The Phantom Piper (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 10 December 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Phantom Piper (Credit: Panini)
Written by Scott Gray

Artwork by Martin Geraghty, Staz Johnson, Mike Collins, Scott Gray, James Offredi

Paperback: 148 Pages

Publisher: Panini UK LTD 

The latest Graphic Novel from Panini collects together some of the final Comic Strip Adventures for the Twelfth Doctor, who ended his run as the star of Doctor Who Magazine’s monthly strip in October, just prior to the Thirteenth Doctor’s debut on TV. We'll get into a bit deeper, but it seems this will not be the final Graphic Novel the Twelfth Doctor will get from Panini.  Joining the Twelfth Doctor is Bill Potts, who launched on the strip not long after her TV debut, and stuck with him until the end of his tenure on the strip (just as on TV).

The book begins with the Doctor and Bill exploring Jupiter's moon Titan, but they soon get whisked into an adventure with Rudy Zoom, the conceited millionaire adventurer we first met in the Twelfth Doctor's first comic strip story.  Zoom has chartered an exploration of Titan because a woman was being called there by something.  The something turns out to be plant monsters that feed off of people's dreams and want to escape their prison on Titan.  It's a solid beginning for this Twelve/Bill era for the comic strip...it's fun, colorful, humorous, with drama and action. It is a solid start.  However, the book then takes us to the American Old West, and where they face an alien threat using a Native American Woman to exact her revenge on the White man.  This has flawed execution...while I like the idea of exploring a woman who faced adversity and great tragedy on the Trail of Tears, I think they made her too much of a revenge seeking generic villain in the end.  I think they tried to counteract this by making the Sheriff who teams up with the Doctor a black man. I guess they didn't make the Native characters have classic "Savage Indian" tropes...but I still felt like they started somewhere interesting with the character, and it kind of loses that thread, and the interesting backstory doesn't really play too much into her story.

At the end of that story, the TARDIS was marked with some kind of mysterious symbol.  To investigate, the Doctor takes Bill to Cornucopia (the alien world created and often visited during the Eleventh Doctor's comic run), and visits the vast library there for answers on what the symbol could mean.  The story is then about something evil having some kind of control over the librarian herself. It is honestly not that memorable, and really only serves as a one off filler strip.  In the end the Doctor realizes that the symbol is actually a code that needs cracking, so he then whisks Bill off to World War II, to find Alan Turing and get his help on cracking the code. This leads us directly into the final story in the set, the titular "The Phantom Piper" which closes out the set.  This is by far the best story in the collection, it has a big sweeping idea, a fun villain, and leans into Doctor Who Magazine's comic continuity in fun ways. Usually, I'd rather that media not lean too heavily into it's own storied continuity, as it can end up alienating the audience or dragging a story through the mud of references without any real deeper meaning.  This story is about something, and the continuity serves the story. 

I did think it felt like it had maybe a bit too much build-up and a solution that seemed to quick...but maybe that is because I was enjoying reading this story so much I breezed through all five parts fairly quickly.  It should be noted that for this story the page count for each installment shifted from 12 pages back to 8, which was the usual page count for the strip for a number of years. I think it wasn't until the Tenth Doctor that they beefed up the installment length.  At any rate, it did feel like the plot wrapped up rather quickly, and the set up what was the final story for the Twelfth Doctor on the strip, "The Clockwise War."  I think the ending may not have felt so quick and easy if I didn't have to now wait for an entirely new volume to come out in order to get the resolution to the book's cliffhanger.  If that final story was included, the epic scale would've probably just grown and been more satisfying.  

I'm not sure why they made the decision to leave out the final Twelfth Doctor story in this volume. Perhaps it was a decision that came down to deadlines not really coming together.  The final story for the Twelfth Doctor wrapped up only just before the Thirteenth Doctor premiered on TV. I would've honestly preferred them push back this volume to include that final story, and instead of sticking to their usual release schedule of Modern collection followed by a collection of older stuff, they could've held off and given us a bigger book that included the entire Twelve/Bill run in one volume...and in the meantime release an equally anticipated volume of classic comics, which will probably collect together the final batch of stories in the awkward years, and featured the final Seventh Doctor story ("Ground Zero") that came out before the long running Eighth Doctor era. Now it seems that there will be one more volume of Twelfth Doctor Comics to come from Panini.  This time it will be one story (about 60 pages worth of story). Maybe they will put more stuff into it.  Time will tell.

It is a shame that Bill Potts didn’t get more time in the TARDIS. In some ways, I wish her character could’ve joined the Twelfth Doctor at the beginning of Series 9 as opposed to Series 10. Bill was a solid character, well performed, and sadly will only ever have a short run on TV and a short run in the comic strip, and a short run in Titan’s line as well. Maybe someday when he’s ready, Capaldi and Pearl Mackie can revive this duo on Big Finish. Until then, we have this volume...and I guess we can await another yet to come, one story or not.

This collection is hit and miss. It starts and ends strong, but I didn't particularly care for the stories in the middle..and the fact that it ends in a cliffhanger that leads directly into the only Twelfth Doctor story left from the Magazine not included here leaves me a tad disappointed.  Ultimately, if you are a fan of the Strip, it is another well put together volume (missing the finale or not). I still think the best Twelfth Doctor volume remains Doorway to Hell, but I also enjoy Bill...so I'm happy to have more of her in any format. 





The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor - The Twelfth Doctor (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 4 October 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Road to The Thirteenth Doctor -Twelfth Doctor (Credit: Titan)
"Tulpa"
Writer: James Peaty
Artist: Brian Williamson
Colorist: Dijjo Lima

"The Road To..."
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Rachel Stott
Colorist: Enrica Angiolini

Published by Titan Comics in September 2018

The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor ends here, with the Twelfth Doctor's entry.  Again, the main story of the issue seemingly has nothing to do with the Thirteenth Doctor, only a brief short comic at the end of the book actually seems to lead to the new Doctor, but at least this time the main story of the issue is fun and interesting.  

The story involves a weird alien parasite, that feeds off of a guy's dreams and imagination, and practically destroys the Earth to revive the long-dead species.  It's fun and creative and has some tremendous art by Brian Williamson, who has an art style I am always impressed with. Again, it is a story that could have easily just headlined the Twelfth Doctor's ongoing line, but that isn't a complete negative, it is really only a negative in terms of the marketing of the book.

The "Road To..." segment in this final entry takes place near the end of the Twelfth Doctor's life.  The Doctor, Nardole, and Missy are on the lift on their way to save Bill in World Enough and Time.  They see the glowing light,  the hand reaching towards them and the Doctor acknowledges that he saw it before as the Tenth Doctor (having missed it when it appeared in his Eleventh incarnation), but despite knowing it is a situation that will need to be dealt with, he must carry on to save Bill, leaving it a problem for another day. To Be Continued with the Thirteenth Doctor.  

While this overall issue was an improvement over the previous entries of the mini-series, I don't think the actual "Road To..." segments were terribly satisfying.  For one, I always find it a bit annoying when there is an adventure of a Past Doctor, and they shoehorn in another adventure in the middle of it.  While it can work (I rather liked Twice Upon a Time), it often just feels like fan service. They could have just as easily weaved the glowing vortex with the hand reaching out into the main story of the issue, which would have tied the whole concept of the mini-series together a little neater. 

On the whole, this mini-series felt a bit like a half-baked bust. None of it is awful, but it doesn't really feel like it is building towards the Thirteenth Doctor in any meaningful way.  It feels like they just took a regular issue of each Doctor's ongoing line, slapped a mini-story in the back of each issue, and then marketed as if the whole books would be about the adventures that lead to the Thirteenth Doctor, or at the very least lead to the main arc of her upcoming Ongoing Comic.  So that is a shame.  I wouldn't say don't read the books, as they are serviceable and mildly entertaining, just know going in that they definitely lack the marketed Thirteenth Doctor element.  





Twice Upon a Time (BBC Audio)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 9 August 2018 - Reviewed by Peter Nolan
Twice Upon a Time (Credit: BBC Audio)
Adapted by: Paul Cornell
Based on the script by: Steven Moffat
Read by: Mark Gatiss
Cover by: Anthony Dry
Duration: 3hrs 15mins
Publisher: BBC Audio
Originally Released June 2018

“Stories too broad and too deep for the small screen.”

That was the credo of the Doctor Who New Adventures novels of the 1990s. It’s a phrase that is written on the heart of certain circles of fandom right next to “Never cruel or cowardly.” It seems appropriate then that one of the authors that most defined the voice of those books, Paul Cornell, uses his last Doctor Who book (though he’s said that before, in fairness) to lend greater breadth and depth than the small screen could allow.

Twice Upon a Time was always a remarkable story to play out on a Christmas Day. Ultimately it’s the story of a man, standing at the precipice, deciding whether or not to commit suicide. Normally that sort of thing is the reserve of Albert Square, where Christmas means even more misery than usual. But in 2017 Doctor Who danced on the tiny overlap that allowed it to be a funny, thrilling adventure about wanting to die with dignity. Part of that trade-off was the Doctor’s exact reasons and feelings not having room to be deeply explored, but Cornell takes full advantage of his page count to give us exactly that. It’s no less witty or packed with incident, but it more clearly acknowledges that this is a story full of characters who are, one way or another dead or dying.

The Doctor’s yearning for completeness comes to the fore of his thoughts. His desire to be able to finally provide a full stop to his life and say ‘so that was it.’  River comes to the fore of his thoughts and, in a genius spark of perspective, Cornell notes that this is a Doctor who lived for 75 years in a rather settled life. Twenty-four years in one long night with River, and then fifty years at St.Luke’s University. He’s had his retirement and his good death. Why can’t he just have it?

Bill’s future history with Heather is also fleshed out and with purpose as it shadows the Doctor’s dilemma. We learn of them returning to Earth to live a full, long, human life and how Bill ultimately chooses to die of old age rather than resume her ‘puddle’ form and return to the stars, even as she urged Heather to go without her. The faint hypocrisy of this isn’t touched upon, but it’s very human. The deeper, broader question of Bill’s existence – something the TV episode has time to little more than nod at – gets intelligently examined too. The Doctor connecting the concept of Testimony to growing up with the everyday reality of the Matrix on Gallifrey seems obvious in retrospect, as does that informing his opinion on whether such digital ghosts are actually the person involved, or simply an extremely detailed diary left behind by them.

All in all, Cornell has constructed a novelization which adds a new dimension of tenderness and emotion relative to the time and space of the original. A fine example of a Target which doesn’t so much overwrite, or compete with, the televised version in your mind, but rather adds additional layers of quality and grace to it.

As an audiobook, Cornell’s efforts are assisted hugely by Mark Gatiss. Himself no stranger to reading the Target range as a child, he knows exactly what’s required and turns in a touching, sensitive reading of the material. Not only are his Doctors note perfect in their voices (interestingly, he’s definitely decided to channel Bradley rather than Hartnell for his First Doctor) but he invests them with a sense of performance and character beyond the voice that truly captures their personalities.

Gatiss’ own persona also meshes smoothly with the tone required by the text. At times you can almost picture him in a comfortable antique leather chair, relating a diverting anecdote he thinks might amuse you. At others, his dropped voice and quiet control effortlessly communicates the pathos of a moment. All of the audiobooks in this series have selected appropriate and talented readers. But Gatiss is probably the only one so far to feel like he could genuinely have read any of them.

The sound design also keeps up the high quality of the series. Unobtrusive, yet giving an appropriate sense of setting, it hits just the right balance. It’s particularly nice to get the unique, and never repeated, bloops and whirrs of the console going crazy during the First Doctor’s regeneration faithfully presented her. One tiny niggle though is when the polar winds continue to blow in your earphones even when time stops still – which did prompt a little Bradleyesque “Oh, surely not? That can’t be right, can it, hmm?” from this listener that momentarily took me out of the action. But when that’s the worst criticism one can make of a three-hour recording…

This is the final of the current set of new Target novelizations and it’s fitting that they’ve proven just how varied the original range was, and just what their readers loved about them. We’ve had Jenny Colgan’s deeply traditional Dicksian take, and RTD’s version which took cues from both David Whittaker and Ian Marter (gleefully raiding other stories for bits and pieces, while upping the gore and violence beyond anything BBC One would have allowed at 7pm on a Saturday). We’ve had Steven Moffat’s wildly experimental take which doesn’t so much expand on the original but treats the TV episode as a kind of Serving Suggestion for where the story could go. And now Paul Cornell’s fine novel which manages the trick of adding massively to the inner lives of the characters while altering the actual events hardly a line.

Here’s to the next batch (“The Unquiet Dead by Mark Gatiss” anyone?)

 





Twice Upon a Time (BBC Books)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 30 July 2018 - Reviewed by Stephen Blenkinsop
Twice Upon a Time (Credit: BBC Books)
Author: Paul Cornell
Publisher: BBC Books
Released: April 2018
Paperback: 161 pages

This final Target novelisation brings us bang up to date with the Doctor’s adventures, recounting the 12th Doctor’s final journey towards his future, covering events following the end of series 10 that saw him lose his companion Bill to the Cybermen.  Arriving at the South Pole and deciding he doesn’t want to regenerate again he meets his first incarnation who is also wrestling with the prospect of change.  When time stops and the Doctors encounter a First World War soldier who is being pursued by a woman made of glass they begin a journey that sees both incarnations finding out what it means to be the Doctor.

The novelisation follows the broadcast story extremely closely, with relatively little additional material in terms of story development.  However, while the TV episode might have suffered, at least in the eyes of some, from the lack of an enemy to see the Doctor off in spectacular style, this seems less the case here, in a novel that has the space to explore the nature of the change and personal sense of loss that regeneration inflicts on the Doctor.  It, therefore, feels less of a postscript to what went before and more an exploration of some big themes in their own right, with a deeper reflection on the life of the Doctor as he faces his latest regeneration, and on the sense of the unknown as he faces his first.  To fully exploit this, a quite significant development that seems even more explicit here than on broadcast is the idea that the Doctor can choose whether he regenerates or dies, something that raises big questions for the Doctor personally but also for the web of time itself.

This serious subject matter doesn’t stop Cornell having fun throughout the book though.  The Doctor’s nicknames for his earlier incarnation prompt him to recall past encounters with various stars from the world of entertainment including a shared holiday with Mary Berry and a pub crawl with Clive Dunn.  There’s also some fun referencing the show’s history.  When the VHS tape held up by Archie is revealed to be the Doctor’s recording of the Daleks master plan, it elicits the comment ‘how they’d love to get that back’ – a nice acknowledgment of fans’ desire for the return of lost episodes.  And there’s further mischief with a joke addressing the old Dimension/Dimensions inconsistency in the TARDIS acronym.

In common with the other recent releases in this range the author also indulges fans with occasional continuity – some obvious, including references to events in the Snowcap base in The Tenth Planet, to companions Steven and Sara Kingdom, and a moving reference to Susan, - some more subtle, such as the reference to people being the sum of their memories.  The First Doctor getting to use the sonic screwdriver for the first time provides another fan-pleasing moment.  Throughout, Cornell shows the attention to detail one would expect, taking the opportunity to explain why the Blinovitch Limitation Effect isn’t functioning, and delightfully explaining why the First Doctor has to do more work at the console when flying the TARDIS compared with his later incarnations.  There’s also a nice acknowledgment of the legacy of the Target novels themselves with a chapter titled ‘Escape to Danger’.  These references demonstrate real respect for the show but don't distract from the storytelling.

Cornell finishes the book on a very serious note, adding perhaps the most chilling moment in the book with what was for me the revelation that plans for a subsequent Christmas truce in 1915 were stopped by the authorities.  This moment darkens the sombre mood as the story draws to its conclusion, as ever, reality proving to be far more shocking than anything the show can create.  This addition is well judged and feeds the somewhat melancholy mood as the Doctors finally come to terms with their destinies.

The book is not without its problems, however.  In remaining faithful to the broadcast episode the novel does retain what many people felt to be an over the top characterisation of the First Doctor’s dated attitudes.  This can be forgiven as it merely reflects the TV episode itself, however, it may possibly be compounded in the novelisation by an occasionally overstated characterisation of the First Doctor as devoid of humour.  This is something that doesn’t really reflect the softer characterisation that had evolved by this point of this incarnation and even contradicts him making a joke himself earlier in the story, albeit one that demonstrates the first point of criticism.  These are however relatively small points and don’t detract significantly from the positives.

As the final book in this batch of releases it’s worth reflecting on the nature of the Target range and what they offer in the twenty-first century.  My own Target collection has been packed away and living in my parents’ loft for a few years now, these books a remnant of my childhood, a feature of the past, not needed in an age of on demand TV and DVDs.  Reading these recent releases however I’ve rediscovered the joy of Target novels and realised that they can still have a unique place in Dr Who fans' collections .  Whilst they may not be the most challenging of reads it is clear they are written with a great deal of love and it’s a joy to be able to join the Doctor for a couple of chapters on the bus to work or a few spare moments during the day.  And given that these books have a style of their own, the reader can connect with (and appreciate) the series in a uniquely different way.  Until there are further new releases (hopefully!) it may be time for me to pay a visit to my parents’ loft.





Free Comic Book Day 2018 - Doctor Who Special (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 5 May 2018 - Reviewed by Thomas Buxton
Free Comic Book Day 2018 (Credit: Titan)
Writers: Nick Abadzis, John Freeman, George Mann and Jody Houser
Artists: Giorgia Sposito, Arianna Florean, Christopher Jones, Mariano Laclustra and Rachael Stott
Colorists: Marco Lesko and Carlos Cabrera
Publisher: Titan Comics

FC, 30pp, $0.00
On sale: May 5, 2018

With Titan Comics' regular Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctor strips each having reached the natural conclusions of their Year Three runs, and their recently-announced The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor mini-series still two months away from its launch, now seems as opportune a time as any for the publisher to take stock and prepare its readers for the adventures ahead. Enter their contribution to this year's Free Comic Book Day line-up, a 25-page one-off Special containing four bite-sized primers for the future of their regular Doctor Who strips, the Road saga and the Seventh Doctor's Titan debut alike.

There's every chance, of course, that the aforementioned annual event - held at comic-book retailers the world over to promote the industry and its physical purveyors - will be over by the time that you're reading this review, yet that doesn't mean you won't find some stores such as Forbidden Planet still housing the odd copy of this much-anticipated strip here and there. Should Titan's most dedicated followers and / or newcomers to the worlds of Who comics make the trip, however, or are they best off waiting for the Doctor's printed exploits to kick off again this Summer and beyond? Let's find out...

"Catch a Falling Star":

For any readers like this reviewer who've yet to finish reading the latest string of Titan storylines based in the David Tennant era, Special's opening tale might well prove rather disorientating at first, though that's rather the point; seemingly deceased companion Gabby Gonzalez seems just as perplexed as she's flung through outer space after the Year Three finale presumably detached her from the TARDIS with considerable force. How better to spend the time, then, than by taking a metaphorical trip down memory line, simultaneously bringing newcomers up to speed on her recent voyages across the Time Vortex?

From Sontarans to Sutekh in his reincarnated form, from Cybermen to Gabby's best friend Cindy Wu stepping aboard the Doctor's iconic Type 40 capsule, it's been one heck of an eventful ride for the despondent waitress-turned-pro artist over the last 36 months. True to form, Giorgia Sposito and Arianna Florean's dazzlingly whimsical artwork splendidly reminds us - alongside the awe-inspired sense of wonder and fantasy coming via the dialogue which writer Nick Abadzis affords Gabby - of the eclectic and unashamedly outrageous tone which made this particular TARDIS team's travels such an instant hit with fans of Titan's licensed Who output.

Naturally, though, few could blame Ms. Gonzalez for questioning her life decisions given her present near-fatal predicament, so that Abadzis briefly explores her justifiable doubts as well comes as a welcome surprise, in many ways enabling us to draw parallels between the character and past companions such as Martha Jones for whom the Doctor's entrance signalled virtually the destruction of their personal lives and family ties. Who wouldn't reconsider the same dilemma as that which was posed to Donna in "Turn Left", namely whether life would've turned out better had their path never crossed with "the man who keeps running, never looking back because he dare not out of shame"? As such, it would seem that Gabby needs affirmation that her story doesn't end on such a somber note, and while we'll refrain from revealing her just how "Catch a Falling Star" concludes, we can say that she might just get her wish and transform the Doctor's future in the process...

“The Armageddon Gambit”:

The best way to summarize the second narrative barrage in Special’s artillery is as an audition piece for Andrew Cartmel and Ben Aaronovitch’s impending Seventh Doctor mini-series, “Operation Volcano”. Unlike that five-part saga, John Freeman takes on writing duties for “The Armageddon Gambit”, but if his remarkably authentic rendition of Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred’s wit-laden, mentor-student-esque banter from their 1980s run as the Doctor and Ace serves as any indication of what to expect from “Volcano” upon its launch next month, then experiencing each issue over the coming weeks should seem remarkably akin to watching a McCoy serial on TV / home video / streaming platforms for the first time.

While Freeman’s relatively standalone narrative – which sees the ever-courageous time travellers chirpily interrupt a band of galactic tyrants standing on the brink of galactic conquest, having bested the Draconians, Chimerions and Voord alike – probably won’t win this year’s Pulitzer Prize for literary ingenuity, his script does at least enable the mini-series’ artistic / colour tag team of Christopher Jones and Marco Lesko to amply strut their stuff. Their bold style, in marked contrast to Sposito and Florean’s tonally befitting impressionistic imagery, does a splendid job of bringing the tale’s characters to vivid life, with Lesko’s choice to embroid the chief Kla-shi-kel clansman with striking golden armour for example visibly setting him apart in military stature and greed-driven ambitions. Look out in particular for their pitch-perfect depiction of the Doctor and Ace’s grand entrance, an instantly iconic raison d'etre for “Armageddon” which easily stands among Titan’s most memorable panels to date.

“Midnight Feast”:

Whereas Abadzis and Freeman both had their fair share of legwork in terms of painting a roadmap for the future flights of the Seventh and one other Doctor here, one can almost hear George Mann’s relief at finding no such pressure exerted upon his Eleventh Doctor contribution by Titan’s head honchos. “Midnight Feast” makes no apologies for its lighthearted tone or completely standalone storyline, then, with Mann instead affirming to newcomers his ability to capture Matt Smith’s zany eccentricity and energetic zest for life, all while re-introducing his ex-librarian companion Alice Obiefune along the way. Yet it’s fair to say that Alice rather laments her inclusion here, finding her travelling companion ransacking the TARDIS kitchen for edible delights before he zips off to the nearest alien restaurant to find alternative inspiration.

Laying many criticisms at the feet of a self-proclaimed “culinary adventure” such as “Feast” would seem rather harsh, especially with Mariano Laclaustra’s diverse menagerie of stunningly-rendered alien patrons calling to mind Star Wars’ Mos Eisley Cantina in its aesthetic inventiveness. The only warning that we’d give, however, is that those unfamiliar with Alice won’t find the same level of introductory exposition here as that which Gabby provided regarding her past in “Falling Star”, largely since the latter’s existential plight gave Abadzis the ideal plot device to justify such nostalgic reminiscing. Since Alice only features for but a few panels here, this reviewer would instead advise anyone wanting to catch up on her entry into the Doctor’s life – between Amy and Rory’s turbulent honeymoon and reunion for the Time Lord’s death in “The Impossible Astronaut” – to check out the first volume of Year One, After Life, ahead of Year Four’s presumed launch later this year.

"And Introducing..."

What of Doctor Who’s fast-approaching return to BBC One with a new face, though? Does Jodie Whittaker’s absence from Special’s multi-Doctor front cover mean that we shouldn’t expect to see her incarnation feature in Titan’s licensed roster for the time being? Not at all – browse past the insightful Reader’s Guide at the end of the strip, which details the various regular strips, crossovers and classic Doctor mini-series currently available, and you’ll find three panels featuring a strange new world, strange new fauna and feathered onlookers, a strange new TARDIS and its strange new occupant embarking on her first ‘canon’ journey, her face brimming with visible passion and already infectious joy at discovering the unknown.

Much as every fan relishes jumping to far-fetched conclusions from even Who’s most basic marketing materials, the rousing thrill that comes with turning the page and witnessing the Thirteenth Doctor in action for the first time can’t possibly be denied. That her increasingly coveted costume and intriguing extraterrestrial surroundings are drawn in such a majestic light by Rachael Stott, the upcoming Thirteenth Doctor regular strip’s resident artist, just goes to show that she’s fully aware of the significance of this watershed moment for the show. The same can be said of Jody Houser’s daringly dialogue-devoid script, aping Whittaker’s reveal video last year in building its structure entirely around the new incarnation’s gravitas-laden arrival.

A tremendous end, then, to a tremendous Free Comic Book Day special, one which accomplishes the remarkable joint feats of setting past Doctors on unexpected new trajectories for the coming months and making the Thirteenth’s debut – both on-screen and the printed page – that much more of an exciting proposition.

Be sure to follow our reviews of Titan’s The Thirteenth Doctor series as it kicks off in tandem with Season Eleven this Autumn…





Doorway to Hell (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 25 March 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Doorway to Hell  (Credit: Panini)

Written by Mark Wright

Artwork by Mike Collins, John Ross, & Staz Johnson

Paperback: 148 pages

Publisher: Panini UK LTD

The third Twelfth Doctor collection from Panini, Doorway to Hell, collects together a series of stories published in Doctor Who Magazine between the end of Series 9 (and the exit of Clara), and the long wait until the launch of Series 10 (in which Bill could finally join the strip). All of the stories within were written by Mark Wright and featured a running arc of the Doctor stuck on Earth and living with the Collins family. Jess Collins was previously met by the Doctor and Clara in "The Highgate Horror," one of the stories in the previous Twelfth Doctor volume (of the same name as the story). 

The book opens with the Doctor landing back in 1972 and running into Jess Collins again, and she follows him as he tracks down an alien presence.  That presence turns out to be some alien tech which has been trapped underground for centuries, and has evolved the Bubonic Plague into a disease which turns people into Bird Monsters!  It makes more sense when you read it.  The Doctor is able to thwart the alien threat and save the Collins family, but in the process burns the TARDIS out...and the Doctor is stuck on Earth while it repairs itself. The Collins family take him in as a thank you for saving them, though the Doctor is initially reluctant to such a gesture. 

But the Doctor does move in, and we get a lovely one-shot that shows the Doctor interacting with each member of the family.  Bonding with the father over his traumatic transformation into a bird monster, cooking for the mom, debating comics with the younger brother, and discussing art with Jess. It's a great character piece, and it made me quickly fall in love wit this arc.  It was nice to see the strip try something really different.  Sort of doing their own small-scale take on the Doctor's exile to Earth from the Pertwee Era, but instead of being employed by a military organization, he is just living with a family in the early 70s.

The battle Alien Hunters together, and help out a poor neighbor whose own guilt creates a monster, and finally, in the big finale, the Doctor faces off with the Master...not just any Master, but the original Roger Delgado version! This final story is a really great finale and gives us a great battle of wills between the Twelfth Doctor and the Master, not to mention a bit of fun continuity gap filling, showing us what happened to the Delgado version of the character following his final appearance in Frontier in Space.  It was always a shame that Delgado's untimely passing meant we never got a final confrontation between he and Pertwee. 

This book was excellent, easily among my favorites of the Modern Doctors comic runs. The fact that it had a grounding with the Doctor stranded and living with the Collins family, the fact that between some fun Alien battling adventures they peppered in really nice small one-shots that explored character stuff. And since it is all so small scale for the most part, it makes the grand finale with the Master all the more satisfying.  Mark Wright's stories were uniformly fun to read, and the art is solid throughout.  I especially grew to love the art by newcomer to the strip Staz Johsnon. While his likeness of the Doctor took a bit of time, he just had a really pleasant art style, reminded me of John Ridgeway's Sixth Doctor run a bit.  I highly recommend this book, if you only read one Twelfth Doctor book, make it this one.  It is well written, has lots to love, and is so entertaining, I read it fairly quickly.  I genuinely had trouble putting it down!