Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor - Issue #2.2 (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 1 March 2020 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Thirteenth Doctor - Issue #2.2 (Credit: Titan)

Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Roberta Ingranata
Colourist: Enrica Eren Angiolini

35 Pages

Published by Titan Comics February 2020

Issue 2 of the Thirteenth Doctor's second year as a Titan Comic book maintains the quality from the opening episode.  Still in London 1969 and trying to figure out why the TARDIS would risk a paradox by bringing them to the same time and place as when the Tenth Doctor and Martha were trapped there without the TARDIS, things begin to build momentum as Martha finds the shop she works at has been robbed, and her coworker has gone missing...and then discovers the Thirteenth Doctor watching her. 

Martha confronts her, and she decides to come clean and admit she is the future incarnation of her friend.  This obviously puzzles Martha, but she seems to at least buy it a little.  She and the Doctor then decide to investigate all these missing people. 

The rest of the gang are trailing the Tenth Doctor, and his machine that goes ding begins to work, and they notice he may be heading towards the TARDIS. Their TARDIS.  If he finds it, he may believe it is his and then they would be stranded in 1969.  Yaz takes the bold measure of trying to confront the Doctor.  She pretends she is a Time Agent (believable cover story based on previous adventures in these comics), but the Tenth Doctor is able to easily blow that cover story...but before the three of them can manage to distract him from the TARDIS, he warns them to turn around...and try not to blink. The Angels are in 1969! 

This was a solid issue.  I thought it was well paced, I enjoyed both the Thirteenth/Martha sections and the Tenth/Trio bits.  I also felt it had a great little cliffhanger. If they manage to have an ending that doesn't feel like it is racing to the finish line, this will be the strongest effort of this book so far.





Ground Zero (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 25 February 2020 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Ground Zero (Credit: Panini)

Written by Scott Gray, Alan Barnes, Gareth Roberts, Gary Russell, Sean Longcroft

Artwork by Martin Geraghty, Adrian Salmon, Sean Longcroft

Paperback: 132 Pages

Publisher: Panini UK LTD

Much like 2018's Land of the Blind, Ground Zero is a collection of different Doctor-lead strips from the 90s, which were all released in the gap between the ending of the Seventh Doctor era, and the start of the Eighth Doctor era.  Unlike that previous collection, there is an actual arc hidden within these stories, which culminates in the big finale of the collection's namesake "Ground Zero." This arc also played a role in the early adventures of the Eighth Doctor, as the main villains, The Threshold, would go on to be the major antagonist for the Eighth Doctor's first group of adventures (collected together in Endgame). This book has adventures featuring the Fifth, First, Third, Fourth, and Seventh Doctors and the grand return of the Seventh Doctor to the strip also marks one of the long-running strips most controversial moves in it's entire history.  

The opening of the book stars the Fifth Doctor and Peri, as they take on an Osiron Robot, similar to the ones from Pyramids of Mars.  It involves a Hollywood director attempting to use a Hollywood studio to perform an Egyptian ceremony that will release an ancient God of Locusts and gain power himself (using a studio set as the commotion will likely be ignored as filming). The Doctor, of course, foils this plan. While I didn’t find Alan Barnes’ story to be that exciting or interesting, it was lovely to see Martin Geraghty’s (who was the lead artist for the bulk of the Eighth Doctor run) beautiful black and white again. That made it worthwhile to me.

We then find the First Doctor and Susan have an adventure in London that takes place before the discovery of the TARDIS by Ian and Barbara in the series first episode, An Unearhtly Child. While the TARDIS is hiding in a junkyard, Susan and the Doctor stumble into an adventure with an alien attempting to turn humans into his own kind in order to help work his ship and escape Earth. The Doctor thwarts his efforts, as you’d expect. I found this story didn’t really work for me in any way. It was just too bland to get drawn into.

Up next was a shorter story starring the Third Doctor, one of the only stories in the set that doesn't have a connection to the finale.  Unlike the bulk of the book, this story is only one part and was drawn by Adrian Salmon, as opposed to Geraghty.  Overall this one is short and light, but I enjoyed it.  When it comes to classic Doctor strips, I want them to feel like they could easily fit into the era they come from.  The First Doctor story in this book doesn’t get tht right at all, but this is a perfect Third Doctor mini-adventure.  

We then travel to 2086 with the Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane, and Harry as they fight off Russian Zombies and a man who goes full-on nuclear.  It’s one of the stronger stories in the book. I liked the visuals Geraghty brought to this one, and Gary Russell’s story is pretty solid.  I don’t have a lot to say on this one, mostly because it is just a fairly good read, not too many critiques to expand upon that. The Fourth Doctor also reappears in the final story of the book, which is a goofy strip in which the writer put himself into the strip, and it's a fourth-wall-breaking joke about the strip itself...one that served as the final random Doctor tale before the Eighth Doctor took over in the next issue. 

Really, it all culminates in "Ground Zero," which saw the Seventh Doctor return to the pages of the strip for the first time in two years.  His time on the strip had always been a bit rocky.  It started off shaky with little stories that were often hit or miss, then finally found a voice when the show was cancelled and the TV writers began to continue the journey on the strip itself, but then lost its way again when the Virgin New Adventures novel series began and the strip was forced to play second fiddle to the books. Communication between the folks behind the Virgin series and the folks at Doctor Who Magazine wasn’t always in order, and their synergy didn’t always work.  A comic strip that relies on you having read two novels doesn’t work…and if you are reading both the strip and the novels, having two similar Silurian stories printed around the same time isn’t helpful either.  

So Gary Russell, who at the time was editor of the magazine, just decided to end the Seventh Doctor entirely.  When the TV Movie came out and they were going to get the rights to have the Eighth Doctor, who was essentially a clean slate and a chance to start fresh and with a bit of direction again, they decided that they ought to have one final adventure for the Seventh Doctor, to finally give him a proper send-off from the strip.  And they really went for it.  

The strip totally breaks continuity with the Virgin books, gives the comics their own conclusion for the Seventh Doctor and Ace, and the path it set up was the spark that fueled the DWM strip for years to come. Instead of the older, edgier, darker version of Ace that had developed in the novels, the strip returned her to a state closer to how she had been when the TV series ended.  And then the strip did something majorly bold.  If you don’t want SPOILERS, then beware, I am about to get into them.  

The story involves the Threshold (who also serve as the antagonists in the early days of hte Eighth Doctor), and how they work for some monsters who live in the collective unconscious of humans and want to escape to the physical plane and destroy mankind.  In the process, the Threshold take three companions from the Doctor’s past (Peri during her adventure in the opening story, Susan from the second, and Sarah from the preceding adventure), and use them to lure the Doctor in. Susan, it turns out, can’t actually head into this other dimension, as it would destroy her mind, just as it would the Doctor. But the human companions can handle it.  The Doctor finds a way in, which nearly destroys the TARDIS (setting up his remodel seen in the TV movie), and he manages to stop the monsters…but not without dire consequences: the death of Ace.  Killing Ace was controversial to say the least, particularly as it drew a clear line in the sand as to where the comics now stood in terms of continuity with the novels.  

Going forward, the Eighth Doctor strips were excellent, especially when it came to building up their arcs and expanding upon what came before…and a major seed for that excellent era of Doctor Who Magazine comics is right here.  Ground Zero is a pivotal moment in the history of Doctor Who comics.  It was a bold statement that set the strips apart from the Virgin novel line, and the plot was important to the early days of the Eighth Doctor (though you can easily read the Eighth Doctor strips without having read "Ground Zero," as I did when it was reprinted years ago, but it is nice to get that background finally).  

As a whole package, the stories are slightly uneven.  The Third Doctor entry “Target Practice” doesn’t play into the overall story (though it is fun), and the other three Doctor tales are only tangentially connected to the final epic conclusion (and the First Doctor adventure is decidedly bland)…but that conclusion is something else. Even if you don’t agree with what the strip did in that moment, you have to give it props for being interesting.  It’s a good story too, regardless of the controversial elements.  And that finale makes this whole book worth it.





Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor - Issue #2.1 (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 24 February 2020 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Year 2 #1 - Cover 1 (Credit: Titan )

Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Roberta Ingranata
Colourist: Enrica Eren Angiolini

33 Pages

Published by Titan Comics January 2020

I was sort of disappointed in the first "year" of Titan Comics run for the Thirteenth Doctor.  It had great art, some decent concepts, but it always seemed to be set up for an issue or two, then an ending was constantly rushed. In fact, while so many seemed to be decrying that the show was now awful and disappointing, I was finding it to be rather decent, and it was the comics I was disappointed in.  But, it wasn't all bad.  Just felt like the heart of the stories were glossed over in favor of quick endings.

So now it is a new year, and they've begun a new "season" of sorts for the Thirteenth Doctor. I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.  It has started off decent enough.  But I've been burned before. Then again, maybe this is why I tend to read Trade paperbacks, at least then I get the whole story.  As I read issue to issue, I think I hate the pacing of it. 

That is neither here nor there, the story has the TARDIS landing in 1969 in London (missing their Woodstock target), and the Doctor is sure the TARDIS has put them their for a reason...as she knows that this is also the same time her Tenth incarnation and Martha Jones were briefly trapped there by the Weeping Angels (see Blink).  So she decides to investigate.  She takes on the task of checking up on Martha and sends the companions to tail the Tenth Doctor. 

It's a fine start, though beyond the fun of seeing the Tenth Doctor and Martha and getting to see their lives when trapped for months in '69...I can't say it had much of a story beyond the cliffhanger involving Martha's shop coworker getting zapped away by the Angels. Here's hoping they really go for it this time around. 





Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor - Holiday Special #2 (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 11 January 2020 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Thirteenth Doctor - Holiday Special #2 (Credit: Titan)

Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Roberta Ingranata
Colourist: Enrica Eren Angiolini

49 Pages

Published by Titan Comics -  December 2019

The second and final part of the Thirteenth Doctor Holiday Special comic from Titan is another case of writer Jody Houser (writer of this series) setting up something fun and at least mildly intriguing in one issue, but then we rush towards an ending in the second. Admittedly, this isn’t the worst offender by any stretch, but it is a pattern I have felt often during the run. The first issue had the heroes investigating their memories having been wiped and replaced, stumbling across tin soldier guards and elves...and a seemingly baddie Santa. This issue wraps it up, with the baddie Santa turning out to actually be Krampus (a yuletide monster that is being absolutely overused in media lately).

There have been quite a few direct to video Krampus movies, a pretty solid theatrical film, and even within Doctor Who media Krampus keeps popping up.  The character has shown up on audio with the Eighth Doctor, and has not only appeared in comic form via Doctor Who Magazine...but Titan themselves had a version already! In short: it’s been done to death and now it feels old hat. 

The issue is fine I suppose, but I have to admit that I lost interest when Krampus became the enemy. The story also hints that Santa may actually be real too. Which is silly but does hark back to a very old First Doctor comic in which the Doctor had to help Santa save the day. But that jokey wink isn’t really enough to make me care.

This issue not only wraps up the Holiday Special, but also serves as something of an ending for the Thirteenth Doctor’s first year of adventures in Titan’s pages. The next issue due out is the launch of “Year Two.” On the whole I haven’t been too impressed with this series. It set up interesting stories, but I often felt let down by the final issues.  It kept feeling like empty set up and then a rushed ending. The art is great, the stories have potential, and from the opening issue they had capture the character’s voices...but there never seemed to be enough meat in those bones to make a proper stew. Maybe Year Two will improve on this...but based on Houser’s work so far, I am unsure if she has any way to put a structure to hold her neat ideas on. 





Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor - Holiday Special #1 (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 20 December 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Thirteenth Doctor - Holiday Special #1 (Credit: Titan)

Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Roberta Ingranata
Colourist: Enrica Eren Angiolini

49 Pages

Published by Titan Comics -  November 2019

Christmas Specials may no longer be a major part of the TV series, but Doctor Who can't completely escape the holiday. Titan Comics has decided to fill the void by offering up its own holiday story featuring the Thirteenth Doctor and her cohorts.

The gang is plotting their next trip, but when they discuss the possibility of a carnival or amusement park, they recount the last time they made such a trip, but their memories don't line up at all. They each have their own version of what happened on a certain trip, and the Doctor needs to know why.  So they head off to investigate.  It takes them to a planet they don't recognize but based on their encounter with a being from that planet they had been there before.  And this leads them to a castle with Santa Claus who has nutcracker robots or something.  They are jailed for calling him Santa though. 

It's only the first half of the story, with the second half to be resolved in the next issue.  It's a fine set up, but Santa Claus has certainly been covered in Who of Christmas past (both on TV and in the comics of yesteryear). While it is nice for those missing the Christmas Special to have something, even a comic, to fill the hole...I can't say I am terribly bothered by the loss of the Christmas special.  I always enjoyed them, but the show was clearly scraping the bottom of the barrel when it came to Christmas themed episodes. They did 13 of them, and I think the theme had run its course. The Doctor can't always bump into an adventure with killer Christmas Trees, Robot Santas, evil Snowmen...or just get lazy with it and call the town Christmas just to get it out of the way.  I'm fine with the show moving on.

That all said, this is so far a decent start to the story, and I am hopeful that for once this team manages to end a story and not rush to the ending. 





Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor - Issue #12 (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 10 December 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Thirteenth Doctor - Issue #12  (Credit: Titan)

Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Rachel Stott
Colourist: Enrica Eren Angiolini

30 Pages

Published by Titan Comics Septembet 2019

The Cosair storyline wraps up in Issue Twelve of Titan’s Thirteenth Doctor comic book. I can’t say I’ve been enamored with this story. The Cosair has felt like such a cliche. And while there was some interesting ties to earlier stories with the re-introduction of the Hoarder...it all wraps up so fast it felt rather lame. I will spoil the ending, so read no further if that worries you...but my main recommendation is that this story isn’t worth it.

The Doctor and the Cosair are in a cell discussing their predicament and their life choices. After a heart to heart, the Doctor frees them with the sonic (she waits until the heart t heart is over to admit she can do it). They then rescue the companions, who seem to be hanging in a birdcage below the Cloud City from “The Empire Strikes Back.” Then just call up the Time Agents from earlier stories who arrest the Hoarder. That it. He is arrested and the Cosair sails off in her Space Sailboat.

It feels like they have some intriguing set ups in the Thirteenth Doctor book, but the endings always feel rushed and underwhelming. This story has felt especially underwhelming. It’s a shame because they’ve got great art and the voices of these characters nailed...but the storytelling has left something to be desired.