to get it out there and have people see a story that sort of fell apart for them back in the day.

The rest of the collection is hit or miss really.  "The Grief" can be fairly solid, but it is mostly just an Alien knockoff.  "Ravens" has beautiful art but a story that just doesn't feel like Doctor Who to me at all.  I know that in the Virgin New Adventures they made the Seventh Doctor more mysterious and darker than even he had been at the end of the TV series, but while I've only sampled a bit of those books (mostly via some Big Finish adaptations admittedly), I think they might've gotten carried away with that.  "Ravens" just makes the Doctor unlikable in my opinion.  "Cat Litter" requires so much knowledge as to what must've happened in some book that I barely understand what was going on in the strip.  If you were a regular reader who had not been keeping up with the books, you'd probably feel pretty confused and annoyed by a story that just assumes you'd read something else.

The only story beyond the great opener that really did anything for me was "Merorial," which was a nice reflection on the horrors of war and the grief it can cause.  It was a simple but fairly beautiful little story, and it's writer, Warwick Gray, would later change his name and take over the strip with some fantastic results. 

I would say that despite most of the stories collected in this volume are mediocre to downright bad, the opening epic from Cartmel and Rayner being beautifully brought together after failing to do so back in the 90s kind of make up for that. The usual section of commentary from the Artists or Writers is particularly illuminating in this Volume, as the main draw for the book is the remastering and completion of a story that failed to make it's proper debut.  This isn't the best collection of stories, but at least the best story of the bunch is lovingly restored, with some beautiful new art to replace lost pages, and some explanations from the artist as to what exactly caused the thing to not get properly completed at the time.  There is some value in this book...even if I think a good chunk of the stories ended up being lousy. 

The Good Soldier (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 5 January 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Good Soldier (Credit: Panini)

Written by Andrew Cartmel, Dan Abnett, Gary Russell, Paul Cornell, John Freeman

Artwork by Arthur Ranson, Lee Sullivan, Mark Farmer, Mike Collins, Steve Pini, Richard Whitaker, Cam Smith, Gary Frank, Stephen Baskerville

Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Panini UK LTD

The Good Soldier, the Seventh Doctor's time in Doctor Who Magazine didn't really find a voice until the show got canceled. The script editor for the show's final years under McCoy was Andrew Cartmel, and you can tell he has put an influence on the strip during this period. It helps bring the feel of the latter end of McCoy to the strip right off the bat, and that carries through the whole collection here.

Of the Seventh Doctor collections, this is possibly the strongest collection.  It actually felt like a collection of stories that worked together, as opposed to just a variety of random stories. In this book we start off from the moment Ace joined the strip, and the opening and closing stories of the volume are written by  Cartmel, and there is a great big story in the middle by Dan Abnett titled "The Mark of Mandragora," which has a couple of lead-in stories as well.  All around a good collection of stronger stories, a more cohesive tone, and Ace! It is sort of a shame the strip couldn't maintain this level under the Seventh Doctor for long after this. 

This collection felt the most like the Seventh Doctor's run on TV, which sort of makes sense as the stories in this were published right about the same time that a new season of Doctor Who might have started, but (of course) did not.  Panini's collection is, as usual, lovingly put together, and as this grouping of stories is some of the best stuff from the Seventh Doctor's time leading the strip?  Definitely worth a look in. 

A Cold Day in Hell (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 30 December 2017 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
A Cold Day In Hell (Credit: Panini)
Written by Simon Furman, Mike Collins, Grant Morrison, John Freeman, Dan Abnett, Richard Alan, John Carnell, Alan Grant

Artwork by John Ridgeway, Kev Hopgood, Tim Perkins, Geoff Senior, Dave Hine, Bryan Hitch, John Higgins, Lee Sullivan, Dougie Braithwaite, Dave Elliott, Andy Lanning, Martin Griffiths, Cam Smith

Paperback: 180 pages
Publisher: Panini UK LTD

The first Seventh Doctor Volume, A Cold Day in Hell is, like all of Panini's Who collections, wonderfully put together and restored, but much of the stories in this volume didn't totally work for me. The first story tries to wrap up the Sixth Doctor comic era by having a finale adventure for companion "Frobisher," but just continuity wise it just feels out of place with the Seventh Doctor...too many references to "since Peri left" which just doesn't fit where the Seventh Doctor was from the moment he took over the part on TV. 

They should've just started fresh...time has passed, there is a new Doctor, and if you are going to say goodbye to Frobisher anyhow, why shoehorn him into the start of a new Doctor's run? It is an especially odd choice as Frobisher's exit lacks any real emotional impact.  If they wanted to say goodbye to the character, maybe they should have worked that into the end of "The World Shapers" which closed out the Sixth Doctor's run. Seems an odd choice, but this book is full of that. 

It seems at the time Marvel (who was still distributing Doctor who Magazine at the time) was desperate to drag Doctor Who into their big sweeping and ridiculous canon.  They used the Doctor Who strip as a weird in between for a character called "Death's Head," who appeared in some other comic and is shrunk down by the Doctor as an excuse to move him onto his own title by Marvel UK.  They also brought in two awful characters from another title called The Sleaze Brothers for a story so inept and awful. Admittedly, I am almost always anti-Crossover, but Doctor Who really does need to just live in it's own vast and strange universe. The stories that Marvel forced are also just plain bad.

The book also has so many artists, you'd think at least a few would manage to demonstrate an ability to capture Sylvester McCoy's likeness.  But very few actually did, which is odd.  The actor has, in my view, a fairly distinctive face, you'd think artists would find his features easy to capture or even caricature after the more non-descript faces of Peter Davison and Colin Baker.  But for most of this collection you only know it is the Doctor because he's the guy wearing the hat. 

It isn't all bad, "Claws of the Klathi!" is a decent atmospheric tale with good art and a better than the usual capturing of the Seventh Doctor's look.  I rather liked "Keepsake" and "Echoes of the Mogor!" and I did like the running gag in which the Doctor is always landing and immediately realizing he has not yet found his friend's birthday party, which he is apparently on his way towards. 

I think the biggest issue is that collected in this volume is a total hodge podge of writers, artists, and stories.  There is no clear voice (as Steve Parkhouse was throughout all of the Fifth Doctor's run and the early days of the Sixth Doctor), and no clear visual style (as the Sixth Doctor's entire run had in John Ridgeway).  That lack of any artistic vision, along with a company bullying them into working in their own characters that don't really fit...and what you get is a bunch of one offs and only a few stories that actually dig in for more than one issue.  Ultimately this is a collection for Collectors and Completists only, otherwise, I think it is rather easy to skip. 

Doctor Who - Short Trips - O TannenbaumBookmark and Share

Sunday, 24 December 2017 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
O Tannenbaum (Credit: Big Finish)

Producer & Script Editor: Ian Atkins,
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Written By: Anthony Keetch, Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast Peter Purves (Narrator)

"His old body is wearing a bit thin......It happens to us all."


How very apt that Big Finish should give us a festive Short Trips, featuring the first Doctor (the original you might say!) ahead of this  Christmas day television outing?


The story opens with the TARDIS materialising into what seems like an idealised Christmas scene. As Steven and the Doctor step out, they see that there's snow all around, along with a forest of pine trees and, just off in the distance, a cosy looking cottage. However (as always) everything s not quite as it seems, because in the  cottage the pair find a young girl, Greta, and her Grandfather, Herman, cowering from an unlikely alien threat outside.


The story is a joy to listen to, and this is a lot down to Peter Purves narration, which starts off warm and gentle, but slowly leaves the listener feeling somewhat claustrophobic and quite tense. His impersonation of the first Doctor is almost perfect. Between Antony Keetch's writing talent, and Purves vocal skills we find ourselves suddenly in the company of William Hartnell, which is a lovely Christmas present in itself.


O Tannenbaum is essentially a tightly written, base under siege story, with a taste of first contact thrown in for good measure. What is a nice surprise though, is, as was the original intention of Doctor Who, the story also manages to sneak in some historical facts for the listeners to ponder over.


The words O Tannenbaum, of course is German for O Christmas Tree, and this short story will ensure that you keep you keep that real tree you have in the living room well watered and alive for as long as possible - otherwise, you never know it's loved ones might just come looking for it - and you!


As Steven Taylor / Peter Purves rounds off this story with a cheeky  "A very merry Christmas to all of you at home." you will walk away from this festive little treat with a lovely, warm feeling.


Merry Christmas!

The World Shapers (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 24 December 2017 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The World Shapers (Panini Graphic Novel) (Credit: Panini)Written by Alan McKenzie, Simon Furman, Jamie Delano, Mike Collins, Grant Morrison
Artwork by John Ridgeway
Paperback: 186 pages
Publisher: Panini UK LTD!

The World Shapers sees out the end of the Sixth Doctor's tenure as the star of the strip.  The earliest stories are pretty good, but as the book goes on the strip seems to lose a bit of the focus that made the Doctor Who Magazine version of the strip such a joy from its debut up until this point.  I think it is "Salad Daze" which was the moment I was starting to lose interest in this book.  It is still fairly good up to there, which is about the halfway point...then it slowly devolves into mediocre to downright bad. 

For my money, the worst story in the collection is, unfortunately, the story that ended the Sixth Doctor's entire run in the strip, and the story from which the entire collection takes its name.  "The World Shapers" is exactly the kind of story I get bored by.  Instead of thinking of an interesting story or theme, the entire strip relies on continuity to seem interesting.  It's Jamie! The Voord! Marinus! Cybermen! The Voord are Cybermen? It's mixing together two monsters and claiming them as one, hoping that that twist is enough to hold up the whole story. It doesn't. I know Grant Morrsion went on to great success, but his work here is lame.  

While still a decent read with some great artwork and solid stories, I personally found the second volume of the Sixth Doctor comic strip run to be a bit more of a slog. I don’t really know why, but I think after the great run of stories featured in Voyager, it was hard to keep the momentum going. And the titular “World Shapers” was far too interested in delving into obscure continuities that it ended up souring the book for me. Not a bad collection of stories (for its first half anyhow), but it just can’t hold a candle to the first Sixth Doctor set, or even the Fourth and Fifth Doctor run. 

Torchwood: The Culling #3Bookmark and Share

Friday, 22 December 2017 - Reviewed by Dustin Pinney
Torchwood #3 - Cover A (Credit: Titan )
Writers: John Barrowman, Carole Barrowman 
Artist: Neil Edwards
Publisher: Titan Comics 
FC - 32pp
On sale: December 20, 2017 

In this third issue of the Culling miniseries, Jack, Gwen, Shelley, and the Pilot, crashland in a cabin surrounded by dying Earth - courtesy of Sladen, who happens to kill whatever she touches. Unable to go outside without being instantly aged, the Torchwood team divides their time between formulating a plan and observing the possible benefits of having sex to keep warm. The banter is of the dull and obvious variety Torchwood, the television series, was always best at. If there were a cheeky charm to characters within Doctor Who having blunt discussions about sex, it wore off a long time ago.

 The centerpiece of the issue is Captain Jack testing his regenerative abilities by stepping into the dying path left behind by Sladen. He is instantly aged while simultaneously being connected with the Vervoids tool of destruction somehow.

This alerts Sladen not only to Torchwood’s survival of the crash but also her relation to Captain Jack. In a classic Torchwood scene of unwarranted emotion erupting from a character we hardly know, Sladen vows to kill Jack and Docilis. This promises an epic, but empty, confrontation to come.

The Culling is a big story with a small scope stretched across too many issues. Instead of taking advantage of the format to burrow into these characters, finding out how all of this is affecting them, what failure would mean to them personally, why they will push so hard to succeed, the focus is on humor that doesn’t land and spectacle that fails to propel the story forward.

Torchwood #3 knows its audience. The television series had a specific if uneven, voice that never wavered. That voice has carried over to the limited comic book series seamlessly. For a fan, it must feel like diving right back into this unique corner of the Doctor Who universe. To non-fans, it most likely feels like more of the same.