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. 





Tenth Doctor Novels (BBC Audio)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 7 January 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Tenth Doctor Novels (Credit: BBC Audio)

Sting of the Zygons
Written By Stephen Cole,
Read By Reggie Yates

The Last Dodo
Written By Jacqueline Rayner, Read By Freema Agyeman

Wooden Heart
Written By Martin Day,
Read By Adjoah Andoh

Forever Autumn
Written By Mark Morris, Read By Will Thorp

Wetworld
Written By Mark Michalowski, Read By Freema Agyeman

Sick Building
Written By Paul Magrs, Read By Will Thorp

The Pirate Loop
By Simon Guerrier,
​Read By Freema Agyeman

Peacemaker
Written By James Swallow, Read By Will Thorp



Released by BBC Worldwide Auguest 2017
Available from Amazon UK

BBC Worldwide have released this collection of Eight Abridged Audiobooks from the Tenth Doctor's line of Novels, all of which feature Martha Jones as the Companion. The stories themselves range from mediocre to just plain decent.  Nothing in the collection really jumped out at me.  The readings all all decent, particularly those read by Freema Agyeman and Will Thorp.  Adjoah Andoh did a decent job as well, but Reggie Yates lacked something in his reading...while others found a way to capture the Tenth Doctor's voice in some way (Agyeman being the best in my opinion), Yates just never found a tone that worked for me.  His approach seemed to just be talk faster, but he missed key elements of this Doctor's delivery that took me out of the story, and just thinking "oh but the Doctor would've said it like THAT," which made it much harder to get into the story. 

It didn't help Yates that he was saddled with one of the least interesting stories of the bunch. In Sting of the Zygons, The Doctor and Martha battle Zygons in the early 20th Century...imagine Zygons on Downton Abbey, only somehow that isn't fun.  The second story of the bunch is The Last Dodo, read by Agyeman, which was a definite improvement in terms of story and reading.  The Wooden Heart is another decent story, but again nothing too stellar is found within this collection.  I did enjoy the Halloween themes and monster in Forever Autmn as well as the adventure with the sentient otters that is WetworldSick Building had some decent ideas, but the story is decidedly average. Peacemaker is another average adventure, this time with the backdrop of the old west, though I do think it got better as it went along.  This particular audiobook does show off some of the vocal range of Will Thorp, who does a lot of different Amercian accents. 

The one story that really jumped out at me was The Pirate Loop. Read by Agyeman, it has neat time travel mechanics, intriguing mysteries, unique storytelling devices, and Space Pirates who look like humanoid badgers.  What's not to love in all that?  Of all the stories, it seems the most memorable,  the only one I will probably continue to think of from time to time. 

Ultimately, this wasn't that impressive a set of stories.  There was nothing that was too bad, but everything was just middle of the road. A little bland. As someone who had not read any of the BBC original novels, these abridged audiobooks were sort of like a sampling of them...and it left me uninterested in reading more.  Because of the ongoing series, there is (or at the very least was) probably a lot of rules for what they could and couldn't do in the novels.  As such I think you end up with a fairly bland output of stories, things that certainly work as Doctor Who, but because of restrictions from the show itself take some of the edge out.  It could be that sme of the spark gets lost in the abridged nature of the audiobooks, or it could be the readings themselves weren't to my liking. For the most part, anything read by Thorp and (especially) Agyeman were more entertaining to listen to, but I can't say this was the most entertaining set of audiobooks. For collectors only, I would suggest just checking out either the audiobook of the prose version of The Pirate Loop, instead of going for the whole boxset.





Doctor Who - The Tenth Doctor: Facing Fate Volume 2: Vortex ButterfliesBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 20 December 2017 - Reviewed by Dustin Pinney
The Tenth Doctor: Facing Fate Volume 2: Vortex Butterflies (Credit: Titan)
Writer: Nick Abadzis
Artist: Giorgia Sposito
Publisher: Titan Comics
112pp
On sale: December 19

Before sacrificing herself to save everyone, Dorothy (the hand of Sutekh) tells The Doctor to give Cindy and Gabby some room. “Stop making them chase through the universe after you all the time and let them understand where they are,” she says. She then advises he not abuse their trust in him. So The Doctor decides to provide them with a little perspective from the best source possible - Sarah Jane Smith.

    VORTEX BUTTERFLIES allows The Doctor’s friends to take a breath, reflect, do some soul-searching. The story serves as a much-needed repose for readers as well. After so much intensity, it’s nice to just sit with these characters a while and go through these issues alongside them.

Everyone has their own method of working through grief. Gabby is taking art classes, desperately trying to cope with the sight of her dead best friend, a hard thing to do even if it was only a clone. Cindy is embracing life in London, developing a bond with Sarah Jane, and attempting to understand why Gabby is so distant. Adorable Anubis is discovering love on Aramuko. The Doctor is off, as usual, doing his own thing and trying to cure the Tardis of a mysterious illness.

    Thanks to the magic of time travel in comic books, we’re able to revisit The Doctor’s most enduring companion. Including the wisdom of Sarah Jane Smith was a stroke of genius. Who better to to teach these girls how to embrace the moment than a woman who had seen so many wonders of the universe and had to build her own life afterward? Georgia Sposito’s likeness of the character is perfectly spot on, and Rick Abadzis so captures Sarah Jane’s voice that one could easily imagine the late Elisabeth Sladen speaking his words.

    Legacy is important in Doctor Who. Having the latest incarnation face-off against classic foes like Daleks and Cybermen gives the franchise a sense of unparalleled continuity. Seeing an old friend takes things to the next level. It reminds the audience, even if they understand this on an intellectual level, that the person in the long brown coat is the same as the one in the frilly shirts or extensive scarf. The Doctor is one individual with many faces, and all of the Whoniverse is one place.

    If WAR OF GODS is about choices and consequences, VORTEX BUTTERFLIES is about acceptance. Gabby and Cindy have to accept that their magical lives with The Doctor is dangerous and exciting, but it won’t last, and it’s important to not let their personal lives pass them by. The Doctor must accept that not looking back isn’t always an option. Sometimes you get so busy running away from something that if you don’t take a quick glance behind you, someone you love might be lost.

 




Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Year Three #11Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 2 December 2017 - Reviewed by Dustin Pinney
Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Year Three #11 (Credit: Titan)
Writer: Nick Abadzis
Artist: Giorgia Sposito
Publisher: Titan Comics
FC - 32pp
On sale: November 22, 2017

Why can’t the Doctor stay still? Like Sherlock Holmes, does the Time Lord’s mind begin to atrophy without constant, bewildering stimulation? Is that why the universe has become home, with all its random, confounding chaos and beauty? Or, is it because staying in one place means that somewhere out there, without the Doctor, disaster is allowed to fester unimpeded?

The Tenth Doctor Year Three #11 implies an answer to the Doctor’s restless nature through companion Cindy. While Gabby is learning to tame the destructive power within her, best friend Cindy is going stir crazy. As wonderful as Zhe’s private moon over Ouloumos is, there’s only so much impossibility one can witness before it becomes mundane.

She eggs the Doctor on, fishing for an admission of boredom. Sure there’s a busted robot to tinker with, but that isn’t an adventure. The Doctor should be out there saving planets while preventing the Tardis from being sucked into a black hole, and trying to resurrect a broken robot at the same time.

It’s the promise the Doctor made to Gabby that keeps them there. In one eventuality Gabby was abandoned and her loneliness turned her into the Vortex Butterfly. The Doctor can’t allow that to happen. Yet Cindy is right. Their stay has turned dull, and the pair dash off for a short trip to pick something up to help with the robot repairs. Here is when we, the Doctor, and Cindy, learn the consequences of staying put for too long.   

Giorgia Sposito’s art is delightful as always. It strikes the perfect balance between fun animation, and spot on reality. The artist includes just enough detail to give the world real depth, while leaving room for the imagination, turning the reader into an active participant in the storytelling.

The real strength in Abadzis’ writing is the character interplay, themes and story momentum. He allows characters to speak to each other like people. Cindy and Gabby are properly flawed and courageous. Scenes play out naturally, without the need of constant running and shouting exposition. When something big happens, as they do in the second half of issue 11, it is earned and not a desperate attempt to raise the stakes.

Like many of the Tenth Doctor comics, the plots are simple, easy to follow, and packed with the kind of jubilant energy you’d expect from the Tenth Doctor. Some of the details, however, are more complicated and tough to get a hold on. Gabby’s abilities seem to make sense, but how it all works is fairly elusive. Which is not a major problem, it’s just that so much time is devoted to discussing it that exactly what’s going on and how it’s affecting her is a tad muddled.

The short backup story this issue is an adorable return of Donna and the Adipose.