Doctor Who The Seventh Doctor: Operation Volcano #1Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 6 June 2018 - Reviewed by Dustin Pinney
Seventh Doctor #1 - Cover A (Credit: Titan )Writer: Andrew Cartmel
Artist: Christopher Jones
Published 6 June 2018

Something big is building in Operation Volcano. The entirety of the first issue is setting everything up for what promises to be a massive fallout. Characters from across the globe, as well as time, gather together in the Australian desert to inspect what appears to be a recently uncovered and massive, spaceship. At the same time (while also being several decades in the future) another spaceship appears above Earth, with a familiar character being held inside.

Upon first reading, I was disappointed by how cold the issue left me. I make no apologies for my fondness of the Seventh Doctor’s era, and I couldn’t wait to see what Andrew Cartmel and Ben Aaronovitch would do when budget was no option. There wasn’t much in the way of fun or humor, not many big sci-fi ideas were displayed, and the characters came off a little flat. Had Cartmel botched his return to Who?

After rereading a few scenes and mulling it over, I realized something: We are in Act One of the story. We need to round everyone up, get them talking, introduce any interpersonal conflicts they may have, then hit ‘em with something big at the end that leads into Act Two.

This is in no way an attempt to convince myself I enjoyed the issue. On the contrary, it’s simply a method of understanding what left me so unfulfilled. I thought maybe it was the art. While the landscapes and details are phenomenal, the lifeless expressions on character’s faces is quite unsettling. Eyes seem to be Christopher’s Jones’ only weakness. A forgivable one at that. There is such a breathtaking scope to the comic (only amplified by the color work by Marko Lesco) that one could easily ignore a few odd faces.

The realization that this was only the beginning of the story cinched it for me - the central mystery isn’t compelling. This is Doctor Who, why should I be so interested in the fact that an ancient spaceship was found in Australia? This is Doctor Who, what’s it matter that a guy from the ‘60s shows up in the future not having aged? This is Doctor Who, why should I be surprised that two of the investigators have nefarious intentions? It’s not enough to keep me interested.

That could all change in Act Two. Cartmel could explain why all this matters, why it’s different, why it’s special, and blow my mind. After all, you don’t call a story “Operation Volcano” unless you’re planning a shocking and sudden surprise.

 




Third Doctor Vol. 1 - Heralds of DestructionBookmark and Share

Saturday, 18 November 2017 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Third Doctor Collection Cover.png
Writer: Paul Cornell
Art: Chritopher Jones
Colourist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Senior Designer: Andrew Leung
Senior Editor: Andrew James
Assistant Editors: Jessica Burton, Amoona Saohin, Lauren McPhee, & Lauren Bowes
Published: 16th June 2017

Titan Comic's Five Issue mini-series starring the Third Doctor is collected together as Heralds of Destruction.  Whereas Titan's limited run of the Eighth Doctor had a different setting and story in each issue (with a running storyline throughout), the Third Doctor's run is entirely one story told over five issues. In that sense, it feels very tight and cohesive, and manages to capture the mood of the Third Doctor's wholly unique era quite nicely.

The story takes place somewhere during the Tenth Season, taking place after the Third Doctor's exile was ended by the Time Lords, but before Jo left, Sarah Jane arrived, and Mike Yates had his fall from grace. All of these little details play a role in this story, which arguably gave more real motivations and developments to these beloved characters than the actual show truly did at the time.  Yet that is not to say that this story doesn't feel like it could easily fit into that era.  In fact, it perfectly captures the tone of the UNIT days of Doctor Who. The voices of the characters are perfectly captured, and the art is great. The character likenesses are mostly spot on, though I personally felt Jo didn't always look just right.  But it is always going to be easier to draw the distinctive look of Jon Pertwee over the young and pretty face of Katy Manning.

The plot itself is rather fannish, with lots deep cut references to characters from this era (and before), but the execution feels so right, so very much of this timeframe in the show's history, that it almost doesn't matter what the story is. You've got alien invasions, UNIT shooting at it, the Third Doctor pontificating, the Master in his glorious Roger Delgado form, and even a few surprises along the way. What's not to enjoy?

I loved how this story takes little character bits, like the sometimes hinted at but never fully realized relationship between Jo and Mike, and brings it to fruition. Unfortunately, the constant interuptions of their work with UNIT become the reason they never truly made it work...and this also begins planting the seed for Mike to make the choices he made in Invasion of the Dinosaurs. I also rather liked the simple but effective motivation for the Third Doctor still sticking around on Earth and with UNIT despite his despised Exile finally coming to an end. 

If you, like me, have a soft spot for the Third Doctor's era of Doctor Who, there is little doubt in my mind you will find enjoyment in this book.  It's a story that feels like it was plucked straight from that era, and gives the Doctor and his supporting cast some lovely character moments to shine. 





The Third Doctor - #5 - The Heralds Of Destruction Part FiveBookmark and Share

Thursday, 1 June 2017 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
The_Third_Doctor_05_Cover_A (Credit: Titan)


ISSUE 5
(On Sale: February 22nd 2017)
 
Writer: Paul Cornell
Art: Christopher Jones
Colorist: Hi-Fi

AVAILABLE
as either a digital download,
or from comic stores/ online shops

TITAN COMICS

The final stanza of this miniseries sees an (overly rare) foray into the past for the grey/silver-haired Doctor that helped UNIT overcome all manner of enemy from both home and far, far away.

I will openly state in this review that the main opposition comes in the form of the despicable would-be world dictator Ramon Salamander.

This evil 'double' of the charming Second Doctor had been masquerading as his lookalike, having established himself at a scientific research institute and begun work on exploring dimensions outside of the commonly recognised Height, Width and Depth. 

Now both Salamander and the combined group of principal UNIT members, the Doctor, Jo Grant, and the constantly-fickle Master have arrived in Parliament back at the tail-end of the 19th Century..

The Mexican despot is attempting to use his powers of persuasion, as have worked both in the future time of his origin, as well as the Mid-Twentieth Century. But stout-hearted men of Britain, who are pioneers in the sphere of democracy, are not the easiest to manipulate.

The Doctor makes his entrance in the Commons and is perhaps more effective. But ultimately, it will take something a little special from the shakily assembled alliance of Time Lords, and the more modern Earthlings, to see off the monster of Merida.

****

This miniseries has been a real treat, and this climax to the storyline does everything one could hope for. There is no dawdling, or self-indulgence in terms of pleasing ever-loyal fans with in-jokes. A focused and urgent pace is maintained throughout, and some pleasing moments of incident and drama - couple with some political satire - makes this a very effortless read.

The art continues to be a highlight, and shows how the team that helped Doctor Who become a colour Saturday night phenomenon would have coped with the challenge of showing the London of yester-century.

The whole mini-series really needs to be read issue by issue to work most effectively, which is a difference from perhaps some of the other ones Titan have presented to readers in the last couple of years. But the effort is more than rewarded, by an artistic team who clearly love both Doctor Who, and the wonderful personality that was the Third Doctor.

I know I am not alone in wishing that this is the start of a new era for a re-exploration of one of the more traditionally 'human' Doctors in the saga. Whilst the much-respected Paul Cornell has stated at the Gallifrey One convention that he will not return to Doctor Who (or any other licensed work), one can only hope this is not indefinite.

Regardless, the platform is now there for future adventures through Space and Time, that have something both nostalgic, but also something pertinent to the world we live in today.





The Third Doctor - #4 - The Heralds Of Destruction Part FourBookmark and Share

Saturday, 8 April 2017 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
DOCTOR WHO THIRD DOCTOR #4 Cover_A (Credit: Titan)
Writer - Paul Cornell

Artist - Christopher Jones

Colorist - Hi-Fi

Letters  - Richard Starkings + Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt

(Alistair Lethbridge Stewart - Created By Mervyn Haisman +
Henry Lincoln, appearing courtesy of Candy Jar Books --with thanks to Hannah Haisman, Henry Lincoln, + Andy Frankham-Allen)
 
Editor - John Freeman

Assistant Editors - Jessica Burton + Amoona Saohin

Senior Designer - Andrew Leung

RELEASED 11th January 2017

The micromachines threat becomes secondary to the machinations of a man, who wants to seize mastery over not only Earth itself, but time and space as well. He has been putting together a scheme, using the expertise of some true brain-boxes from Electronicon Ltd. The Doctor, Jo and UNIT must find a way to prevent this potential danger from becoming an all too present reality. And the untrustworthy renegade Time Lord, who prefers to be known as the 'Master', will have to be part of this effort to combat a foe, who the Doctor thought was defeated for all of eternity..


After some very enjoyable earlier instalments, this fourth chapter in this limited run of stories that revisit the magnetic Third Doctor really ups both the stakes and the overall quality to a new level. Writer Paul Cornell ushers in a lot more supporting characters, and such is his consummate skill, that readers are highly likely to be invested in the fates off both major and minor players in the story. It also is engaging to finally realise that whilst the Master is always a threat, there is another recurring character who is the actual villain of the piece. Such is his lust for power, that he not only is causing circumstances that threaten the Earth's safety, but his very own well-being is tenuous as well.

Just who this antagonist is, was revealed in Issue 3's cliff hanger, and whilst I will adopt some secrecy with this review, I can at least say that Barry Letts' extensive involvement both as a producer and director is probably the reason this memorable resident in the Who hall of infamy was brought back. The art and colours - from Christopher Jones and Hi-Fi - seem to have picked up in quality thanks to the relentless pace, invention and wit of the story. The impression on the reader also continues to be remarkable, almost as if an actual time tunnel to the early colour TV era is generated.

The Master continues to be one of the sure-fire highlights of this comic book, and this should be expected, given how much he made the Pertwee era a success. Tragically, this original version left viewers too early, when actor Roger Delgago perished in a car accident, during filming of a movie abroad. Cornell made the right decision to include him here, especially as Season 10 had the lowest amount of material for the Master, out of the middle three seasons of the Third Doctor era.

Also welcome in terms of adding to the limits of just five actual stories per season (albeit with much greater screen time than the typical TV outings of today), is the insight into Mike Yates' disillusionment with UNIT, and furthermore the wider society that he is sworn to serve and protect. Mike had a three story arc beginning with the sublime The Green Death, but this new story helps make his undercover work and subjugation to BOSS' mind control that much more significant, as the Master helps to sow some seeds of doubt and rebellion into his impressionable mind.

The final panels are some of the most electric, and present another gripping hook into the ensuing issue. The location and time period thus far has been fairly static - despite the Doctor's ability to again travel freely in his TARDIS - but now another cause for adventures in the fourth dimension dramatically reveals itself.

The net result - Issue Five is set up as even more of a must-read than its forebears...

 


BONUS:

Seemingly like clockwork (as of recent times), this edition provides both variant covers for the present issue, as well as smaller variants for the impending concluding issue of the miniseries.

Monochrome examples of Jones' ink process feature, one displaying a terrifying journey through the space/time vortex, and the other featuring the much-loved UNIT 'family' - alongside the micro machines.





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.