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.





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. 





The Betrothal of Sontar (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 21 January 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Betrothal of Sontar (Credit: Panini)

Written by John Tomlinson, Nick Abadzis, Gareth Roberts, Tony Lee, Mike Collins, Jonathan Morris, Nev Fountain, & Alan Barnes

Artwork by Michael Collins, Martin Geraghty, & Roger Langridge

Paperback: 180 pages
Publisher: Panini UK LTD

From the looks of the first volume of Tenth Doctor strips, it seems some lessons may have been learned from the Ninth Doctor run. From the moment the Tenth Doctor walks out of the TARDIS he seems far more fully formed (which is incredible as the only episode to air before he debuted in the comic was the 2005 Christmas Special).  No longer feeling the shackles of the TV show as a hindrance, the strip almost immediately feels like just more adventures from the new show. They had a year of trying to figure out the tone and voice of the New Series, and just where exactly the strip fits into all of it. They spent well over a decade doing their own thing, quite successfully during the Eighth Doctor’s run I might add, that trying to fit in with the real show must have been quite the shock. 

It helped that they began to publish the more child-friendly "Doctor Who Adventures" comic separately, and that let them realize who the target audience for the main strip was, and had kind of always been. So the somewhat less mature and scattered tones of the Ninth Doctor strips was done away with, and they veered back into the tone and style they had during the Eighth Doctor days, at least closer to it. The Tenth Doctor's voice is fully captured, and the tone of his first year is there as well. But despite some bits that don’t work or gel for me, I found this Volume to be decidedly solid. The Tenth Doctor fees fully fleshed out from his first panel, and they capture the tone of the new show, and managing to recapture some of their own mojo that had been lost when the Ninth Doctor came in and threw them off their game.

The opening story featuring the Sontarans before their reintroduction on the new series is a cracker...with fantastic art, great characters, and even better atmosphere.  Both "F.A.Q." and "The Futurists" feel like the strip working back to some of it's former epics...but there are smaller fun stories as well, including Gareth Roberts' blueprint for the later Eleventh Doctor televised story The Lodger which features the same name and similar premise, but the Craig Owens role is instead played by Mickey Smith.  There's even a Brigadier story to close out the book, though it is kind of mediocre. But it does fill the gap between the departure of Rose and the entrance of Martha. 

While they still aren't really practicing in major arcs and epics again, the first Tenth Doctor volume brings back the confidence and spirit of the Doctor Who Magazine strip, which makes it a far more enjoyable read than the Ninth Doctor's run had been.   This book is a solid collection the first year or so of the Tenth Doctor's time in the strip, from his introduction to just before Martha joined up.  It's a fun read, with a good collection of stories within...it may be a tad hit or miss, but overall this is a definite uptick in quality from the short era of the Ninth Doctor in the pages of the magazine. 





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.