The Eleventh Doctor (Year Two) #10 - First RuleBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 28 December 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
ELEVENTH DOCTOR #2.10

 Writer - Rob Williams, Artist - Simon Fraser
Colorist - Gary Caldwell

[Abslom Daak created by Steve Moore + Steve Dillon, appearing courtesy of Panini Comics, with thanks to Doctor Who Magazine]

Letterer - Richard Starkings + Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt

Assistant Editors - Jessica Burton + 
Amoona Saohin
Senior Editor - Andrew James 
Designer - Rob Farme


COVER A - DAN BOULTWOOD
Released June 8th 2016

"Of course I knew! I'm not you, Daak! I actually think! I think a lot! I am very, very, very smart! Why else do you think I kept you around! Not for your witty repartee. I had something specific in mind for you. You had to be her bodyguard."

The Doctor chastising Daak for failing to protect Alice.


 

'The Then And The Now ' could not be stopped forever, and at some point in its pursuit was going to cause serious damage. The badly injured Squire lies prone in the clutches of the TARDIS Robo-med, with the Doctor desperate to save the aged warrior's life. And all Abslom Daak can do is speak up and find his Time Lord 'ally' in far from his usual convivial mood.

 

Meanwhile Alice is abroad the diseased TARDIS belonging to the Doctor's nemesis, the Master. She is aware of the importance of getting to a point in the Time War that will solve the current threat hanging over the Doctor. A mysterious amorphous entity may be the key to her accomplishing her mission.


 

This tenth issue in the intricate, broad Year 2 arc skilfully manages two parallel storylines, such that both grip in equal manner, but for different reasons.

The artwork, colours and panelling variety all operate well together, and the issue overall culminates triumphantly with a 'double whammy' cliff hanger.

Alice is being given supremely worthwhile character development, in a plot thread that shows that whilst the Doctor is key to any story, it is not always wrong if his assistant - or, in the case of this run of stories, team -  are vital in finding some kind of resolution to the problem at hand.

We also see a Doctor struggling to accept that Alice is having to fend for herself in some corner of the sprawling mess of chaos that is the Time War. And this was down to his own machinations, except that his plan involved Daak being there to help the rather benign and weapon less Alice. At one point the Doctor shows a dark fury which is welcome, given how sometimes - and certainly in my view - this particular incarnation is overtly clownish.

Further, the Squire's fate hangs in the balance this issue, and it is tribute to the fine work of Rob Williams, (with support from alternate writer Si Spurrier), that readers will be concerned over this potential tragedy. The character is decidedly offbeat and has not appeared in either TV show or legendary comic strips of yester year (as with Daak). Yet it still feels vital that the Doctor can 'pull a rabbit out of the hat'.

In sum then, the arc continues to astound and delight in equal measure, despite entering some rather grim settings and thematic backdrops.


The reviews for the Eleventh Doctor Titan comics will return with a look at the 'collected edition' of the next sequence of issues. So watch this space (!)





The Eleventh Doctor (Year Two) #9 - Running To Stay StillBookmark and Share

Saturday, 8 October 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
ELEVENTH DOCTOR #2.9  (Credit: Titan)

   Writer - Si Spurrier
Artist - Leandro Casco
Colorist - Rodrigo Fernandes

[Abslom Daak created by Steve Moore + 
Steve Dillon, appearing courtesy of Panini Comics, 
with thanks to Doctor Who Magazine]

Letterer - Richard Starkings + Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt

Assistant Editors - Jessica Burton +
Amoona Saohin
Senior Editor - Andrew James
 Designer - Rob Farme

Main cover - Mark Wheatley

"What is it? Is it Daleks? Did you find the secret Daleks? Can we fight the secret Daleks now?!"

"No. it's... odd. Not good-odd or bad-odd, exactly, just... odd. There was tech here once. Left traces. Extremely sophisticated. As in: Godlike. As in: not Dalek"

Abslom Daak and the Doctor in conversation.

 

The pressure on the Doctor and his friends continues to intensify. Before long, the normally effervescent River Song is rendered comatose, and placed alongside the (long-dead) 'wife' of Daak. The efforts to find a solution see a visit to a planet named Sshh.  The Master's TARDIS continues to be a tool of great value, but also a symbol of despicability and ruthlessness.

Furthermore, Alice suffers a rush of memories, that she would normally care to forget. Another companion makes a return to the fray, and in thrilling fashion, but could be risking too much for too little reward.

And amidst it all the Doctor shows a side to him that is far darker and more chilling than a good number of the foes he has defeated over the millennia..  

 

The main point of interest in this latest instalment of the Year Two arc is just out of character the Doctor is, and how indifferent he is to the suffering of others around him. Whilst glimmers of this happened now and again over the five-decades-plus history of the parent TV show, this choice of characterisation truly stands out. We get a real sense of an anti-hero at work, but one with somewhat less charisma and belief in his actions as well.

The urgency of the plot is kept reasonably high by having the 'Then and the Now' entity around and in no mood to hold anything back. We also see an interesting exploration of the Daak/Alice dynamic which was not really made too much of in previous issues, as they try and take the role of the Doctor in coming up with a solution. Daak had generally been just as much a millstone around the TARDIS crew's neck as an asset, but truly comes good here. By contrast, the Doctor shows a rather feckless and passive side to himself, when a truly harrowing sequence of events occurs.

Somehow though, a generally intriguing core to the story is not enough to result in a satisfying end product. Whilst myself and other reviewers here find Titan material to be of a generally decent, if not excellent, standard month-in, month-out, I have to go against this consensus on this occasion. Certain patches are lacklustre and there is an uneven tone and a confused sense of what the creative team are trying to say. Spurrier has done some decent work before on this monthly series, mixing the character work with the action. But the unusual portrayal of most of the protagonists just does not quite feel organic and convincing enough.

To be fair though, there are steps made forward in the arc, and the danger that especially Alice and the Squire face are of significance. The final stages of this issue are gripping and shocking in equal measure. Plenty of readers will rush to the ensuing issue 10 wanting to know what will come of the various frenetic twists of fate. Overall however, this is the first true blip in a generally confident second year, for Matt Smith's incarnation in comic strip form.

 

EXTRAS (Alternate Covers/ Issue 10 Preview Covers):

At this point the bonus mini story or humour strip is something of a scarcity, and once again does not feature. Perhaps with the plethora of Who comics now being made, and even a Torchwood one to attract readers, a decision was made to fully showcase the talent of the artists who deliver worthy covers that reflect either the actual issue concerned, or the general spirit of the monthly series.





The Eleventh Doctor Year 2 #8 - DowntimeBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 16 August 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek

DOCTOR WHO: ELEVENTH DOCTOR #2.8 (Credit: Titan)
Writer - Si Spurrier,   Artist - Warren Pleece
(Assists: Adriano Vicente, Wellington Dias + Raphael Lobosco)
Colorist - Arianna Florean + Nicola Righi With Azzurra Florean

*(Abslom Daak created by Steve Moore + 
Steve Dillon, 
Aappearing courtesy of Panini Comics, 
with thanks to Doctor Who Magazine)

Letterer - Richard Starkings + Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt
Assistant Editors - Jessica Burton + Gabriela Houston

Main cover - Todd Nauck + Hi- Fi

Senior Editor - Andrew James, Designer - Rob Farmer

A cantina bar bustling with life, but also dodgy dealings that result in strife. A 'neutral' zone reminiscent of one of scum and villainy in a universe, far, far, away. After leaving behind the notorious prison planet Shada, and by quite ingenious means at that, the intrepid heroes who are hoping to achieve a just result for their leader - the Doctor - have managed to land somewhere somewhat less intense in terms of immediate danger.

 

Daak manages to have an audience with an old acquaintance, and soon he is embroiled in a mental to-and-fro battle, rather than the casual chit chat that first seemed on the cards. Surprisingly the Dalek killer of yester-centuries proves as adept at a battle of wits as he does with chainsaw, sidearm and fists. But, ultimately of more concern is the Doctor losing his rein on his more conventionally heroic TARDIS crew. Alice and the Squire both fervently disagree with the cold-hearted ends-justify-the-means rationale their normally laudable friend seems to be adopting. Could this be one step too far in making a motley crew cease to cling to one another?

 

After a succession of fast pasted action and intense exposition this story functions as a one part stopover. Thus sufficient time is given to the various principles to reflect on how they are coping, both emotionally and physically, with the various galactic time-bending hi-jinks thrown into their way. Rob Williams is not in the drivers seat for writing duties this issue (nor indeed for Issue 9 either from the looks of the preview pages).  Instead we have Si Spurrier returning, who has left his own distinctive mark on the Year 2 arc. Spurrier perhaps is more at home with the melodramatic and purely interpersonal aspects than the sweeping epic and darker satire of Williams. It is a big and dramatic leap in style, given just how serious the preceding two issues were in essence. It is also comparable to the 'mid-way switch' in art that Issue 7 offered to readers. This individual story has quite a bit less to make it essential to understanding the overall arc, and by the same token can be enjoyed by casual or one-off readers as most of it stands well enough on its own.

 

In terms of the big draw for many general Doctor Who fans, who may not even like the Eleventh Doctor as much as they do other versions, there is some good material again for the fascinating 'non-chronological' Professor River Song. River is clearly at a stage where she is not all sweetness and light. Whilst not as off the rails as in Let's Kill Hitler, she is far from either the cuddly aunty or the reverent daughter figure (that the Ponds had to become used to). But then the Doctor is no angel here either and seems to have almost used revelation of his complicity in mass death to suddenly relax his moral code. He ends up blatantly abandoning a companion near the end of this instalment, and simply because that person can fight well enough to dig herself out of most forms of danger. Whilst he left people like Sarah behind in times past, it was only out of protectiveness.

 

But of course the wider scope of this all allows for suspense, and also keeps us guessing if one or more of what seemed reliable allies may suddenly have cause to betray the Doctor, when such a thought seemed barely credible.

 

EXTRAS:

Again, the bonus humour strip is seemingly stripped away for a hiatus. An alternate photo-style cover from Will Brooks is featured in full page glory, as is a second alternate art cover from the main art team.

 

 





The Eleventh Doctor Year 2 #7 - The One (Part Two)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 2 August 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
DOCTOR WHO: ELEVENTH DOCTOR #2.7 (Credit: Titan Comics)















"THE ONE - PART 2 OF 2"

WRITER - 
ROB WILLIAMS
ARTISTS - LEANDRO CASCO + SIMON FRASER

COLORIST - GARY CALDWELL

(ABSLOM DAAK CREATED BY STEVE MOORE AND STEVE DILLON,  AND  APPEARS COURTESY OF PANINI COMICS, 
WITH THANKS TO DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE)
 

LETTERER - RICHARD STARKINGS +
COMICRAFT’S JIMMY BETANCOURT

ASSISTANT EDITORS - JESSICA BURTON
+ GABRIELA HOUSTON

EDITOR - ANDREW JAMES

DESIGNER - ROB FARMER

MAIN COVER: BRIAN MILLER

RELEASED MARCH 23RD 2016, TITAN COMICS

"The Time Lords ensured that the mere knowledge of this place was removed from all living things. For the safety of all that was good. But I came here. Once. I think… it… it’s difficult to recall. there was a book…something… … something to do with Cambridge? I forget". The Doctor addressing his travelling companions.

 

*

"Shada.. Shadaaa" - those were the words uttered by a bonkers-brilliant Tom Baker during the early 1990s, as he introduced his narration of the missing Season 17 Douglas Adams epic. Originally released on VHS, and currently available on DVD in 'The Legacy Collection', the reconstructed Shada saw Baker pull off a unique mix of himself and an alternate Fourth Doctor, narrating the missing material, (which comprised more than half of the projected run time for six 25 minute episodes).

For many years I have had a soft spot for that outlandish story which could well have fallen flat on its face through sheer over-ambition if actually produced and transmitted. At its core, it was a good example of how Doctor Who so typically manages to avoid being generic and sterile (unlike a good number of other sci-fi franchises).

The rather loose position in canon of Shada allows for the many brilliant concepts of Adams to be used by any budding writer as they see fit, and Rob Williams has met his usual high standard with this latest stopover in the ongoing galaxy hopping arc. By this point readers will have seen a rather unusually stressed Eleventh Doctor forced to try and clear his name of the unspeakable crime committed against the Cylors.

 

It is quite appropriate to have the Doctor's nemesis - The Master - linked to this fascinating prison locale, where the Doctor's fellow Time Lords opted to safely lock away potential universal despots for millennia. Although the glimpses of the Roger Delgado incarnation are fleeting - and the villain does not directly interact with our protagonists - it still is richly satisfying to have the original (and arguably the best) Master of them all gracing a well-established comic from the team at Titan.

 

This issue makes effective use of the (by now familiar) River/Eleventh Doctor dynamic. It has little pause to catch its breath, but never feels rushed or mindless during any passage. Also, the overall arc continues to move well. It is welcome to have a group of do-gooders, with Daak as the quintessential wildcard anti-hero, who are of such different ages backgrounds and personalities. The mystery of the Squire persists, being explored here in the most in-depth and tantalising fashion yet since the character first became a regular player.

The cliffhanger is a fine bit of confirming readers' darkest fears over just low the War Doctor was prepared to sink. There is also a clever contrast of the 'hidden Doctor' with the fundamentally immoral Master who, for all his defects, at least some fixed 'code of honour' or 'sanity'.

Writing continues to be of the highest quality, and the artwork is at worst quite good, and at best excellent. Two artists get to flex their creative-flair-muscles, with a cleverly done transition mid-issue as the Doctor's party are subjugated to 'hibernation'.

The wait for each subsequent issue in Year 2 has now become harder to bear, and is the sign of a team of creatives who are very much on their game.

 

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL:

No humour strip is present for this month's edition, but a pair of photo and art bonus covers do feature. The latter of those includes a tantalising promise of Daak visionary Steve Dillon entering the fray late on in Year 2(!).

There also is a collection of smaller sized preview/alternate covers for Issue 8.





Eleventh Doctor Year 2: # 6 - The One (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 19 June 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
DOCTOR WHO THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR YEAR TWO #6  (Credit: Titan)

"THE ONE - PART 1 OF 2"

WRITER -
ROB WILLIAMS

ARTIST - SIMON FRASER

COLORIST - GARY CALDWELL

(ABSLOM DAAK CREATED BY
STEVE MOORE AND STEVE DILLON,
+ APPEARS COURTESY OF PANINI COMICS, 
WITH THANKS TO DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE)

LETTERER - RICHARD STARKINGS AND
COMICRAFT’S JIMMY BETANCOURT

ASSISTANT EDITORS - JESSICA BURTON
+ GABRIELA HOUSTON

EDITOR - ANDREW JAMES

DESIGNER - ROB FARMER

MAIN COVER BY ALEX RONALD

RELEASED MARCH 2ND 2016, TITAN COMICS

The Doctor, Alice, The Squire and their 'ally of convenience' Daak have finally located the ultra-confident, ultra-capable Professor River Song, after more than a few parsecs travelled across the universe. A reunion for this version of the Doctor and River is somewhat overshadowed by the continued threat offered by 'The Then And The Now' being. But perhaps some solutions can be found at last to this rather unwelcome scenario the TARDIS crew have been immersed in. And this could see the Doctor clear his name at last, long after the actions of a former incarnation that he rarely mentions to even the closest people in his life.

 

Reaching the halfway-point of Year Two, I continue to be impressed by the direction this timey-wimey, French-loaf-twisted arc runs along. There is lots of vigour and derring-do and all the regular characters are sufficiently engaging to make the spectacle resonate to full effect.

River Song once again is used to good effect alongside the Eleventh Doctor, and how nice to have her grace more than a few comic strip panels and play a full part in proceedings. As enjoyable as it was to see her appear frequently in the bonus strip, it is considerably more involving when we are reminded of the complex non-chronological timeline that she and the Doctor are forced to share together.

Abslom Daak continues to add colourful unpredictability to the storyline; his wildcard status is neatly complementary to the stalwart Squire and the thoroughly down to earth Alice. The Doctor clearly enjoys having to juggle many things all at once, and be pushed to his limits, but is clearly in a comfort zone whenever his beloved River is in close proximity.

There have been plenty of references to the Master, at this point, and with a bit of luck we will get to see him reappear. Being that this is pre-Capaldi-era, the expectation is that we get the traditional male version. (Although having Missy somehow appear would be truly special, the question would then arise how the Twelfth Doctor does not recognise her).

 

Year One for the Eleventh Doctor had plenty to it, and required readers pay attention and remember various pertinent details. This second year is more of the same, but 'dialled-up', and writer Rob Williams has showed just how many tricks he has up his sleeves. It lives up to the clever nature of the Matt Smith TV outings, and especially the carefully pre-planned 'Series 6a and 6b'; (within were never my favourite stories, but unquestionably ones that showed Doctor Who could yet again re-invent itself to compelling effect).

Artwork continues to convince and thrill in equal measure. Simon Fraser confidently portrays the frenetic travels through both physical space and the (often chaotic) dimensions of time. 'The Then And The Now' is a great idea, and continues to be used well. It is hard to imagine this remorseless foe being any better in televisual or audio format. The colour work for these stories is also more than acceptable, although some of the finishes for the Eighth and Ninth Doctor Mini-Series of recent times were just a touch stronger at leaving a lasting impression

This now well-established monthly series from Titan, dedicated to the bow-tie-wearing variant of the Doctor, continues to surprise and delight. It also remains faithful to both its source telly-box origins, and to the visually infinite universe of comics.

 

BONUSES

 

HUMOUR STRIP - LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR - (Art and Visuals by Marc Ellerby)

A solid comedic display again from Ellerby, who has his own unique brand of depicting the familiar 'TARDIS family', as well as supporting or one-shot characters. The tenuous nature of neighbourly relations gets to be the main focus in this mini-story, and should evoke familiar emotions for the vast majority of readers. This material would arguably look at home in a regular daily newspaper, and its reach never exceeds its grasp. 

---

Two alternate covers feature amongst the final pages. One is a photo-style image of the Doctor reacting to a figure that casts a curly haired silhouette on the TARDIS, in the backdrop. The other is a quirky collection of images, which charmingly conveys an abundance of joy and humour.





Eleventh Doctor Year 2: # 5 - The Judas GoateeBookmark and Share

Sunday, 10 April 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
DOCTOR WHO: THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR #2.5 (Credit: Titan)

WRITER - ROB WILLIAMS

ARTIST - WARREN PLEECE

COLORIST - HI-FI
 
LE
TTERING - RICHARD STARKINGS AND
COMICRAFT’S JIMMY BETANCOURT

(ABSLOM DAAK CREATED BY
STEVE MOORE AND STEVE DILLON)

EDITOR - ANDREW JAMES

ASSISTANT EDITORS - GABRIELA HOUSTON
AND JESSICA BURTON

DESIGNER - ROB FARMER

MAIN COVER BY JOSH CASSARA
BONUS COVER BY WILL BROOKS

PUBLISHED JANUARY 27TH 2016. TITAN COMICS
 

Having had strong indications that his life-long nemesis the Master has framed him for evil deeds during the Time War, the Doctor resolves to explore another obscure planet yet again, in order to obtain hard-and-fast evidence.

Before long, the danger of hordes of militaristic Sontarans having a brutal civil war rears its head. A breakaway group have decided to grow beards that pay tribute to one of the most notorious renegades the Time Lord race ever produced. The Doctor persists in staying just a little longer, much to the chagrin of his fellow travellers.

Yet eventually even the twin-hearted 'madman in a box' realises the need for escaping this colourful world: the main faction of Sontaran are prepared to sacrifice themselves with a bomb that would destroy the 'stray' cohort, all indigenous life on this remote world, and indeed the very planet itself.

And beyond this stress-inducing stopover lies hope in the ongoing quest to quash the Doctor's 'guilt' in the eyes of The Overcast. Perhaps finally, the Doctor's bad reputation can be literally a thing of the past.

 

The title of this story is on the unusual side, and overall this is a real curiosity from start to finish. Titan have done many experimental stories with the different doctors they have been granted rights to, but this really pushes the envelope. The Eleventh Doctor uses a wacky turn of phrase quite often in any given edition, but this escapade really sees everything but the kitchen sink when it comes to synonyms and idioms. Rob Williams is normally a consist and strong writer, but this is a sign of creative juices being just a touch over-flowing.

The art continue in much the same vein as before. It tells the story well and offers fine facial expression. However I still cannot place Warren Pleece's efforts higher up on the ladder of creative quality than his fellow contributors Simon Fraser and Boo Cook.

There are many ambitious concepts in play, but for my sensibilities at least Pleece does sometimes miss that vital 'X-factor' when portraying large set pieces. He does however do justice to the excellent character work that the Eleventh Doctor line is by now renowned for.

However the crux of this instalment (of what is a cleverly done ongoing arc) does advance the mystery and speculations to great effect. We are drip-fed some information on just what the nefarious Master has been able to do during the Time War, and only now is this particular version of the Doctor in a position to piece together why The Overcast have been desperate to hold him to trial. The Doctor somewhat weakly admits how he may be a hypocrite of sorts, but simultaneously emphasises that his ends do justify the means, and there are far worse 'monsters' out there who do not stop to consider accountability. In essence, the Doctor's self awareness places him in the black column, and those he has had to defeat that had similar potential/talents that could have helped many beings are in the red column.

Just the one panel of the War Doctor surfaces amongst dozens of frames that populate this comic. Yet it does re-emphasise firmly the pressure being placed mentally on Alice, as she has already obtained a clutch of unwanted mental processes courtesy of being in close contact to the TARDIS. This particular aspect of the ongoing arc of Year Two is being done in assured and wholehearted fashion and it is difficult to see the resolution being any less than brilliant, given the pedigree of writing readers have come to expect.

Abslom Daak continues to be well written and feel an organic part of proceedings, rather than one of many examples in Doctor Who's history where nostalgia and homage to the past were a millstone around the neck of real and vital creativity. He manages to ooze charisma, although there is no doubt he is rakish, thuggish and lacking much capacity when it comes to empathy or patience.

It is The Squire who perhaps gets the short straw. Whilst remaining likeable, and indeed noteworthy in being considerably older in her physical appearance to most companions of the Doctor, she really does not have much bearing on the story. This has been a problem for a few issues now. True, she gets to unleash some weaponry that allows the Doctor to meet a vital figure in his life, and someone that can help him in his ongoing quest to clear his name. Yet it still feels like Daak could have done much the same thing, and probably been much more entertaining into the bargain. This problem almost brings to mind the issues with K9 when he was a regular character in the Tom Baker era: a useful plot-device, but lacking an actual path of character growth.

The Sontarans do have a marauding presence here, but never directly interact with the heroic TARDIS travellers. Eventually the Doctor attempts to use their genocidal practice as a means of eradicating Then and the Now being, but has little luck in that tactic. I do generally enjoy the Sontarans as adversaries, and hopefully they are used in a more traditional way in the future. The Sontaran Stratagem certainly did well in that regard, and especially as far as TV stories featuring the 'potato-heads' go. Hopefully that model is followed some time soon in one of the comics. 

This early 2016 entry into the adventures of the Eleventh Doctor is certainly not anywhere close to being perfect, and does somewhat lack the normal intangibles that the franchise thrives on. Yet it still offers plenty of memorable visuals and visceral thrills. Hopefully next time, there can be a little more even-handedness with the scripting and the art finishing.

 

BONUS HUMOUR STRIP - Time Spill On Aisle Five

A pretty solid effort, if not Marc Ellerby's best script. It again shows commendable planning in having thematic links to the main story. Given my mild reservations over the artwork of Pleece above, for once the bonus story actually outshines the main attraction. This is surprising given the focus on light entertainment, but it does (albeit in its short length) offer cohesive quality visuals.