The Third Doctor - #4 - The Heralds Of Destruction Part FourBookmark and Share

Saturday, 8 April 2017 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
DOCTOR WHO THIRD DOCTOR #4 Cover_A (Credit: Titan)
Writer - Paul Cornell

Artist - Christopher Jones

Colorist - Hi-Fi

Letters  - Richard Starkings + Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt

(Alistair Lethbridge Stewart - Created By Mervyn Haisman +
Henry Lincoln, appearing courtesy of Candy Jar Books --with thanks to Hannah Haisman, Henry Lincoln, + Andy Frankham-Allen)
 
Editor - John Freeman

Assistant Editors - Jessica Burton + Amoona Saohin

Senior Designer - Andrew Leung

RELEASED 11th January 2017

The micromachines threat becomes secondary to the machinations of a man, who wants to seize mastery over not only Earth itself, but time and space as well. He has been putting together a scheme, using the expertise of some true brain-boxes from Electronicon Ltd. The Doctor, Jo and UNIT must find a way to prevent this potential danger from becoming an all too present reality. And the untrustworthy renegade Time Lord, who prefers to be known as the 'Master', will have to be part of this effort to combat a foe, who the Doctor thought was defeated for all of eternity..


After some very enjoyable earlier instalments, this fourth chapter in this limited run of stories that revisit the magnetic Third Doctor really ups both the stakes and the overall quality to a new level. Writer Paul Cornell ushers in a lot more supporting characters, and such is his consummate skill, that readers are highly likely to be invested in the fates off both major and minor players in the story. It also is engaging to finally realise that whilst the Master is always a threat, there is another recurring character who is the actual villain of the piece. Such is his lust for power, that he not only is causing circumstances that threaten the Earth's safety, but his very own well-being is tenuous as well.

Just who this antagonist is, was revealed in Issue 3's cliff hanger, and whilst I will adopt some secrecy with this review, I can at least say that Barry Letts' extensive involvement both as a producer and director is probably the reason this memorable resident in the Who hall of infamy was brought back. The art and colours - from Christopher Jones and Hi-Fi - seem to have picked up in quality thanks to the relentless pace, invention and wit of the story. The impression on the reader also continues to be remarkable, almost as if an actual time tunnel to the early colour TV era is generated.

The Master continues to be one of the sure-fire highlights of this comic book, and this should be expected, given how much he made the Pertwee era a success. Tragically, this original version left viewers too early, when actor Roger Delgago perished in a car accident, during filming of a movie abroad. Cornell made the right decision to include him here, especially as Season 10 had the lowest amount of material for the Master, out of the middle three seasons of the Third Doctor era.

Also welcome in terms of adding to the limits of just five actual stories per season (albeit with much greater screen time than the typical TV outings of today), is the insight into Mike Yates' disillusionment with UNIT, and furthermore the wider society that he is sworn to serve and protect. Mike had a three story arc beginning with the sublime The Green Death, but this new story helps make his undercover work and subjugation to BOSS' mind control that much more significant, as the Master helps to sow some seeds of doubt and rebellion into his impressionable mind.

The final panels are some of the most electric, and present another gripping hook into the ensuing issue. The location and time period thus far has been fairly static - despite the Doctor's ability to again travel freely in his TARDIS - but now another cause for adventures in the fourth dimension dramatically reveals itself.

The net result - Issue Five is set up as even more of a must-read than its forebears...

 


BONUS:

Seemingly like clockwork (as of recent times), this edition provides both variant covers for the present issue, as well as smaller variants for the impending concluding issue of the miniseries.

Monochrome examples of Jones' ink process feature, one displaying a terrifying journey through the space/time vortex, and the other featuring the much-loved UNIT 'family' - alongside the micro machines.





Ninth Doctor Issue 5 - The Transformed (Part 2 of 2)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 8 April 2017 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
NINTH DOCTOR #5 (Credit: Titan)

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

LETTERER - RICHARD STARKINGS
AND COMICRAFT’S JIMMY BETANCOURT

SENIOR DESIGNER -  ANDREW LEUNG

SENIOR EDITOR -  ANDREW JAMES

ASSISTANT EDITORS - JESSICA BURTON & AMOONA SAOHIN

Published - September 7th 2016 - TITAN COMICS

The Ninth Doctor, and a Mickey Smith that knows a thing or two about quantum leaps (and had been saved from sniper fire by a dying Tenth Doctor), must somehow halt the grim threat to various innocent humans, who face becoming anonymous (and grotesque) alien monstrosities.


The story continues to look diverting and full of incident, and there is now a tangible antagonist that the time travelling regulars need to overcome, who played a role back in the 2015 mini-series. Whilst strikingly alien in appearance, he is not the brightest crayon in the set, and comes equipped with fellow non-humanoid henchmen that seem a bit dim.

Rose is given again some decent moments here as her concern for her new friends is made believable, (and the reader’s belief in her avoiding a permanent change of appearance and identity is kept somewhat in suspense). Jack has a reasonable plot contribution here too - although he still inevitably is 'second fiddle' to Mickey. There is further reminder of the former Time Agent's tenuous friendship with this Doctor, when Rose's exposure to danger is laid starkly at his door.

The art is no less captivating, but notably for this concluding half of the story Adriana Melo is once again assigned with the relevant responsibilities. She is a confident contributor of visual stories, and manages to continue the overall look of 'Part One', without compromising her own distinctive visual style.

And the pace which already had enough ‘oomph’ to it in Issue 4, is tweaked to a higher notch, and the story manages to develop plus introduce some fine revelations and solutions to make the current situation have some resolution. However, Jack, Rose and the (incumbent) Doctor are all just realising the weight of responsibility resting on them. It is just as well the Doctor can control his ship as well as he does, as they are forced to pursue the ongoing danger across time and space...

It has been interesting to have Mickey return- albeit briefly - with Noel Clarke nowadays being esteemed somewhat more for being a writer/producer than an actor. However his turn as the first Earthbound relationship figure for a companion, in the modern era, is still one that bears reminiscing. 

Martha does not affect proceedings all that much as perhaps hoped, and whilst her fortunes improve here, there simply is not enough panel 'time' for her to actually appear on this occasion.

The Ninth Doctor is certainly not my personal favourite, but has grown in my affections over time, and certainly The 50th Anniversary Special, and various War Doctor material has given his anger and frustration further weight and meaning. When he feigns slapstick and silliness, it is clear it is both a front for his many regrets and bad memories, and sometimes also can be an awkward way to try and integrate with the ‘simplistic’ humans he cares so much for. These new comic adventures do a fine job of conveying the 'image versus inner reality' struggle quite well. There is always pressure for this Doctor to avoid genocide and destruction of civilisation, whereas other versions took it on as a big responsibility, but could at times truly enjoy their intellectual strengths during the troubles at hand.


There are no easy answers in this concluding half of the story. The Doctor and his friends do their best with ‘damage control’ as they can. However, the threat of disturbances to a given person’s physiology is set up as a potential problem in more than one time zone, and so a longer story arc is commencing. To my tastes at the very least, it is pleasing that the story now will encompass the Doctor's long-standing allies; UNIT.

Not only looking to honour allies of the doctor from recent times in 21st Century, but also some popular characters that last had onscreen appearances in the mid 1970s (come the well-executed final panel), this edition has a bit of everything for most dedicated fans of this great sci-fi phenomenon.


BONUS

The main cover, by Blair Shedd, is one of the better ones - applying to both this ongoing range, as well as Titan's monthly output in general. However, should readers wish, they can pick up the comic in person with an alternate image - either by Will Brooks or Simon Myers. If opting for the digital download, then both covers 'B' and 'C' are afforded full-page detail at the end of the comic. 

Smaller previews of Issue 6 are also on view. These once again look presentable, but contribute next to nothing in terms of explaining what the actual story content involves. However, there is a full page preview of Melo's black-and-white artwork, which encompasses five panels, and which gives some clearer hints.





Supremacy Of The Cybermen - Complete CollectionBookmark and Share

Friday, 17 March 2017 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
SUPREMACY OF THE CYBERMEN (Credit: Titan)
Writers: George Mann + Cavan Scott

Art: Ivan Rodriguez, Walter Geovanni, with Alessandro Vitti


Colorist: Nicola Righi With Enrica Eren Angiolini

Letterer: Richard Starkings
And Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt

Senior Designer: Andrew Leung 

Senior Editor: Andrew James

Assistant Editors: Jessica Burton
& Amoona Saohin

Designer: Rob Farmer

Published :7th March 2017

The most recent incarnations of the Doctor must combat the might of the Cyberiad - an overwhelming force that links the minds of Cybermen through all of time. The Tenth Doctor is forced to use a super-powered, and truly gigantic machine, as part of a combat alliance with Sontarans (who are normally his sworn enemies). The Ninth Doctor is on the back foot as he seemingly loses Rose forever, and his faithful time ship into the bargain. The London of 2006 that was established as relatively safe is now totally overcome by the silver giants. And as for the Eleventh Doctor, both he and Alice face a change of evolution back in the ancient time zone of ‘Prehistoric’ Earth. A change that contradicts established knowledge concerning the fate of the Silurian race.

But it is the Twelfth Doctor who is facing the eye of the storm and discovering what his Cybermen nemeses are intending to do, not only with the wider cosmos, but with the  temporal flow of causality itself. It soon becomes clear that this Doctor’s apparent triumph over Rassilon (in Hell Bent) was only short-lived. The alternately legendary and reviled keystone figure in Gallifrey’s history (depending on when in his elongated lifespan) is now truly betraying his own kind, by allowing the Cybermen to have access to the higher technology of his race. In return for this 'sharing' of superior knowledge, the former Lord President is accepting some Cyber ‘enhancements’ to his own person.


The initial two issues of this arc were separately reviewed on this site last year, and the consensus was that the initial foundations were promising.

So the logical question is: does the conclusion deliver?

In a nutshell - this is a satisfying romp  for the general time required to read through it. And as a collected edition it also perhaps reads in the best way, for one to enjoy such a large scale and ambitious type of story. When this story was first being released every month (or every other month) in the second half of 2016, sometimes the wait between issues highlighted how sparse was the material that most of the starring Doctors were given. 

The key premise of the Cybermen looking to master both space and time is perhaps not new when one is to consider the likes of Attack of the Cybermen and Silver Nemesis, but with all due respect to those 1980s stories, the ideas at work here are that much stronger. Also, the limitless 'budget' of comics is also put to better use than was ever the case with those TV outings’ resources. The Doctor rarely is put under such immediate pressure as in this tale, and it is refreshing to have his other selves being so helpless and threatening to drag down the ‘present’ (Capaldi) incumbent. There are plenty of moments of high drama, with full-on ‘shock effect’ as various associates, or close friends of the Doctor(s) are seemingly slain, or coldly assimilated by the impassive forces of the Cybermen.

The biggest stumbling block for this distinctly ambitious story is that the jeopardy is raised to such intense levels that the final method of bringing things to a close verges on deus ex machina. Yet it does see some welcome character development for one of the main antagonists, that arguably was not the most easy to anticipate based on much of the previous storyline. If one were to look for how strong the conclusion is overall, such as by comparing it with the prior year’s Titan comic event, then it is clear that the ending Paul Cornell devised for his Four Doctors story was just that margin more satisfying and neat.  

Also, whilst it was brave to force the Twelfth Doctor to be the one regeneration to have the key to the puzzle, it is a little frustrating that the Doctor’s various companions are so passive here – again Cornell’s story was mindful of keeping the considerable precedent of the assistant role being crucial to the Doctor’s fortunes. As an introduction to those not so familiar with Doctors of past times – even in the recent decades – this adventure does fine work in maintaining key defining traits. The Eleventh Doctor is as light hearted and unflappable in the face of danger, as the most striking turns Matt Smith contributed on-screen. The Tenth Doctor has those hints of darkness and fury, such is the relatively short period that has occurred since the Time War. The Ninth Doctor’s relatively macho and assertive nature is well captured, and despite the human casualties that assault his senses, he still has that firm core belief in his ability to rescue victory from the jaws of defeat. Titan had also done a fine job in their ongoing regular comic lines to introduce teasers for this saga by having Doctors from the classic era of 1963-1989 pop up , and this is executed well in the main story by having further glimpses of the TV Time Lords of yesteryear..There are also some other pleasing references that operate in relieving the often relentlessly grim vibe – such as the mention of the 'Kessel Run' by the Ecclestone version of the Doctor.

The visuals are mostly effective from the artwork team that contributed to this mini-arc, and the wealth of time and space is no doubt a cause for excitement for both casual reader and loyal monthly purchaser alike.  The main artists – Ivan Rodriguez and Walter Geovanni – are able to put their personal stamp on a wealth of familiar faces, along with those newly introduced for this particular story. There is good further art support from Alessandro Vitti, and the main colouring work from Nicola Righi is typically lively and effective in conveying the mood intended by co-writers Scott and Mann.


Overall, readers can do far worse than give this graphic novel some time and careful attention as they uncover the myriad threads concerning Doctors past and present, as well as the turbulence that is Gallifrey in the future. It perhaps is not up there with some of the very best stories from Titan, but as an adventure featuring the second most recognised monster of the show, and one that makes some interesting use of the different Doctors from television screens in the last 12 or so years, it is definitely worth a look. It remains to be seen if Series 10's concluding episodes make equal or better use of the (potentially infinite) Cybermen concept; one that is now more than Fifty Years of age.





The Third Doctor - #3 - The Heralds Of Destruction Part ThreeBookmark and Share

Saturday, 11 March 2017 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
THIRD DOCTOR #3 (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 --
with thanks to Hannah Haisman,
Henry Lincoln,and Andy Frankham-Allen) 

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

Published November 30th 2016, TITAN COMICS

Jo Grant’s mind is a fascinating place. But the Third Doctor needs to work hard to achieve some kind of progress in the fight against the metallic aliens that are threatening both Great Britain, and planet Earth itself. If he fails, he and his best friend remain trapped on the metaphysical plane of existence for all of eternity. Meanwhile the Master remains free, and a mystery emerges over just what the Second Doctor's plan involves.


This middle issue of the miniseries effectively acts as wrapping up what seemed to be the main story, and proceeding to establish what the true narrative actually is. It perhaps lacks the overt excitement and startling visual work of issues one and two, but the closing revelation – featuring the return of a long-forgotten foe - more than makes up for it.

The Third Doctor makes a partial breakthrough in managing to convince a faction of the Micro Machines to be on his side. This action that relied on tact and emotional smarts helps the UNIT forces that had been scratching their heads as they faced a standoff with these metallic creatures over in Fairford. The actual story behind what the Second Doctor is doing on Earth during the Third Doctor/UNIT years is revealed to a small extent, but with two further instalments to go, readers are left kept waiting for full answers.

Once again the original Master, complete with beard and a mixture of dark and greying hair, manages to be the most arrestingly compelling character. He this time manages to impersonate the Brigadier, but the manner in which this is kept a surprise is somewhat more subtle than some other such attempts. Also, the writer has done some fine work in this ongoing story to suggest just how versatile this most dangerous of renegade Time Lords can be, when it comes to creating gadgets and managing to infiltrate supposedly top-secret organisations

Humour continues to be very good here too. Cornell has proven time again with his TV scripts, novels and comic book stories how he can find the appropriate tone to make a story and its characters’ actions properly flow. I liked the way Jo triumphantly displayed a tome entitled ‘Everything I’ve Learned in the last Three Years’, which is a knowing acknowledgement of her good character development under the control of Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks. It also manages to poke a little fun at the UNIT dating confusion that close followers of the show sometimes find so controversial.

There also is a well-done fight between the Master and his ‘most worthy of opponents’, as they trade off barbed witticisms and talk of the virtues of their respective “Martian Kendo” and “Mercurian Kung Fu” martial art skills. This manages to show that the Third Doctor’s love of “Venusian Aikido” has served him well in certain situations, but as a man of action he sometimes needs to up the ante.

On a slightly more negative note, the art is just a touch less effective this time round. A good portion of the action is set indoors, and without the use of some creative backgrounds or alternate perspective, this leads to a few too many panels looking a little stilted. Even the sections in Jo’s mind are a little too low-key after being so striking in the previous issue, but a couple of passage at least show good use of the crystalline cave, where the Doctor negotiates with the Micro Machines' ‘hive mind’. I also cannot fathom why Mike has been made to look the way he does; being more evocative of the one-off UNIT captains that featured, until he made his debut at the start of Season 8.

However this does not seriously prevent the story from working its charms, and the Third Doctor continues to be as authoritative and engaging as Jon Pertwee so consistently portrayed him on-screen. The twist that so stunningly closes the issues also manages to make sense, in terms of linking with the clues that had been carefully placed thus far. The final two ‘episodes’ look to be upping the pace, and the stakes, in truly epic fashion..


 

BONUS:


Variant covers are featured for this issue, as well as previews of Issue Four's cover and its variants. There are 'behind-the-scenes' examples of Jones' pencil and ink work for two different pages of the story.





Ninth Doctor Issue 4 - The Transformed (Part 1 of 2)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 25 February 2017 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek

Ninth Doctor Issue 4 'The Transformed' (Part 1 of 2) Titan Comics  (Credit: http://media.titan-comics.com/dynamic-images/comics/issues/DW_9D_Ongoing_04_Cover_A_Verity_Glass_1z7XcBF.jpg.size-600.jpg)
WRITER - Cavan Scott
ARTIST - Chris Bolson
COLORIST - Marco Lesko

LETTERER - RICHARD STARKINGS
AND COMICRAFT’S JIMMY BETANCOURT

DESIGNER - ROB FARMER

SENIOR EDITOR - ANDREW JAMES

ASSISTANT EDITORS - JESSICA BURTON &
AMOONA SAOHIN

Published 10 August 2016 - Titan Comics

"You never listen, do you? We can’t do this.The Web Of Time.."

"Oh, an expert now,are we?"

"Look, they’re in [the TARDIS], aren’t they? Rose and Jack Sparrow? They see me and you can wave goodbye to the timeline. History rewritten. You know that!"


Mickey arguing with the Doctor over how much discretion should be taken, given the point in time concerned for the Doctor's various allies.


 

The main hook in this opening instalment of another new storyline in the ongoing monthly comic, for the short-lived Ninth Doctor, is that Mickey Smith is not the rather hapless, insecure on-off boyfriend of the independent Rose Tyler.  Instead we have the toughened, quick-witted and battle ready figure last seen fighting at Martha’s side, in the ‘victory parade’ that closed out The End Of Time.

It is an interesting idea by regular writer Cavan Scott to have a companion meet the Doctor out of order, and for our hero to somehow not have his future self - or selves - compromised in terms of future actions. Nonetheless the Doctor is extra careful to not have Jack or Rose cross paths with this friend from the future.

The main plot point of normal human beings gaining unearthly powers, but then the mutations spiralling out of control, leaving the people in (perhaps permanent form as) ‘monsters’ is a pretty solid core idea. In some ways it echoes the themes of the Doctormania three-parter that just came beforehand in this series. There is focus on image, reputation and mistaken identity. It also is a somewhat reordered working of the Solonian life cycle in the Mutants story from the Third Doctor era.

Having a change up back to Earth, but this time in 2016 San Francisco, is a fine idea. This city has little precedent in the Who canon, and certainly the USA is still not mined on television often, mainly due to budget concerns

The art is up to the higher standards set by this publisher since the inaugural issue that revisited Eccleston's Doctor back in Spring of 2015. Chris Bolson is on board for the first time in these Titan bundles of escapism. He knows how to tell a story clearly with both character expression and some sweeping action. Panelling is a little more varied than is the norm, and some pages need to be read as a 'double' so digital readers should take care accordingly to follow the words and pictures in a meaningful fashion.

Although the essential story has been done many times before, we have some good new characters, and some mystery over just what has happened to the 'missing' people. It also is welcome to not have a clear enemy - on the evidence of this opener that is. The pacing is strong throughout, and the references to various Who continuity from the main series is done in a careful way so that newcomers will not be overly confused.

Altogether another fine example of a monthly series that deserved its chance, both on the shelves of comic book stores and newsagents, as well as the digital market.

 





Twelfth Doctor Vol #4 - The School Of Death - (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 5 February 2017 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek


Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor Year Two #1 (Credit: Titan)

STORY 1 - The School Of Death

STORY 2 - The Fourth Wall

STORY 3 - Robot Rampage

Originally Published in Twelfth Doctor Year 2 Issues 1-5
(+ A Free Comicbook Day Issue)

***************************************************************

WRITER: ROBBIE MORRISON

ARTISTS: RACHAEL STOTT, SIMON FRASER

COLORISTS: IVAN NUNES, MARCIO MENYS

LETTERS: RICHARD STARKINGS +
COMICRAFT’S JIMMY BETANCOURT

 SENIOR EDITOR: ANDREW JAMES

 ASSISTANT EDITOR: JESSICA BURTON

 DESIGNER: ROB FARMER

***************************************************************

PUBLISHED: 13TH SEPTEMBER 2016 TITAN COMICS

"There’s something fishy going on at the remote Scottish school of Ravenscaur...

Something that has bedevilled students and teachers alike...

Something that has lurked in the caverns beneath the school for millennia!

Only the Doctor and Clara can unravel a deadly conspiracy that reaches as high as the Prime Minister of England!"

(Official Teaser To The Title Story)


The feature story had originally four issues in theYear Two run with which to build up suspense, and feature a number of engaging subplots, as well as a loosely connected solo adventure for the Twelfth Doctor taking on Captain Volk, and his lethal pirates/mercenaries. With this prologue of sorts, the reader only witnesses the climactic moments, but it still resonates enough to feel like a proper story in its own right.

An exciting first impression is made in the 'pre-credit' sequence counterpart, as teacher Christel is hounded by mysterious forces. This 'sacrificial lamb' is given enough likability, and connection to Clara, for us to care about her grim fate. 

As the primary action unfolds, the creepy Mr Beck is keen to fully introduce The 'Impossible Girl' to the school, which turns out to have a number of skeletons hidden in its closets. After some mystery, the majority of the tale can be described as a thoroughly enjoyable romp. Two additional new 'assistants' help the Doctor overcome the real threat behind the cold-hearted bureaucratic school; one that Clara had intended to teach in, as a change-up from her hectic life in the capital city.

Overall the story can be likened to a mixture of prior Sea Devil stories, with a 'Village Of The Damned' situation, as the local island/school community are all but completely mentally subdued. The Doctor and Clara clearly are at a stage in their partnership, where they enjoy each other's company and accept that they are very different in approach. Thus they can work together assuredly to solve the problems as required. I know many devoted fans prefer the Doctor to actually get on with his best friend, more often than not, and I count myself in that group.

It is also welcome to have UNIT involved once again in these comics, with this present variant of the Doctor; (albeit now sadly announced as departing come Christmas this year). After the Zygon Invasion/Inversion story of Autumn 2015, this story honours continuity in typically faithful Titan style, by having both Osgoods feature in the narrative. Along with the much-loved Kate Stewart playing her role to help the Doctor, in the same way her father helped his 'predecessors', there has been a proper 'renaissance' for UNIT, of late. This is in thanks not only to the TV shows being seen globally, but also the work done across Doctor Who's various other mediums, ever since 2012's The Power Of Three.

But ultimately the final triumph comes down to the TARDIS duo, and a pair of delinquent but warm-hearted teenagers, who have been too stubborn to be recruited by the Sea Devil's army of zombies. Come the ending there is a nice hint of the next stage in the journey of life for these two guest characters. The TV show - particularly the modern version - has always been good at not only wrapping up the main problem but making followers care about the fortunes of characters, most of whom are unlikely to ever be seen again. 

Some nice light-heartedness helps the story from taking itself too seriously, which is a wise move given how close to the Establishment Nose the satire verges on, at times. The Doctor's blasé attitude, or boldness, when confronted by the pub of possessed villagers would certainly play out well on primetime TV. His weak 'sea urchin' disguise is a fun example of his inconsistent ability to blend into his environment. I also enjoyed the swordfish ally, he acquires as he pretends a completely inanimate object is of the same value as K9 or Kamelion from his days of 'youth', but a nice irony is made of this towards the final stages.

Other elements though would stretch the budget quite considerably, with some of the action being worthy of a proper Hollywood blockbuster. With the fine artistic skills of Rachael Stott and Ivan Nunes on display, the epic scope of the action is translated handsomely well, however.

This effort entertains throughout. I cannot honestly say any of the new characters were ones for the ages, or worthy of a further adventure down the line, but they fit well into a fun story, where the odds seem stacked against contemporary human society. The original Sea Devils had its flaws but always knew how to move the narrative into some new location, or confound expectations. In that sense then, The School of Death rises to the surface with gusto, rather than stagnating to the bottom of the sea, like the much-maligned Peter Davison sequel.


The second story is rather more satirical and self-referential, both in terms of its moods and its themes. It does an impressive job in casting retrospective light over the Doctor Who mythos itself.  There is even a rather 'meta' take on the comic book medium which makes the story both entertaining, and distinctly different from other such stories, that centre on a mystery and a relentless force needing to be overcome. 

A fun poke at the TV show's once male-dominated fanbase is briefly incorporated into the tale. As many know, the male-female ratio of Doctor Who aficionados has evened up considerably in recent years thanks to the quality writing and casting of the 21st century series.

Readers get to see some decided vanity from the Doctor –  a defining characteristic whichever face/body he is inhabiting – when he displays outrage over the persona, or image, that he has online. This internet portrayal of our title hero reminded me of the very knowing TV portrayal of Clive, a superfan utterly obsessed with the mysterious Ninth Doctor, who featured in the reboot triumph that was Rose

Also notable - if perhaps somewhat surprising, given how much Clara has experienced - is the Coal Hill School teacher's cynicism over comic book shop staff claims regarding people going missing. At this point in her (ultimately infinite) life, she has seen enough weird and wonderful things. Then again, real people that we all know, are contradictory and three-dimensional. Whilst very likable, Clara would not be human without some judgemental sides to her character, and some entrenched pre-conceptions over certain types of people.

With perhaps other references to the biggest comics and comic book companies also being intended by Morrison, I did enjoy one particular nod towards Marvel’s Silver Surfer.

This story also operates as a loose sequel to Series Eight gem Flatline, and does a fine job of using a well-designed monster without just simply repeating the same ‘gimmick’. Whilst ‘The School Of Death’ had more time to develop its key supporting characters, as well as have some decent tertiary ‘cast members’, The Fourth Wall still is well-paced, and does a fine job of marrying continuity between the Titan comics and the actual TV show.  

Dialogue also seems to be pitched perfectly for the talents of Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, were this to be an actual story made for Series 9. Prior stories (including the preceding Sea Devil one) have ‘cameos’ as panels within the story, enabling a clever parody on the comic book canvas and panelling techniques.

The story also works on another level by having a strong message concerning escapism, especially one found in a personal hobby that others deem as 'not cool'. The danger of slipping too far into make-belief, however, should always be an important consideration for someone to still be healthy and interact well with others. For a story that had a solitary issue originally with which to get its objectives across, this is very impressive, and arguably the high point of this collection.


Rounding off Volume Four is a fun, if very brief, sequel to Fourth Doctor debut Robot. With its limited page/panel count Robo Rampage acts more as a straight-up King Kong homage. The difference between the 1933 classic movie and this story, is that the English capital city is the playground for chaos, as opposed to Manhattan. As the metallic monster attacks the London Eye, this much 'older' Doctor rants over the greed and irresponsibility of humanity that has allowed for Professor Kettlewell’s invention to suddenly be back in the public sphere.

This story has no Clara, but we do get a nice turn for Osgood, giving her more to do than in the main Sea Devil story. The UNIT scientist is still eager to be a proper companion (and into the bargain be excused from her day job duties). Showing her fanatical side, Osgood showers the grey haired wearer of sonic sunglasses with a number of 'alternative titles' to that of "Doctor". Some of those names are references to past TV stories. Ultimately though she tries to christen him with one of her own monikers.

The previous two stories had their moments of mirth, but this one is probably the most amusing in terms of comedy, and can be regarded as a longer attempt at the (once customary) ‘bonus humour strip’.


BONUS

Two alternative covers are featured in full page size. They are credited to respectively Brian Miller, and Simon Myers.

Other featured (albeit smaller-sized) covers are credited to MyersAlex RonaldWill BrooksJAKe, and main artist Rachael Stott 

The main title cover is credited to Alice X. Zhang, and also features in the gallery section


SUMMARY

Altogether then, this is a fine collection of wholly new original stories that help develop both the main two characters, as well as some of the recurring allies to feature in the Steven Moffat epoch. It deserves to be taken as authentic and official in the time lines as the main televised entity itself. Oddly, there is no separate title for The Fourth Wall story within the collection (although the phrase is found within dialogue), whereas Robot Rampage (originally published for Free Comics Day) retains its name in-story. Regardless, if the reader has missed some or most of the prior issues released in Year 2, then this collection is the best option on the market. 

One to keep and enjoy.








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