The Eye of Torment (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 15 March 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Eye of Torment (Credit: Panini)

Written by Scott Gray, Mike Collins, & Jacqueline Rayner

Artwork by Martin Geraghty, Mike Collins, & David A. Roach

Paperback: 176 pages

Publisher: Panini UK LTD

We have now entered the most current era of the comic strip, with the First Volume of the Twelfth Doctor's run, The Eye of Torment.  While the Twelfth Doctor has already left the TARDIS behind on television, his adventures are still carrying on in Doctor Who Magazine, and his final strip adventures with Bill will most likely continue until after the Thirteenth Doctor's first full episode debuts. But before his tenure comes to an end, we still have his earliest strips to review!

This volume is somewhat similar to the Eleventh Doctor volume The Chains of Olympus.  Both don't feature too many stories and are a bit forgettable collections, but both technically feature solid stories that are well put together.  This collection has the edge on The Chains of Olympus because at least this doesn't start some grand story arc that doesn't get resolved until later.  All four of the stories are standalone, which means you can read this volume in one go without feeling like you only got half the story. 

The opening story, the titular "The Eye of Torment"  is quite a good epic opener for the Twelfth Doctor.  It involves a spaceship trying to traverse the sun and accidentally awakening an evil race of killers that had been imprisoned there centuries before.  It's a good read! Clearly the folks behind the strip decided to do something different, rather than wait until after the Twelfth Doctor debuted on television, and keep the Eleventh Doctor running right up until then, they decided to wrap up the Eleventh, have a buffer story featuring the Poternaster Gang of Vastra, Jenny, and Strax ("The Crystal Throne" which is also included in this volume), before launching into Twelfth Doctor stories, but knowing they couldn't really do much with him until he debuted on TV, the first part released focused heavily on Clara, and didn't show the Doctor until the final page, in a big tease for his official debut the following week.  It was a great way to introduce a new Doctor...make the fans wait for it, and build to that big reveal...and once he arrives they are off to races.

The second story is an average and somewhat problematic Sontaran adventure taking place in the Sahara Desert during World War II.  I found this one weird mostly because the Doctor and Clara kind of team up with the Nazis...they each befriend some Nazi, and I found it just off. I don't believe we should always treat Nazis as inhuman, because I think it very important that we remember that it wasn't some other species that committed those was us, but I also don't see the Doctor and Clara befriending a Nazi and getting all worked about them when they are in danger. I mean they are still Nazis.  Come on now.  So when the Doctor is forced to help Sontarans and Nazis, against a Rutan threat it just left a bad taste in my mouth. It wasn't a horrible story, I just don't think I want to see Nazis made too sympathetic. 

The final Doctor and Clara tale is "Blood and Ice" which has them trying to thwart a mad scientist in the Antartica at a University on the site of where the First Doctor's regeneration initially took place, and Clara meets Winnie, a girl who turns out to be one of the Splinter versions of her from The Name of the Doctor. An echo of Clara meant to die saving the Doctor, and the idea of them bumping into one of these fractures is neat, I mean she was supposed to have been split into a whole lot of different people to restore the Doctor's timeline, why don't they continue to bump into them?  The mad scientist is trying to turn people into walruses and stuff so they can more easily live in Antartica.  Which is goofy, but that's okay, goofy can be entertaining...and the real focus of this story is about how Clara, and ultimately WInnie, deal with what Winnie's own existence means. 

The final story featured in the volume is the aforementioned "The Crystal Throne" featuring the Poternaster Gang. It is a decent adventure, but I am glad it did not venture beyond two parts.  The characters are fun, but I think by the end of the second part I was done with the gimmick of their lead of the strip.  I think the fact that it also features some mad lady trying to transform people into some kind of creature (this time big bugs), it felt a little bland after the Antartica story. 

As a launch for the Twelfth Doctor, this is only a mild recommendation. His debut story is excellent, and I rather liked "Blood and Ice," but I had some philosophical issues with "Instruments of War" and only mildly enjoyed the Poternaster Tale.  It doesn't have a lot of meat, but it is an easy read, and at least feels like a fresh new start after the long sweeping arcs of the Eleventh Doctor comic era.  Probably for completists only, but that debut story really is great. 

The Blood of Azrael (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 4 March 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Blood of Azrael  (Credit: Panini)

Written by Scott Gray

Artwork by Michael Collins, David A. Roach, & Adrian Salmon

Paperback: 180 pages

Publisher: Panini UK LTD

The Eleventh Doctor's tenure in Doctor Who Magazine comes to a close in fine fashion, in The Blood of Azrael. Joining him in his final set of adventures is Clara, and together they meet Famous British Pilot Amy Johnson, battle Animated Characters in an evil Amusement park, take on a mental parasite, lose the TARDIS and save Cornucopia from an ancient Artist who kills for his art.

In the opening story featuring Amy Johnson, the Doctor and Clara take on an evil bug that uses telekinetic powers to make Sand Monsters, which is fun. They even save Johnson from her eventual young death at sea by saving her and placing her on Cornucopia (and not changing history because her body was never found). They then travel to Tickle Town, an Amusement Park where the walls are closed off and the visitors can never leave...and they are kept in line by Holograms of the Animated Characters the park is themed around. In a strip that was published in the 50th Anniversary Issue, they take on a mental parasite that makes the Doctor believe he is a boring bureaucrat afraid to change the rules, using a mental parasite as a good excuse to make a bunch of references to old friends and foes for the Anniversary.

The Doctor and Clara then end up in a corrupt auction world, where in order to save Clara from being auctioned off herself, the Doctor puts the TARDIS on the auction block, hoping to disrupt the systems of the Auction Planet.  It does the trick, but while Clara is saved, the TARDIS is lost.

This final story ties into some previous arcs as well, the Lake family and their Project Wonderland from Hunters of the Burning Stone are heavily featured in the final story, and the concept of the Necrotist (the artists that kill for their art) were first introduced in the Eighth Doctor era, and made a brief return in the Eleventh Doctor's "Sticks & Stones" (which can be found in The Chains of Olympus). The final story is nice because it doesn't involve having to save Earth, but save Cornucopia and a wide variety of aliens from a Human...which makes a nice twist on the usual. 

It's another great set of stories from writer Scott Gray and gives the Eleventh Doctor a nice exit from his pretty solid tenure in the strip (a tenure that was, in some ways, generally more consistent than his own TV run).  The best part is that instead of breaking things up again, the whole arc is nicely packaged in this one volume.  The Eleventh Doctor's time on the strip was an improvement over both the Ninth and Tenth Doctor strips, as they continued the trend of quality storytelling and solid arcs that returned to the strip during the Tenth Doctor's final year in the strip. 

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 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 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 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.

The Crimson Hand (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 24 January 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Crimson Hand (Credit: Panini)

Written by Dan McDaid & Jonathan Morris

Artwork by Dan McDaid, Rob Davis, Martin Geraghty, Michael Collins, Sean Longcroft, & Paul Grist

Paperback: 260 pages
Publisher: Panini UK LTD

Apparently, there was some weird legal issues surrounding The Crimson Hand, the third and final volume of Tenth Doctor comic strips, some kind of publishing legal nonsense about whether or not the graphic novels were technically books or not (I would guess it was all something to do with licenses and who had what), at any rate they finally managed to sort it all out, and so with new branding and cover designs, Panini resumed their plans to release all their strips in collected formats, and they began with this book, which is quite probably the best collection to feature the Tenth Doctor.

The book starts off with a strip that originally ran between the exit of Martha and the entrance of Donna in the pages of Doctor Who Magazine. The main antagonist of that story, would later return as the Tenth Doctor's companion for his final year or so as the lead of the strip, which coincided with the 2009 "Gap Year" in which the Doctor was seen only a handful of times on TV leading up to his regeneration, and was without a companion for that period.  So there was a bit of freedom as to what the Doctor could get up to in the pages of the magazine again, so writer Dan McDaid decided to really go for it with a big arc and a new original companion. 

Magenta Pryce is a well-written character, starting off as a bit of a villain, then reunited with the Doctor in prison with her memories wiped. The Doctor discovers the nefarious going-ons at her prison, and once that is thwarted, she basically "hires" the Doctor to help recover her memories. Of course her hiring just makes her essentially a companion, as the Doctor carries on having adventures with Majenta in tow, but something dark from her past is following her, and eventually leads to the big finale,"The Crimson Hand," in which we discover that Majenta was at one point a member of the criminal organization which lends it's name to the story's (and book's) title.  It's a fine arc, wonderfully weaved throughout the various strips to lead to the big epic finale. 

Other highlights include the return of the Skith (first seen in "The First" which was featured in the previous Tenth Doctor collection) in the story "The Age of Ice," which also features UNIT, as well as a return to Stockbridge with special guest Max Edison, an adventure with ghosts in a train tunnel, and "Mortal Beloved" which explores some of Majenta's past with a former romantic partner of hers, as well as "The Deep Hereafter" which is a detective story drawn in the style of an old 1940s comics. 

It is probably the strongest entry in the Tenth Doctor's comic tenure, Dan McDaid did a great job writing the final year or so of the Tenth Doctor's tenure with this arc (the entire book was written by him, with the exception of a one-off from a storybook which was penned by Jonathan Morris), which in some ways did a more complete job of what Scott Gray had maybe hoped to do with the Eighth Doctor and Destrii before the new series cut all plans short. Obviously it isn't the same story or character, but with Majenta Pryce they were able to take an alien villain, and bring her back into the strip as a companion and develop that character from there.  This book also collects together the strip regained it's full identity again...once again they felt confident to pursue arcs and new characters and do something a bit more than just random (albeit good) adventures with our TV heroes.

This is a fine book, which sees the Tenth Doctor's tenure in the strip out nicely. I'm glad that whatever was holding up the release legally got resolved, and Panini was able to release this and continue their releases of other graphic novels, and here is hoping that once they complete all of their classic releases they continue on with their other rights and release classic TV Comic and TV Action strips as well...if they do as good a job as they have done with their own classic strips, it will be well worth it! 

The Widow's Curse (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 23 January 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Widow's Curse (Credit: Panini)

Written by Rob Davis, Dan McDaid, Jonathan Morris, & Ian Edgington

Artwork by Michael Collins, John Ross, Martin Geraghty, Roger Langridge, Adrian Salmon, & Rob Davis

Paperback: 212 pages
Publisher: Panini UK LTD

In the Tenth Doctor's Second Volume of collected comic strips from Panini and Doctor Who Magazine, the folks behind the scenes continue their trend of regaining their confidence in what the strip should be in the era of the new series.  For the bulk of this collection, the Doctor is joined by Martha Jones, companion of the third series of the television show, though the last three stories in the book feature Donna Noble. This volume comprises the entire Doctor Who Magazine (and a few one-offs from Storybooks) runs for both of the TV companions. While Martha lasted in the strip for about a full year of monthly installments, Donna had a far briefer run, debuting in the strip right after her TV debut as a full-time companion, and only lasting about an issue or so following her dramatic exit in the fourth series finale, Journey's End.

The bulk of this book is actually quite good.  I enjoyed the weird opening epic, with its giant robots controlled by children being used by bankers to reclaim an entire planet...that's the kind of off the wall stuff that only Who can pull off and make it work.  "The First" is another solid epic, as is the titular "The Widow's Curse" which not only introduces Donna but acts as a sequel to Tennant's first story, The Christmas Invasion. There also solid shorter stories like "Sun Screen," the quite funny "Death to the Doctor" and the lovely and poignant "The Time of My Life."

While it is only a one-off, "The Time of My Life" is probably my favorite story of the collection, short, but funny, and beautiful, and dramatic, and just a sweet goodbye to Donna.  It shows the Doctor and Donna running through a series of adventures, each page another place they traveled to or monster they are running from or something else...and the dialogue cleverly bounces from one adventure to the next, all leading up to the final page, with the Doctor alone in the TARDIS, viewing a message Donna left for him in case any of these adventures with him ever went awry, and it is a beautiful little extra touch, particularly following on from her exit from the series, which had been so sad and painful for the Doctor. 

While the strip was still working without arcs, as it had since the new series began, at least it's more episodic nature is focused on good adventures, with great art and solid characterizations, and some tight plotting. This volume is another winner, with Panini really showcasing just how good they are at collecting together there strips into handy volumes.