Hunters of the Burning Stone (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 21 February 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
{s{Rose}} (Credit: Panini)

Written by Scott Gray
Artwork by Martin Geraghty & Michael Collins
Paperback: 164 pages
Publisher: Panini UK LTD

The Eleventh Doctor's comic adventures from Doctor Who Magazine continue in his third volume, Hunters of the Burning Stone.  Like the previous volume, it only features half of writer Scott Gray's story arc, but at least this volume features the conclusion to the whole thing. The two volumes should have been collected into one slightly larger volume, but as that did not happen, I suggest getting both and reading them back to back, because it is a pretty satisfying storyline. 

This volume also collects together just three stories, the first two seeing the end of Amy and Rory's time on the strip.  The opening story takes place in 1989 Prague, around the time the Soviet Union was falling apart. It continues some of the elements that began in The Chains of Olympus, and setting up some key elements for the storyline's major finale.

The second story "Imaginary Enemies" is a one-off that unrelated to the rest of the arc, and doesn't even feature the Doctor. Instead of showing us an adventure of Amy, Rory, and Mels as children, though the events are only remembered by Mels (AKA the eventual River Song).  The ending of this story is a nice little tribute to Amy and Rory, giving us a glimpse into what their life was following their departure from the Doctor at the end of The Angels Take Manahattan.

The final story is a longer-than-usual adventure, which saw the return of First Doctor companions Ian and Barbara, concluded up the ongoing arc involving Psychic metal, was a bit of a sequel to the first serial in the show's history (An Uneathly Child), and served as the comic strip's 50th Anniversary Celebrations. This is not only the best story in the collection but probably the best story in the whole arc. Reading it only made me wish that both volumes were collected together more...as the stories featured in the last book were solid, but they rather need this conclusion to make them all the more satisfying.  Breaking them up does a disservice to both.  It's a well-told tale, with lots of nods to the show's history which add flavor to the proceedings, rather than feeling like the entire point. 

I would definitely recommend reading both books (The Chains of Olympus and Hunters of the Burning Stone) back to back. Splitting them up is an odd choice, as these collections, Panini puts together usually make a lot of sense. Still, both volumes are good reprints of the stories, with the usual commentary. If getting both is not an issue than you get the whole story. But it does seem a shame to have to pay about the same for both books when they each feature only a half of the complete story. 





The Chains of Olympus (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 9 February 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Chains of Olympus (Credit: Panini)

Written by Scott Gray

Artwork by Michael Collins, Martin Geraghty, & Dan McDaid

Paperback: 132 pages
Publisher: Panini UK LTD

The Eleventh Doctor’s comic strip adventures continue in this second volume “The Chains of Olympus.” Eighth Doctor scribe Scott Gray returns to full time writing duties after a 6-year hiatus, and in doing so launches a whole new arc. Unfortunately, Panini made a somewhat unusual choice of splitting up that arc over two volumes...so while this volume has some solid stories and set up for the new arc, you don’t get the same level of satisfaction as you do when you get the full story.

Only three stories are featured in this volume, the opening has the Doctor, Amy, and (making his debut on the strip) Rory travel to Ancient Greece and meet Socrates and Plato...and end up battling “Zeus” and other Greek “Gods.” The second is a slightly lighter adventure involving an alien graffiti artist turning humans into his art. The final takes place on a criminal world called Cornucopia and definitely plays a role in stories to come, based on the little hints at the end.

This is not a bad book, all the stories are pretty entertaining, it is just a shame that you are getting the beginnings of a larger story, but none of the payoff. This was a problem that sort of plagued the Eleventh Doctor’s TV run as well, particularly following his first year...so in a way, this seems appropriate to his Doctor. I have a feeling that the longer 50th Anniversary strip that headlines the next volume and keeping to a certain release schedule are reasons for the splitting up of the volumes...but this volume feels short and lacks the big story payoff...so in a way it just feels like a release that isn’t as rewarding as previous volumes.





The Child of Time (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 8 February 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Child of Time (Credit: Panini)

Written by Jonathan Morris

Artwork by Michael Collins, Roger Langridge, Martin Geraghty, David A. Roach, Rob Davis, Dan McDaid, & Adiran Salmon

Paperback: 242 pages
Publisher: Panini UK LTD

The Eleventh Doctor’s launch as the lead of the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip is collected in “The Child of Time” which collects together his first strip adventures with Amy Pond along for the ride.

Following Dan McDaid’s Majenta Pryce arc that wrapped up the Tenth Doctor’s run, Jonathan Morris takes over writing duties and begins the Eleventh Doctor off with a brand new arc. The most interesting thing about this arc is that even the smaller goofy one-offs end up playing a role in the final story, so every strip ends up being important for the conclusion of the book, which honestly makes the whole experience of reading it more rewarding.

In the opening story, the Doctor and Amy encounter a strange virus that mutates and merges people and plants and other creatures together. This story ends up having more dire consequences than initially thought, as the villain of the book turns out to be a creation of that disease, a being that is a biological merger of several people met by The Doctor and Amy in their adventures...and the TARDIS itself. This being ends up becoming Chiyoko, seemingly a child with unlimited godlike powers over time.

It is a perfect story to launch the Eleventh Doctor with, it utilizes his era’s time-traveling shenanigans and epic storytelling, and in some ways, it might end up being slightly more thought out and coherent than even some of this Doctor’s TV counterpart had throughout his run.





Doctor Who: Eleventh Doctor Year Three #13Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 11 January 2018 - Reviewed by Dustin Pinney
Doctor Who: Eleventh Doctor Year Three #13 - Cover A (Credit: Titan )Writer: Alex Paknad el & Rob Williams 
Artist: JB Bastos & Luiz Campello
Cover A: Blair Shedd Cover B: Photo

There are times when Doctor Who comics seem to be the ultimate storytelling form for Doctor Who. Such a malleable franchise deserves an equally malleable format. Comics are unrestricted by a television budget. Nor are they concerned with appealing to a larger audience than the one they’re guaranteed. Their stories can be as broad or as intimate as they want. As bold and new, or referential. Doctor Who comics can be anything.

No other line of Doctor Who comics exemplifies this better than The Eleventh Doctor series published by Titan comics. Their characters are rich, complex, hilarious, and charming. Their plots range from personal trials to epic battles (quite often both at once). Some concepts are simple and fun, while others are mind-bendingly brilliant. Most impressive of all - no matter how intense a story gets, there’s always room for a bit of silliness.

Number 13 in this Doctor’s third year of comic book adventures takes all the elements of Doctor Who that work best and brings them together with utterly gorgeous art by JB Bastos & Luiz Campello . The Doctor’s world has never looked more cleanly detailed, with not a single line out of place.

The story is a climax of sorts. The Doctor and Alice inhabit a world built on their memories, complete with a Gallifreyan skyline and sonic screwdriver buildings, with the two of them experiencing some pretty intense amnesia. The Doctor isn’t quite sure what he is, what he should be, or how to dress. His new wardrobe is mishmash of his old wardrobe, harkening back to Doctors past in a splendid way. Alice is with her mother, always thinking of the man from her dreams with the bow tie.  

A character losing one’s memory can often seem like a tired gimmick. More often than not the trope is used to change a character’s personality or a lazy effort of introducing conflict. Here, amnesia is both a tragedy of what was lost and a celebration of all the adventures we’ve had with these two phenomenal characters. Throw in an offshoot of The Silence controlling everything, characters surviving in the consciousness of a previously very dangerous sapling, and all the heart a Time Lord’s biology can muster, and you’ve got Doctor Who as you know it and love it best looking better than it ever has before.

 




Doctor Who - The Eleventh Doctor Adventures - Vol 6: The Malignant TruthBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 6 December 2017 - Reviewed by Damian Christie


Written by Si Spurrier & Rob Williams
Illustrated by Simon Fraser, INJ Culbard,
Gary Caldwell & Marcio Menys
Titan Books, 2016
HB ISBN: 9781785857300
SB ISBN: 9781785860935


Previously ...

The Squire is dead. Alice Obiefune is lost in the Time War, having piloted the Master's wounded
TARDIS back through the Time Lock. River Song's life hangs in the balance. And infamous Dalek Killer and bounty hunter Abslom Daak is almost certainly going to kill the Doctor for letting Alice go.
Now it's time for the Time War to give up its answers.
How was the Malignant created? Who killed the Overcaste? What great crime was the Doctor
responsible for? But will they be the answers that Alice - and the Doctor - want to hear?


The Malignant Truth is the concluding book which collects issues 11 through 15 of Titan Comics'
Second-year story arc for the Eleventh Doctor (as formerly played on TV by Matt Smith). The Doctor
has been blamed for killing the gods - or at least hyper-dimensional beings worshipped as gods - of
an entire species during the chaos of the Time War. It's a "crime" the Doctor doesn't even recall but
that's no excuse for the godless Overcaste who send bounty hunters after the Doctor, Alice and the
TARDIS, including an anomalous being known only as the Then and Now and notorious Dalek Killer
Abslom Daak.
With an extended TARDIS crew in tow - comprising an unwilling Daak (whose dead, trophy wife
Taiyin is being held hostage within the bowels of the Doctor's erratic time machine), a mysterious
elderly woman who claims she was the Doctor's squire in the Time War, River Song (who has yet
again escaped the sanctity of the Stormcage), and an Alice plagued by a string of "future memories"
of the Time War - the Eleventh Doctor establishes that he, and not the Master, may indeed have
committed the atrocity of which he is accused. This prompts Alice to steal the Master's TARDIS in a
desperate bid to break through the Time Lock and seek to prove the Doctor's innocence or stop his
wartime incarnation from committing a heinous crime.
By far the most interesting aspect of this storyline is the comic's interpretation of the Time War. The
war itself was glimpsed only briefly on TV (The Day of the Doctor) but has been portrayed in Big
Finish's War Doctor saga, in prose such as George Mann's Engines of War, and in Titan's own Four
Doctors
mini-series in 2015. Alice meets the War Doctor (as portrayed by the late, great Sir John Hurt
on TV), the younger Squire and an unexpected, dare I say "impish", version of the Master that will
astonish many readers (but could plausibly tie into Professor Yana's origins back in the 2007 episode
Utopia). A few other tropes from the Time War are also adopted within the story, including the
application of a Gallifreyan Psilent song box, another weapon from the Time Lords' arsenal, which is
very reminiscent in shape and size to the infamous Moment of The Day of the Doctor.
Alice also becomes a prisoner of the Volatix Cabal, a hitherto unknown faction of the Daleks that was hinted at in the chapter Downtime in Volume 5 (originally issue 8 of the Eleventh Doctor Year Two run) and are revealed in all their infamy here. In the Master's own words at the beginning of this volume, the Volatix Cabal are a "Dalek death cult of abominations, deliberately bred for disorder. Reviled by their own kind, tolerated only for the talent that no pure Dalek could possess. Creativity."
Certainly, in terms of style, the Cabal seemingly combine the concept of "spider Daleks" from the 1990s abortive US TV series with the covert zombified human agents that were glimpsed on TV in Asylum of the Daleks and The Time of the Doctor. But it is the Cabal's eerie, melodramatic and almost poetic dialogue and their proclivity for cannibalising the organic parts of other species (which is anathema to their regular counterparts) that makes this breed of Dalek quite sinister and creepy. Indeed, they encapsulate more of the body horror of the Tenth Planet-style Cybermen than the regular Daleks do.
In addition to the Volatix Cabal, Alice, along with the War Doctor and his colleagues, also encounters the Cyclors, the so-called "gods" of the Overcaste. Intriguingly, these "dimensional nomads" are recruited by the Volatix Cabal in a very similar fashion to the way that the enigmatic beings in Big Finish's War Doctor audio drama The Enigma Dimension are solicited by the regular Daleks.

While visually the Cyclors are well realised in the artwork, conceptually they are a disappointment. There is an implication that like the Enigma of the Big Finish drama, the Cyclors are almost naïve and immature, unskilled in the ways of the plane they are visiting. Yet unlike the Enigma, there also seems to be a malevolence and bloodthirst to the Cyclors (based on the new "sensation" the Volatix Cabal has offered them) that the book's scribes Si Spurrier and Rob Williams don't really elaborate on, aside from a throwaway line. Indeed, any threat they may pose to the War and Eleventh Doctors and their companions has all but vanished by the conclusion of the tale

In timey-wimey fashion, the story eventually returns to the "present day" as the Eleventh Doctor, with Alice's help, realises the awful truth and is virtually helpless to avert the triumphant return of the Volatix Cabal. Again, in a manner that is all too frequently criticised about the modern program by fans (especially during the Matt Smith era), key pieces seem to fall into place which enables the Doctor to seize a last-gasp victory from the almost certain jaws of defeat. At any rate, the tension and excitement that ought to be felt at this juncture in the story is lost because there is far too much exposition between the Doctor, Alice, the Squire and River Song about how they have managed to pull off the supposedly impossible victory.

 

 

For the most part, the characterisation and dialogue in this volume is consistent with the TV series.The Eleventh and War Doctors and, to a lesser extent, River Song (as portrayed by Alex Kingston on TV) are true to their on-screen personas, although River spends much of this book in stasis as she was infected by the Malignant entity in Vol 5.
The "pint-sized" version of the Master is as Machiavellian as his predecessors and successors, delighting in the moral dilemmas that the War Doctor encounters in the Time War (as it clearly makes them more alike, to the Doctor's disgust). Indeed, he's probably creepier than usual because physically and mentally he could easily be mistaken for an urchin.

What's particularly interesting about this portrayal is how much Spurrier and Williams reference Roger Delgado's Master throughout the whole Year Two story arc (rather than Anthony Ainley's version), even down to the interior of the renegade's TARDIS (which is the version first seen in The Time Monster, not the later black décor of Geoffrey Beevers' and Ainley's time machines). Perhaps this is just the authors' bias towards Delgado's incarnation, or perhaps the idea is to reinforce that despite his stature, this version of the Master still houses the sharp wit and intellect of the original (especially hinted at when Alice's time-sensitive imagination in one panel depicts the Master's original Delgado-esque features on his rascally form).
Abslom Daak's portrayal is true to the original one-dimensional character envisaged by the late Steve Moore and Steve Dillon, and is entirely predictable in his actions and motivations ("I got to smash a Dalek! I got to smash a Dalek!"). Daak's fate in this tale is entirely fitting - it gives him renewed purpose (after it seemed in Volume 5 that the disappearance of Daleks from the universe had made him redundant). Aside from inviting chuckles from the reader, the closing panel also raises the potential of a War Doctor mini-series. I suspect the pairing of the Doctor's wartime incarnation with the Dalek Killer - chalk and cheese multiplied by a factor of 10! - would be short-lived but it could make for great storytelling over five or six issues.

The true hero of the story is undoubtedly Alice who literally leaps through hell and back to prove the Doctor's innocence, little realising that she has been manipulated by the Doctor himself. ("You proved you weren't a manipulative, reckless abomination by being manipulative and reckless?" she asks him angrily when she learns the truth.) Nevertheless, Alice proves herself to be a compassionate, faithful, selfless and courageous companion, someone worthy of the Doctor's company, even if he makes her feel otherwise. There is no reason why she couldn't become one of the Doctor's most memorable comic strip companions (after the legendary Frobisher, of course!).The Cyclors look impressive on paper but are otherwise a disappointment.
The artwork in this volume is shared between INJ Culbard and Simon Fraser, with Marcio Menys and Gary Caldwel providing the colours. Comic artwork is, of course, a form of shorthand, so it's no surprise that established characters like the War Doctor seem more caricatured than some of the original characters. The artists, though, seem to struggle with capturing Matt Smith's youthful appearance; the Eleventh Doctor, particularly in the climactic scenes in the Overcaste's arena, lacks the defined features that made Matt Smith's appearance (eg the high forehead, the chin) seem so outlandish and extra-terrestrial. Fortunately, the artists provide a good rendering of Smith's features in close-up panels of the Eleventh Doctor.
The placement of Menys and Caldwel's colours are also interesting. Predominantly they use darker shades in the background with splashes of colour in the foreground. This is arguably most visible in the Time War scenes, whereby Alice's purple ensemble adds colour to the grey, drab features of the War Doctor and some of the other characters. Similarly, in the final showdown in the arena, the Doctor and his companions are of a brighter palette than their drab, grey surroundings and the Overcaste that are trying to convict them.
Overall, The Malignant Truth is an example of Doctor Who comics at their best - at least certainly within the Titan stable. Not only this volume but the entire 15-part Eleventh Doctor Year Two arc overall has been highly entertaining, creative and intriguing. Aspects of the story aren't perfect, to be sure (and some of it will no doubt be redundant after the release of BF's War Master boxset this month). It's a bold move for any comic book publisher to run an arc that is effectively 15 months long and could effectively lose readers and deter others. Yet Titan, through a great writing team and some talented artists and colourists, makes it work almost effortlessly.

Now, Titan, about that War Doctor/Dalek Killer Time War team-up ... In memory of the late Steve Moore, let's make it happen! :)


My thanks to Martin Hudecek for the opportunity to review this volume.
 





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.

 

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