The Cruel Sea (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 20 January 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Cruel Sea (Credit: Panini)

Written by Gareth Roberts, Mike Collins, Robert Shearman & Scott Gray

Artwork by Michael Collins & John Ross

Paperback: 132 pages
Publisher: Panini UK LTD

The relaunch of the show on television brought a new Doctor to the comic strip, but the Ninth Doctor's short run on television also meant his comic strip run would also end up being rather short.  This collection gathers together his entire run in one handy volume, which spanned from just after the show premiered in March 2005 and lasting to just before Christmas when the Tenth Doctor took over the show. Admittedly, while it is nice that you get all of the Ninth Doctor's strips in one volume (including a one-off comic from an Annual and a short story penned by Steven Moffat that served as the basis of Blink).  If you want a good collection of Ninth Doctor, this is a solid one, but with such a short comic run, why not include all the short stories that were featured in that 2006 Annual? 

One thing I find interesting in this book is that knowing that this started not long after the Eighth Doctor's great run ended, it kind of really makes this look a rather weak collection. I am glad they didn't do the regeneration in the comics, or even their idea of a possible "Ninth Doctor: Year One" run (which considering that Eccleston left so quickly and they'd have to shift gears yet again to Tennant?  It probably wouldn't have worked out too well), and I think that is the real reason RTD sort of put in place rules that tied the hands of DWM for the strip and what they had to do with the Ninth Doctor...he might've already known that it wouldn't be a long life for the Ninth Doctor in the comics. It would be problematic to let them set up an arc for Nine and Destrii that again would have to be cut short...and long run it was probably just a wise move to make it a comic starring the Ninth Doctor and Rose. New readers were going to be coming to the magazine when the new show hit, don't confuse them with a comic that has it's own continuity and storylines going. Start fresh, and the two leads of that new show were so clearly the Doctor AND Rose...the magazine needed to reflect that, it wasn't just a branding thing for the BBC or RTD...it was a good branding decision for the Magazine in the end. 

Of the comics featured within, really only the titular "The Cruel Sea" completely works. It has great art, story, and atmosphere...where the other stories feel lost. You can really get the sense that putting these comics together proved a bit difficult for the writers of the strip to get a handle on.  They didn't know what the new show would be, or what kind of readers the new show would garner for the strip...so I think they tried to make it a tad more family friendly, and maybe they felt a tad hindered by the lack of freedom they previously had before the show returned. The early New Series related strips feel as if they needed some time to figure out where they stood with the show back on the airwaves, unfortunately for the Ninth Doctor, that meant he ended up as a bit of guinea pig for the strip.  If Eccleston had stayed a year longer, they probably would've sorted it out and his adventures on the page would have come together. 

This is a decent collection, nicely put together by Panini...but with the exception of the titular story by Rob Shearman, most of it is rather forgettable stuff.  





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! 

 





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.





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.

 





Ninth Doctor Issue 3 - Doctormania (Conclusion)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 26 November 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
DOCTOR WHO: THE NINTH DOCTOR #3 - Cover B (Credit: Titan)
"Doctormania - Part 3 of 3"

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

LETTERER - RICHARD STARKINGS AND
COMICRAFT’S JIMMY BETANCOURT

DESIGNER - ROB FARMER
SENIOR EDITOR - ANDREW JAMES
ASSISTANT EDITORS - JESSICA BURTON & AMOONA SAOHIN

Published 29 June 2016 - Titan Comics

On the planet Clix, Rose Tyler has gone from kidnapper to game changer in the blink of an eye, having exposed a ploy to use the Doctor's likeness by one of a rogue Slitheen group.

However now both Rose and her former captor Slist are made to run for their lives in a jungle with predatory Jinglatheen in keen pursuit.  And as a conspiracy truly begins to manifest itself, the Doctor will need his trademark ingenuity and wits to quash it before a brutal civil war fully takes form.


 

My concerns from previous reviews as to how this monthly series' art will hold up are now beginning to recede, as the visual side of things stands up quite well here. Various emotions are conveyed authentically and vividly, be they for the protagonists that Who fans have come to know so well, or for the humanoid and non-humanoid guest characters. Some of the more frightening elements, such as the effect of acid rain are not as relentless as they might be. This is likely paying respect to the original TV show/ source material. It is also clear at this point how much Adriana Melo enjoys using the broad canvass of situations that this particular fictional universe can offer her.

Cavan Scott's work in keeping the reader gripped in both the story and the fates of the characters is as effective as ever. Rose is once again portrayed as likable and caring, which fits her Series One character to a tee. Many human companions of the Doctor would harbour a grudge for being kidnapped by an alien who has some malignant intentions in their wider schemes, but when the Slitheen in question becomes a victim, Rose is steadfast in fighting the corner for a former foe.

Jack gets some decent moments at times, and it is notable that he is still a bit shallow and brusque as he yet to go through the humility process of his endless 'resurrection' status. The Doctor does however seem to be rather more comfortable with him at this point, and this is part of Scott's intended use of this comic to bridge the gap between The Doctor Dances and Boom Town, so the camaraderie viewers suddenly saw amongst that trio will now be that bit more organic.

Some nice wider continuity or canon links feature at times without being too ostentatious. I especially enjoyed the mention by the Doctor of the Shadow Proclamation, in a way that highlighted that whilst a do-gooder, he was never one for being part of the establishment.

 

Whilst the key storyline is on a rather epic scale with the unity of a system hanging in the balance, and the threat of acid rain is a grim one, there is still a welcome amount of humour or self-awareness. And I feel this is quite appropriate for a story featuring the Slitheen. I enjoyed the reversal of how these ruthless clawed creatures manage to fit into their victims' skins. The rather macabre concept instead now has a fun counter side to it, as the Doctor and Jack impersonate natives so as to go incognito. And later on, there is a comical moment as the Doctor tries to tame a beast in the manner of a cowboy on his horse.

It is also a plus point to have some use of the TARDIS in this story which is  other than just having it as a gateway from one story to the next. The main villain gets their comeuppance thanks to the Doctor's confidence in manoeuvring his ship's location and time setting .The final closing panel of this issue also highlights how the Doctor can sometimes meet people out of order (such as when Tennant's Doctor did with Queen Elizabeth).

 

In a nutshell then, this is a quite satisfying closer. Perhaps the two issues would have been enough for the storyline to have pace and twists in abundance, but it is great to catch up with one of the best TARDIS teams, and now know there will be more perils for them to negotiate on a regular basis.

And what a nice hook into the next ensuing story, with Mickey Smith ringing the console room telephone (and also distracting the Doctor from a worrying mystery). However this is a Mickey that is clearly somewhat more mature and battle-hardened than the clownish figure that assisted the Ninth Doctor on a semi-regular basis. Will all their be a happy reunion then, or is such an occasion best avoided? Issue Four will certainly offer a number of answers..


 

EXTRAS:

Readers are granted a (very welcome) 'behind the scenes' insight into how Scott, Melo and Lopes work together to plan the layout and look of a given portion of the issue. This not only highlights the dedication and thorough preparation that go into these comic books, but is sure to inspire new talent to take up the mantle of contributing to the comic book market and/or the Doctor Who phenomenon one day in the future.

A clutch of four different front covers also feature; being particularly diverting and vivacious for this edition.