The Iron Legion (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 14 December 2017 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Iron Legion (Credit: Panini UK)
Written by Pat Mills,‎ John Wagner,‎ Steve Moore‎
Artowrk by Dave Gibbons
Paperback: 162 pages
Publisher: Panini UK LTD

The Iron Legion is the first of two Volumes of the Collected Fourth Doctor strips from Doctor Who Magazine, it also happens to be the earliest comics from the pages of Doctor Who Magazine version of the strip. It is a good read, not as strong a run of stories as the strip developed into, but these are the early days of the DWM strip, so while they are often entertaining, they hadn't quite developed their voice as a strip yet. That is a minor complaint really, because when you get down to it these early strips in DWM capture a huge leap for the ongoing comic strip adventures of Doctor Who. 

The book also features the debut of DWM's first original companion, and the franchise's first companion of a race other than white, Sharon Davies. I rather liked Sharon, she has a good personality and works well with the Fourth Doctor.  Tom Baker's voice is most definitely captured within these stories, and that is really why, despite telling tales that are bigger and more sweeping than anything the show could have ever done at the time these were written and released, it somehow still manages to feel like they belong within the world of the show. 

The often beautiful Black & White artwork by Dave Gibbons is the most notable uptick in quality from what I have glanced and skimmed at of the TV Comic version of the strip that immediately proceeded it. One look at the opening page of "Doctor Who and The Iron Legion" and it far surpasses nearly anything TV Comic did in all the years it ran the strip.  From his depiction of the Fourth Doctor (for the most part, there are occasions where he can look a bit off) to the big sweeping pages of armies and spaceships...Gibbons really managed to draw something special within this book. 

The stories are also pretty solid, though I believe the strip only got better as it went along, there is no denying that these early stories are quite good. From the titular opening story, to "Doctor Who and the Star Beast" and "The Dogs of Doom," it has some pretty solid stories underneath all the beautiful art. 

This is the early days of Doctor Who Magazine's strip, so much so that the magazine wasn't even yet called Doctor Who Magazine, but Doctor Who Weekly.  It may not reach the same heights that the strip would under the Fifth, Sixth or Eighth Doctor runs, but there are some solid storytelling and great artwork, and despite the fact that Doctor Who has been living in comic strips nearly as long as he has been off adventuring on TV, it says something that one could easily, and happily, start reading the strip from the moment the magazine took over. Panini has also restored the strips beautifully in this collection, being released in their original Black & White forms for the first time since they were originally printed, along with some commentary from the people who made it...it's a collection that comes highly recommended. 





Torchwood #2Bookmark and Share

Friday, 8 December 2017 - Reviewed by Dustin Pinney
Torchwood #2 (Credit: Titan)
The Culling Part 2 (of 4) 
Writers: John Barrowman, Carole Barrowman 
Artist: Neil Edwards 
Publisher: Titan Comics 
FC - 32pp
 On sale: November 22, 2017

Torchwood has always struggled with a consistent tone. It’s adult, dark, violent, and sexual, but at the same time it’s a spinoff of Doctor Who, humorous and fairly immature. The characters are bursting with emotion and conflict, while somehow lacking genuine drama. The stakes are constantly high, without anyone being in actual peril. Children of Earth Aside, the quality of Torchwood is all over the place.

 

That troublesome tone is only present in Torchwood #2 in very small doses. There’s still a lot going on, without communicating a great deal of danger. Captain Jack and Gwen have a clone daughter running around in the ice, killing everything she touches, and this is a big deal because the Vervoids are planning a culling. While that is certainly very threatening, the drama of it doesn’t come through.

 

To be fair, this is the second part of a miniseries. The authors, John Barrowman and Carole E. Barrowman, are building a story, providing details when the audience needs it, rather than giving you all the goods up front only to burn out by the end. The entire story can not be judged by a single chapter.

 

What is remarkable is the authenticity of voice coming through the characters. Captain Jack reads like Captain Jack, Gwen is Gwen, and the same goes for Captain John Hart. Possibly unfamiliar characters like Shelley, Dana, James Sterling, and Gilly fit snuggly into the Torchwood comic book mold. A lot of that credit must go to Mr. Barrowman’s history with Torchwood and the excellent talent of Carole E. Barrowman. If nothing else, this feels like proper Torchwood, imperfections and all.

 




The Ninth Doctor – Volume 4: Sin-EatersBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 28 November 2017 - Reviewed by Matt Dennis
The Ninth Doctor – Volume 4: Sin-Eaters (Credit: Titan)

DOCTOR WHO: THE NINTH DOCTOR VOLUME 4: SIN EATERS
Writer: Cavan Scott
Artist: Adriana Melo and Cris Bolson
Publisher: Titan Comics
112pp 
On sale November 28, 2017

Titan Comics' run of Ninth Doctor adventures concludes with Volume 4: Sin-Eaters, a collection of stories featuring the Ninth Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack Harkness, except this time around, Jack has left the TARDIS in disgrace!

The first arc of the two contained in this collection sees the Doctor imprisoned in an outer space correctional institute, accused of murdering his newest companion, Tara. Rose goes undercover to find him and discovers terrible experiments are being used to purge the institute's resident criminals of their darker personalities – experiments that create monstrous beings from the subject's dark personalities. Suffice to say, the Doctor is no exception to this fate!

We've seen the Doctor's dark-side manifest as the villain in multiple stories on television and beyond before now but both writer and artist find an interesting new angle on this idea, especially in the artwork from Adriana Melo, which has echoes of The League of Extraordinary Gentleman's grotesquely deformed Mr. Hyde to it. Great as the idea is though, the mere two issues it plays out in never quite seem enough, especially when writer Cavan Scott adds in an additional plot thread regarding the institute's power source. A rushed conclusion with little time to dwell on the emotional fallout the story kicks up doesn't help much either.

The Sin-Eater arc ultimately wraps up too quick to truly satisfy, with many potential story avenues going unexplored in favour of mass carnage and a burning need to quickly move on to the continuing plotline surrounding the absent Jack Harkness. Picking up on the dangling plot thread that is Jack's missing two-year memory, Scott lets his imagination run riot with a fine flashback tale that gives us a glimpse of the Captain's Time Agent exploits, before dovetailing into a Blade Runner-esque sci-fi noir adventure that sees Jack attempting to find the key to his missing memories and hunt down an elusive figure from his murky past.

As a finale, it satisfies, though a needlessly shoehorned-in classic villain, a rather convoluted conclusion, and a very rushed goodbye does make it a hard story to truly love. There are some great Time War references peppered throughout though that certainly adds another interesting layer to the legendary conflict that would make a great story arc in and of itself.

Overall Sin-Eaters is a decent if somewhat rushed conclusion to the Ninth Doctor's current comic book adventures. Scott delivers plenty of references and fun Easter Eggs for fans to spot, whilst the artwork, whilst occasionally rough, does lend itself well to both arc's respective tone.

If you've waited with baited breath to discover more about Jack's mysterious past, you may be disappointed or even a tad confused, but as an epic Ninth Doctor finale, Sin-Eaters certainly has no sins to confess! 

 





The Eleventh Doctor Complete Year OneBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 21 November 2017 - Reviewed by Dustin Pinney
DOCTOR WHO: THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR COMPLETE YEAR ONE (Credit: Titan Comics)

The Eleventh Doctor Complete Year One
Writers: Al Ewing and Rob Williams
Artists: Simon Fraser and Warren Pleece
Publisher: Titan Comics
368pp
Published: November 21, 2017

The ones we love make up our world. When time claims them, nothing makes sense. Everything around us falls to pieces. It is up to us to pick up those pieces and rebuild, move forward, create a new world to live in.

That lesson can sometimes be impossible to learn. As it was for Alice Obiefune when she met The Doctor. Her mother was gone. Her job at the library was lost. Her landlord evicted her to knock down the building. Not even the thrill of time travel, the excitement of visiting alien worlds, meeting rock legends, or seeing the face of the creator could show her that the power to live, to keep going, was in her the whole time.

One could easily see the first year of The Doctor’s adventures away from his friends, the Ponds, as a collection of loosely connected, fluffy, stand-alone adventures, and they’d be right. Although there is a slight serialized arc (including a fascinating character on whom the spine of the story rests, who happens to be named Arc), practically every issue has its own beginning, middle, and end. The stories are energetic, crazy, and occasionally hilarious, perfectly mirroring the Eleventh Doctor’s persona. However, themes are touched on repeatedly, evolving from trip to trip as opposed to resolving and resetting for the next story. The continuous look at these themes from various angles is what makes the first year of Titan’s ongoing Eleventh Doctor series feel so monumental and epic.

Sure there’s a ravenous, and adorable, rainbow-colored dog devouring all the sadness and negativity of London. Yeah, there’s a run in with a false God wielding a black hole bomb and the Tardis continues to jump backward in time every few minutes. Sure The Eternal Dogfight shows up over Earth and someone gets a parasite by eating a space donut. All of that, plus Romans and an amusement park planet controlled by an evil organization, make for some truly dazzling spectacle, but what makes it epic are the people.

The stories told by Al Ewing and Rob Williams are funny, scary, exhilarating, and devastating because The Doctor and his new Tardis crew are the focus. The dividing chasm between what they want and what they need is the real quest. Alice needs to accept that the end of her mother’s life doesn’t equal the end of hers. John Jones (a Bowie-esque glam rocker in the early days of his career) needs to be patient with his identity. Arc needs to let go of fear. The Doctor needs to forgive himself for not being able to save everyone all the time. He needs to forgive himself for Gallifrey.

All the while a sinister being known only as the Talent Scout constantly tempts them with images of what they want. He can take away the pain by giving them what they think will fix them, essentially robbing them of what makes them people, taking away their stories.

Artists and colorists Simon Fraser, Boo Cook, Gary Caldwell, Warren Pleece, and Hi-Fi depict giant battles, goofy slapstick, and heart-breaking sadness with equal splendor. There are times when The Eleventh Doctor could step right off the page, or pull you into his marvelous space/time machine. Where they really shine however is in the expressions. You know precisely what these people are thinking and feeling without a single line of dialogue or narration.

The Eleventh Doctor Year One is one of the most moving Doctor Who stories ever told. It isn’t simply about a madman with a box who flies around fighting monsters. It is about us.

We are Arks, Time Machines transporting stories. Everyone we’ve ever met, all the things we’ve done, wished we’d done, wish we’d done differently, these memories make up the story of us. Our stories inform us, define us, drive us to do better. Perhaps we don’t always get it right, but we try. Even the last surviving member of an obliterated ancient alien race with a literal time machine remembers. It keeps him going. Keeps him trying. But it never ever stops him.

 

Amazon Link





The Tenth Doctor Complete Year OneBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 21 November 2017 - Reviewed by Dustin Pinney
DOCTOR WHO: THE TENTH DOCTOR COMPLETE YEAR ONE (Credit: Titan Comics)

DOCTOR WHO: The Tenth Doctor Complete Year One
Writers: Nick Abadzis and Robbie Morrison
Artists: Elena Casagrande and Daniel Indro
Publisher: Titan Comics
368pp 
Published: November 21, 2017

Traveling around in time and space means the passage of time is not linear. Between The Doctor leaving your sight and his return, he could quite easily have had dozens of other adventures over a few hundred years and saved as many worlds. For the companion, nothing has changed. For the universe everything has.

This is a major contributing factor to the wealth of spin-off media taking place in the Whoniverse. The Doctor is not constrained by the same limitations of other massive franchises. His continuity is fluid. As long as the possibilities of time and space remain infinite, we will never run out of stories about The Doctor.

What happened after Doctor Ten left Donna? He battled Cybermen at Christmas, faced The Waters of Mars, and prevented The End of Time, before regenerating for (seemingly) the eleventh time, right? Well, he also met an idealistic dreamer named Gabby Gonzales, saved the world from a race of beings feeding on negative emotions, visited an art gallery of block transfer sculptures, fought the Weeping Angels on the battlefields of WWI, and stared down the son of Sukhteh. And that was just the FIRST year!

Titan Comics has collected the entire first year of their ongoing Tenth Doctor line in an omnibus called DOCTOR WHO: THE TENTH DOCTOR COMPLETE YEAR ONE. It features the writing talents of Nick Abadzis and Robbie Morrison, as well as showcasing the mastery of artists Elena Casagranda, Eleonora Carlini, and Daniel Indro. The creative teams assembled have come together to tell the kinds of stories that only comics can tell, and do so exceedingly well.

What comics offer that other mediums don’t is the ability to tell larger than life stories with a fast pace that resonate. Readers have the ability to pause on a specific panel, re-read a line of dialogue or caption, and allow it to sink in. Onomonopias may give you an idea of what a particular action sounds like, but the reader is the final arbiter of the minute details. Unlike novels, comics don’t need to stop the action cold in order to set the scene - you turn the cover and you’re there.

The artists here take full advantage of their lack of budgetary constraints to lay out mind-bending pages of alien worlds, cosmic monsters, and even a few easter eggs for a reader to take in with awe. We have scenes of The Doctor (whose likeness is at times impeccably captured, especially by Casagrande)opening Gabby’s eyes to beautiful, ethereal sea creatures in the sky, and the stuff of nightmares invading the minds and bodies of the innocent, goliath statues tearing through ancient alien castles, a tank running down a small army of Weeping Angels, the not-God Anubis looming over tiny Earth primitives on his golden pyramid spaceship, and so much more. This is the vision of the Whoniverse fully realized.

As writers, Abadzis and Morrison write a Doctor that is at once instantly recognizable and a little foreign to us. He is still hurting over the loss of his friend, Donna, dreading what he feels coming, yet still regarding the universe with joy. Despite his assurance that he can never bring another human into this life, he sees in Gabby Gonzales a need to see what he sees. Some part of him knows that he has no choice but to bring her along.

Gabby Gonzales is such a fun, likable, and capable companion that it’s hard to imagine that she never appeared in the show. We see how her life of duty to a hard-working family that has sacrificed everything to give her a future is strangling her and pray that The Doctor will take her to the stars. Once he does, her love of art, knowledge, and the impossible are infectious. What the writers have given us is a character worthy of the title companion.

The first year of The 10th Doctor’s ongoing adventures delivers everything Doctor Who stories require: danger, heart, humor, loss, and the promise of more to come, on a scale that television has yet to match.

 

Amazon Link





Third Doctor Vol. 1 - Heralds of DestructionBookmark and Share

Saturday, 18 November 2017 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Third Doctor Collection Cover.png
Writer: Paul Cornell
Art: Chritopher Jones
Colourist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Senior Designer: Andrew Leung
Senior Editor: Andrew James
Assistant Editors: Jessica Burton, Amoona Saohin, Lauren McPhee, & Lauren Bowes
Published: 16th June 2017

Titan Comic's Five Issue mini-series starring the Third Doctor is collected together as Heralds of Destruction.  Whereas Titan's limited run of the Eighth Doctor had a different setting and story in each issue (with a running storyline throughout), the Third Doctor's run is entirely one story told over five issues. In that sense, it feels very tight and cohesive, and manages to capture the mood of the Third Doctor's wholly unique era quite nicely.

The story takes place somewhere during the Tenth Season, taking place after the Third Doctor's exile was ended by the Time Lords, but before Jo left, Sarah Jane arrived, and Mike Yates had his fall from grace. All of these little details play a role in this story, which arguably gave more real motivations and developments to these beloved characters than the actual show truly did at the time.  Yet that is not to say that this story doesn't feel like it could easily fit into that era.  In fact, it perfectly captures the tone of the UNIT days of Doctor Who. The voices of the characters are perfectly captured, and the art is great. The character likenesses are mostly spot on, though I personally felt Jo didn't always look just right.  But it is always going to be easier to draw the distinctive look of Jon Pertwee over the young and pretty face of Katy Manning.

The plot itself is rather fannish, with lots deep cut references to characters from this era (and before), but the execution feels so right, so very much of this timeframe in the show's history, that it almost doesn't matter what the story is. You've got alien invasions, UNIT shooting at it, the Third Doctor pontificating, the Master in his glorious Roger Delgado form, and even a few surprises along the way. What's not to enjoy?

I loved how this story takes little character bits, like the sometimes hinted at but never fully realized relationship between Jo and Mike, and brings it to fruition. Unfortunately, the constant interuptions of their work with UNIT become the reason they never truly made it work...and this also begins planting the seed for Mike to make the choices he made in Invasion of the Dinosaurs. I also rather liked the simple but effective motivation for the Third Doctor still sticking around on Earth and with UNIT despite his despised Exile finally coming to an end. 

If you, like me, have a soft spot for the Third Doctor's era of Doctor Who, there is little doubt in my mind you will find enjoyment in this book.  It's a story that feels like it was plucked straight from that era, and gives the Doctor and his supporting cast some lovely character moments to shine.