GRAPHIC NOVEL and TRADE PAPERBACK (TPB) REVIEWS

by The Masked Bookwyrm

Doctor Who reviews


Doctor Who: Agent Provocateur 2008 (DC TPB) 144 pages

coverWritten by Gary Russell. Art by Stefano Martino, Mirco Pierfederici, Nick Roche, Jose Maria Beroy.
Colours: Charlie Kirkoff, Tom Smith. Letters: various. Editors: various.

Reprinting: Doctor Who #1-6 (IDW series) - with covers

Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

Published by IDW Comics

Doctor Who is the longest running science fiction TV series in TV history. It premiered in Britain in 1963 and was cancelled in 1987. And then, after persevering in other mediums (novels and audio plays, and one TV movie) returned in 2005 for a successful TV series revival. And during much of that run, including the long hiatus, the various incarnations of the character have also appeared in British comics in Doctor Who Weekly magazine.

So part of the gimmick for this comic book mini-series featuring the current Doctor, played on TV by David Tennant, is that it was the first Doctor Who comic made by an American publisher (other Doctor Who comics were simply reprints of the British comics). Not that it has severed all ties with Merry ol' England, as it is written by Gary Russell who has been involved with Doctor Who novels, audio plays and the TV version (reflecting a trend in modern TV-based comics of trying to suggest a greater fidelity to the source material by recruiting writers actually associated with the source programs).

The premise has the Doctor and then-current companion, Martha Jones, just tooling about the galaxy in the Doctor's time/space ship, unaware they are being ensnared in a scheme set afoot by a self-called pantheon of higher beings -- a scheme that somehow relates to a rash of planetary populations vanishing.

The story unfolds rather episodically at first, so that instead of simply being one, six issue story, the first few issues each tell a story -- though, with the exception of the first issue, the stories tie into the bigger arc.

And at first it works pretty well. I'll admit, I have some mixed feelings about the modern TV series in general -- for all that the old series was notorious for its cardboard sets and problematic f/x, and for all the modern series has a bigger budget and more consistently strong performances, the modern series can strike me as just a little...cartoonier than the old. Tennant's Doctor is wild n' wacky and the pacing more frenetic than fast paced. Still, I can reasonably enjoy the new TV series, and Russell maybe reflects that hyperactive frivolousness a little too well (the mini-series beginning with the Doctor and Martha racing around the cosmos in pursuit of...the universe's best chocolate milk shake!) it nonetheless makes for an agreeably breezy page turner. And by threading the greater arc at first through the background, it allows the looming menace to be more intriguing as we wonder where it's headed.

Russell has a decent feel for the two leads, even if he maybe tweaks them even more in a wide-eyed-everything-is-a-grand-adventure mode than perhaps even the TV series did. Though the nature of the humour of Tennant's Doctor is his delivery of rapid fire monologues, punctuated by quirky digressions, which, attempted in a comic book form, can just make for rather verbose panels.

Still, the first few issues work as just fast paced little romps of intrigue and adventure, taking the duo from an alien space station to 1970s earth and onto strange worlds.

Unfortunately, as the overall arc moves to the fore, I'll admit I found myself not always sure if I knew what was going on, or why. One of the pantheon seems to be pursuing his/her own agenda in a couple of issues, which the Doctor discovers...yet then it doesn't really seem to get mentioned later. The expository dialogue gets increasingly long winded, obfuscating rather than clarifying. Even why the planetary populations are kidnapped seems a bit vague as the explanation seems to contradict itself (I may be wrong, or it may've even have been a typo). For that matter, why one person is left behind on each world...isn't explained.

Or maybe if I read back over it, I would find I just missed the explanation. But that becomes another problem as, though I did flip back through the book, it was somewhat dissolutely. Reading the first few issues, I didn't necessarily grasp what was going on but, A, I figure it would become clearer as it went along and, B, I didn't care as I was content to just enjoy the light surface adventures. But toward the end I began to care about the fact that...I didn't care. I mean, surely the story's job is to make me care?

And, of course, a problem with Doctor Who in all its years (and all its multi-media versions) is that logic can be a bit, well, tenuous, as the stories build to grand apocalyptic climaxes with lots of running and shouting and explosions but where you aren't really sure it makes any kind of sense. If Star Trek could sometimes seem as though it was written by people who flunked grade 10 science...Doctor Who often seemed like it was written by people who never even took the course to begin with!

Even the notion that the Doctor's trusty sonic screwdriver ends up being crucial in the climax, as if it's the most powerful device in the cosmos, seems a stretch for a device that, in the original TV series was just a trusty tool to unlock doors and the like. But in a way, that reflects the modern TV series, in which everything is cranked up to the nth degree, and the Doctor isn't just a meddlesome Time Lord, but a veritable super being! A -- well -- a cartoon.

Another problem with the comics, I'll admit, is the art. Like with IDW's other Doctor Who mini-series, The Forgotten, a bunch of artists were brought in, making for an inconsistent visual look from issue to issue, though most affect a similar, angular, cartoony look -- which, I suppose, suits the lighter and sillier aspects of the story, but aesthetically isn't that appealling (particularly in a comic meant to evoke real actors). But even on that level, the individual artists can vary a lot, delivering some decent panels and composition...and others that look hasty or crudely drawn, some panels looking coarse and grainy as though maybe blown up from a smaller image. Ironically, for all that this is the first American-produced Doctor Who comic, it can look a bit substandard at times. This is even more ironic given the British Doctor Who strips counted artists like Dave Gibbons and John Ridgeway among their contributors (admittedly, I'm sure there were plenty of lesser talents as well).

And maybe six issues was just more than the story really warranted. Because though I started out reasonably enjoying this taken on its own frothy, fast-paced way, toward the end I found my interest starting to wane.

Cover price: $__ CDN./ $19.99 USA.


Doctor Who Classics, vol. 2 2008 (SC TPB) 138 pages

coverWritten by Steve Moore, with Pat Mills & John Wagner. Illustrated by Dave Gibbons.
Colours: Charlie Kirchoff. Letters: unbilled. Editor: Dez Skinn.

Reprinting: Doctor Who Classic #6-10 (2008) - which reprinted the serialized Doctor Who strips from Doctor Who Weekly circa 1979

Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

Reviewed July 22, 2009

Published by IDW Comics

With the revived Dr. Who TV series, American comic book publisher IDW has released a few original projects focusing on the current interpretation of the character, played by David Tennant (different actors having played the role over the years). In addition, they've released some "classic" series, reprinting Dr. Who comic strips that were serialized in British publications years ago. If these stories seem familiar, it's because Marvel Comics reprinted these very same stories in their 1980s Dr. Who comic -- though in some press releases IDW claimed these are being presented in North America for the "first time" (the original British versions were black & white, the Marvel ones coloured according to the style of the day, and IDW's are re-coloured using modern multi-tone colouring).

Since I'm assuming the Dr. Who strips started long before these, why IDW should start the same place Marvel did is a question. Perhaps it's because the Doctor featured here -- the Tom Baker version -- remains one of the most popular TV versions of the character. Perhaps it's because the artist was Dave Gibbons, shortly to achieve fame in American comics with work on, among others, The Watchmen.

This second TPB volume collects five storylines (the Dr. Who strip was serialized originally in England in short, often 3 to 8 page chapters), including "The Dogs of Doom", "The Time Witch", "Dragon's Claw", "The Collector" and "Dreamers of Death", with Pat Mills & John Wagner providing the script for the first story arc (as they had for all the stories collected in volume 1) and Steve Moore writing the rest, mixing some original foes with old stand-bys like the Daleks and the Sontarans.

(Just as an aside, the multi-chapter stories overlapped from issue to issue, but though Doctor Who Classic, vol. 1 is listed as reprinting issues #1-5 of the IDW series, it also includes the first few pages from #6 which concluded a storyline -- just so's ya know in case you were thinking of picking up volume one but were worried it might end "to be continued").

And the result...is mixed. Comics based on TV shows are always tricky, trying to capture the essence while translating it to the needs of the comics medium. Tom Baker's eccentric and mercurial performance inparticular is difficult to capture. And it could be argued the writers, at best, present a diluted version. Given that people's favourite Doctor is usually the actor they saw in their youth, one wonders if the writers modelled their characterization more on one of Baker's predecessor, Patrick Troughton -- with the Doctor saying things like "Dear me" and "Good Grief". Mills & Wagner attack their material with a greater sense of tongue-in-cheek than perhaps Moore does, who manages a little more sense of seriousness among the light-hearted (his story set at an ancient Chinese monastery is particularly strong).

Having to write to short chapters restricts what the writers can do in terms of character development. And humour. After all, part of the humour of Baker was how he would go off on tangents, or argue with K9 -- scenes that have to be left out (or truncated) when you only have a few pages to progress the story. In one scene, when the Doctor is told someone's name, he exclaims (!) as if in recognition...then says "never heard of her." You can easily picture Baker playing that joke...but it falls a bit flat in a single panel. For all that there is a sense of whimsy throughout -- I can't really think of too many scenes that actually made me chuckle.

And plot wise, there's less emphasis on machinations and characters plotting and more on just keeping things fast with running about (kind of like the modern TV series!). Still, it does make for some enjoyable, movie serial like adventures. And let's be honest...one assumes the writers were essentially aiming for a younger audience anyway.

I'm not a huge Gibbons fan, finding his figures can often seem a bit dumpy and stiff -- but there's no doubt he has a nicely realist style, and is well equipped to draw the space ships and corridors -- or ancient villages -- required by the plots. Considered against the cardboard sets of the TV episodes airing at the time, this does look like Doctor Who with an impressively big budget! But though he can evoke the basic look of Tom Baker, like with the scripts, he doesn't fully evoke the essence of Baker, who by virtue of his height and deep voice could be serious and intimidating in a scene as often as he was whimsical.

On TV, the Doctor was paired with an ever changing array of Companions. In the earlier Baker comics, he was on his own (either because the creators didn't have the rights to use likenesses of the other actors, or because the comics may have been written between Companions), but they soon solved that by creating an original companion -- Sharon (and also by throwing in the series' ubiquitous robot dog, K9). Unfortunately, Sharon isn't more than a place holder, with little sense the writers put much effort into creating a personality when contrasted with vivid Baker-era sidekicks like Leela or Romana. In fact she starts out a teenager...ages four years due to a quirk of time travel...but with little sense it affects her character or how Gibbons draws her! However, what is interesting is that Sharon is black, which maybe says something interesting about the difference between comics and TV. Because the TV series didn't offer a black Companion...for another few decades!

I can't really say reading this uncannily makes you feel like you're watching a lost batch of episodes. But it does capture enough of the essence to be familiar, with attractively rendered environments, and a rapid fire pacing that keeps you turning the pages.

A decent enough read.

This is a review of the story as it appeared in the Doctor Who Classic monthly comics.

Cover price: $__ CDN./ $19.99 USA.


Doctor Who: The Forgotten 2009 (SC TPB) 132 pages

coverWritten by Tony Lee. Illustrated by Pia Guerra, Stefano Martino, Kelly Yates. Inks by various.
Colours: Charlie Kirchoff, Kris Carter, Liam Shalloo. Letters: Neil Uyetake, Richard Starkings. Editor: Chris Ryall, Tom Waltz, Denton J. Tipton.

Reprinting: Doctor Who: The Forgotten #1-6 (2008-2009)

Rating: * * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 2

First reviewed November 17, 2009

Published by IDW Comics

Based on the long running British sci-fi TV series -- no, really loooonnnng running -- The Forgotten is a curious thing to review. 'Cause, in many ways, it's not very good. But, in many ways, it's not intended to be. And in many ways, you aren't really supposed to care.

The premise behind Dr. Who -- for those as don't know -- is that the titular hero (who's called simply The Doctor...the "who" part is just in the title) is an alien who travels through time and space, lives centuries, and has had an assortment of sidekicks (called Companions) over the years. And when his body suffers a near fatal trauma, he regenerates into a new form, usually with some new personality quirks, allowing various actors to assume the role over the years. So the gimmick behind the Forgotten is to tell a story that involves flashbacks to all his incarnations, some of whom have had little, if any, comic book adventures before, at least in comics readily available in North America.

So the story begins with the then-current version of the Doctor (played on TV by David Tennant) waking up in a mysterious museum, with one of his latest Companions, Martha Jones, at his side. The problem is, the Doctor has no idea where they are...nor even much memory of his own past. But the museum seems stocked with artifacts relevant to him personally, and as he handles various objects, he has flashbacks to adventures involving his earlier incarnations. The flashbacks not only filling in his memory, but supposedly providing clues to his current dilemma.

And that's why I say, in a way, the story isn't supposed to be good. Because it's less intended as a "great" story, and more as just a fanboy indulgence, involving appearances by all the Doctors and many of his Companions (there's even a sequence where a character shape shifts into even more of his former Companions). And the evocation of some of the past incarnations sometimes shows a nice sense of those versions (the two earliest flashbacks are in black & white, as the series was back then, and the first Doctor's tale is a purely historical episode -- as the TV series progressed, even "historical" adventures tended to be jazzed up with sci-fi elements). But perhaps reflecting writer Tony Lee's biases and preferences, other of the vignettes seem less specific to the incarnation (the 3rd Doctor being chased by a giant robot is perhaps not wholly evocative of that era when the series had an almost proto-X-Files flavour). Though in a brief scene where all the Doctors interact, Lee manages to cleverly nail many of the individual personalities with just a line or two.

But with some flashbacks as long as seven pages, they still too often fail to rise above being a vignette, though the stories improve as the comic progresses, showing a little more variety in the tales: the Sixth Doctor involved in a trial/murder mystery (itself an "homage" as the Sixth Doctor was involved in an epic TV arc where he was on trial), the Ninth Doctor in a little human interest tale.

And though the point is clearly to be a fanboy indulgence, as things progress, that maybe starts to interfere with story. I've seen episodes of pretty much all incarnations, I've read some novels, I've got a large collection of Doctor Who audio dramas (full cast radio plays featuring the original actors). But as the story moved closer and closer to the climax, I just found it harder and harder to follow what was going on, as instead of requiring simply recognizing the various Doctors and their Companions, the plot hinged on references to specific incidents -- ones I either didn't remember too well, or perhaps I hadn't seen. It goes from being aimed at fans...to be being aimed at hardcore fans. To be honest, the final issue -- once we're done with the more-or-less self-contained flashbacks and focus entirely on the "modern" plot -- I just kind of breezed through, having no idea what was going on, or who, or why!

Drawn initially by Pia Guerra, but with other artists coming in later, the art is a mixed bag. The various artists affect similar styles, the work a little cartoony and stiff. Guerra does a decent job evoking David Tennant but seems less enthused about the other incarnations she's called upon to draw -- oh, you can certainly tell who they're meant to be. The same holds true of the Companions -- Martha (Freema Ageyman -- be still, my heart) doesn't look unlike Ageyman, perhaps, but doesn't really look like her, either. The other artists have strengths and weaknesses, but are basically playing in the same sandbox, and with Guerra still staying slightly ahead of them.

It's long been a complaint of mine that media tie-in comics are often unsatisfyingly illustrated. I don't know whether it's because top-of-the-line artists aren't interested in doing them, or whether the nature of the material is rather challenging (with more emphasis on talking head scenes than a super hero comic, it's hard for an artist to make the scenes dynamic). And, of course, it's awfully hard to capture an actor's likeness...without seeming like it's just a cut-and-paste photoreferenced image.

I'd wonder if the poor likenesses might have something to do with licensing issues, and not having the rights to use proper likeneses -- except the characters do evoke the actors a bit. But even rudimentary aspects, like height, or jaw lines, aren't always adhered too.

For a comic where the story is a bit thin and gimmicky, the simple, cartoony art doesn't do much to shore up the weak spots. (If Guerra's having to bail out was due to overwork, they might've been better to have assigned different artists to the different flashbacks, allowing the change in visuals to seem dictated by the story format).

The Forgotten is, to be fair, a kind of irresistible concept for a Doctor Who fan, and maybe there wasn't much more that could be done with it, given how many flashbacks are involved. But it's the sort of thing that probably would've worked better as a shorter graphic novel, rather than stretched over six months and 132 pages.

This is a review of the story as it appeared in the comics.

Cover price: $__ CDN./ $19.99 USA.



Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time 2013 (SC & HC TPB) __ pages

Written by Scott & David Tipton. Illustrated by various. Colours/letters: various
Colours/letters: various.

Reprinting: Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time #1-12 (2013) -- collected across three volumes

Rating: * * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

First reviewed April 2017

Published by IDW Comics

The soft cover TPB edition is actually three volumes reprinting four issues per volume.

The TV series Doctor Who has become famous for the fact that its lead character has been played by multiple actors over the years -- blatantly incorporating that into the mythos, with each incarnation applying its own unique spin on the character (even as he is, in other ways, the same from version to version). So there is no one, true, definitive version of The Doctor. So some epic Dr. Who stories draw upon that idea with multi-Doctor adventures. On TV there have been Dr Who stories like The Five Doctors, in audiobooks there has been The Destiny of the Doctor series, and full cast audio dramas like The Light at the End.

In comics, previously there was The Forgotten -- an attempt to tell a Doctor Who epic involving the then-current 10th Doctor (played on TV by David Tennant) yet involving flashbacks to mini-adventures involving all his previous versions. It was okay as a fan-boy indulgence but by nature of its limited size (six issues) the flashback stories were necessarily brief, making it more entertaining for its idea than its realization.

But that was, perhaps, just a test drive of a multi-doctor saga. Because subsequently came this -- Prisoners of Time. Now 12 issues, allowing each Doctor to be featured in an entire solo adventure, before wrapping up in the 12th issue (this was produced just before Peter Capaldi's assumption of the 12th Doctor role, so it only showcases 1 through to 11). In a format not dissimilar to the audiobook series, Destiny of the Doctor, the individual stories are mostly self-contained, but hinting at a later connection, becoming more intertwined in the final stories. The premise is that a mysterious foe is kidnapping The Doctor's various sidekicks and Companions from the different eras (usually at the end of an otherwise unrelated adventure), challenging the Doctor to rescue them.

Unfortunately the end result is not dissimilar from the earlier The Forgotten --a cute idea, fun to see all the Doctors on display, but vaguely unsatisfying.

One problem may partly be generational -- fans who mostly know the series from its current incarnation and fans who remember it in its original, epic run. Because even a full 22 page comic book story is still pretty minor when you realize the old series regularly presented the Doctor's adventures in epic two, or even three, hour sagas serialised over multiple weeks. What distinguished Doctor Who from, say, Star Trek, or Blake's 7, or Battlestar Galactica, was as much the way the stories could be developed and unfolded as much as the actual plots. So Prisoners of Time can still feel a bit like Doctor Who vignettes as much as actual adventures. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the later issues focusing on the 9th, 10th, and 11th Doctor's (when the TV series was focused on mostly single episode adventures) maybe feel a bit more like their TV counterparts -- though still minor plots, rushed through.

Co-scripters Scott & David Tipton certainly know their Doctor Who lore well enough, sometimes working in obscure in-jokes (the second Doctor briefly window shopping at a hat store -- since an initial running gag on TV was his affection for hat wear). Even as in other ways, there is a certain genericness to the writing, not necessarily capturing the distinctions between the personalities, nor necessarily recreating signature styles or themes that might be associated with the different eras. There's no particular shift in tone or flavour from issue to issue -- ie: this issue is funny, this issue is creepy, this issue is action -- when surely part of the series' longevity is its stylistic flexibility. There are even some questionable philosophical approaches. In one story, The Doctor and his Companions are caught between two warring sides -- and the normally humanitarian Doctor assures them he has no interest in stopping their war!

And like with The Forgotten, Prisoners of Time goes from simply being fun for fans to aimed at hardcore fanboys -- in much the way mainstream comics overall can be insular (and the modern TV Dr Who where it's often hard to just drop in on a random episode). The villain is revealed (part way through) to be a specific character from a specific episode of the new series (though just to please all fans, he teams up with a villain from the old series, too). To me that diminishes the story and robs some of its effect as a stand alone read, being essentially a "sequel" to a TV episode. Hardcore fans will appreciate the resonance, but casual fans might go "huh -- who's that?"

That might also explain why, as the story built to its climax, instead of getting more excited -- my interest waned. As we moved to the final showdown in the last two issues, there wasn't really anything we were waiting for, any mysteries that needed to be solved, and the villain's stated motive -- in true comic book fashion -- was simply to get revenge on the Doctor.

For such a "big" story -- it was kind of small.

Admittedly -- that's an inevitable flaw with the exercise. The overall arc can't really be a complex scheme since it's mostly just a minor sub-plot through most of the issues, and the series overall is simply there to work in the Doctors and many of their Companions.

The art throughout is mostly pretty good, most of the artists managing to capture the essence of the actors -- without perhaps evoking a photo-realism too often. Probably my least favourite was Roger Langridge on the 8th doctor story -- ... having a particularly cartoony style that kind of put me in mind of Harold Gray (Little Orphan Annie creator) drawing a Doctor Who story. It isn't that the art was bad -- just not my preferred style. Most of the artists are newer talents, but a few might appeal to older Doctor Who-in-comics fans -- like John Ridgeway and Mike Collins -- who had drawn Doctor Who comics years ago. The art styles are, mostly, of a realist variety, which I tend to prefer, especially in a media tie-in comic, and which contrasts with some of IDW's other Doctor Who comics. But I won't say many issues were exactly dynamically illustrated. But whether that's a problem with the artists, the scripts, or simply the chronic problem of trying to translate TV/movie properties into still panels, I'm not sure.

Since each Doctor went through a number of Companions, inevitably everyone will feel certain popular characters were missed (so the 4th Doctor story involves Leela and K-9 but neither Romana). Toward the end, ALL the Companions crop up, albeit many without dialogue, though here the ability of the artist to evoke actors becomes more challenging, with some characters I could identify -- and others I couldn't.

In the last few issues, the Tiptons slip into full on fan-boy mode in a way that I, as a fan, find distracting -- reams of dialogue both analysing/criticizing The Doctor's use of sidekicks to, then, praising his innate greatness and heroism. Granted, it's perfectly in keeping with the modern series as established by Russell Davies and Steven Moffatt where the whole franchise can threaten to collapse into a massive Mary Jane fan fiction scenario. Personally, I prefer any analyse of motives and commentary on heroism to arise from the scenes and the characters' natural emotions, not to simply be lathered on in talking head scenes.

Perhaps the next time someone contemplates some multi-Doctor extravaganza maybe it would be interesting to attempt a truly epic, Byzantine plot that involves the various characters (maybe intercutting the stories through the various issues, rather than devoting each issue to one Doctor/one story) so that it can feel like an unfolding epic -- not just a collection of minor stories connected by a basic plot thread.

In the end, Prisoners of Time is what it is -- much the same way The Forgotten was. The fact that it's longer allows the individual tales to be a little more developed, and the indvidual Doctors to be featured more, even as that very length means it can start to sag a bit as it goes along. And, to be honest, no one issue/adventure has stuck in my memory. It's a decent realization of the concept even as it could perhaps have done a better job of presenting stories of more varied tones and plots, and at evoking the personalities.

This is a review of the story as it appeared in the comics.

Cover price: $__ USA.



Doctor Who: Through Time and Space 2009 (SC TPB) 152 pages

coverWritten and illustrated by various

Reprinting: Doctor Who one-shots: Autopoia, The Whispering Gallery, Cold-Blooded War, The Time Machination, Room With a Deja Vu, Black Death White Life)

Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

First reviewed April 2017

Published by IDW Comics

This collects six stand alone one-shots published by IDW based on the long running BBC SF TV series -- focusing on the 10th incarnation of the titular hero, played on TV by David Tennant. Two stories feature Martha (Freema Ageyman), two Donna (Catherine Tate) and two feature the Doctor on his own. And if that alone doesn't promise some variety and variance, they are mostly written and drawn by different folk. The result makes for a decent compilation. Not even because any one story is necessarily better than stories in other Doctor Who TPBs I've read, but that variety means you get, well, variety.

So the art varies from fairly cartoony to, well, slightly less cartoony, to Ben Templesmith's almost painted style of putting largely realist faces atop, um, well, cartoony bodies. Okay -- so maybe there isn't a huge range in art styles, nor -- for my tastes -- does any issue stand out as especially strikingly illustrated. But there is a range, so that if you don't like one artist, a different approach awaits just a few page turns away.

Likewise the stories range from fairly light romps, to more serious, from alien worlds to Victorian London. Some are just for fun, some try to tackle philosophical themes, others social issues. In Cold-Blooded War (Richard Starkings & Gary Russell and Adrian Salmon) the story tackles sexism and patriarchy head-on (and perhaps as a deliberate jab at Islamic Fundamentalism) -- although there is a certain irony in that none of the key figures working on the issue are women (comics being an industry still suffering from a significant gender imbalance)! While the writers seem well familiar with the TV series, capturing the Doctor's "voice" well enough, and sometimes working in nods to past stories. The aforementioned Cold-Blooded War is clearly meant as a knowing nod at the classic Peladon stories (which include at least two TV serials and a couple of audio dramas).

I'll admit I've had some quibbles about the modern TV series, feeling that part of what gave Dr Who its flavour was the lengthy, serialized plots, which allowed stories to unfold, and guest star characters to be developed. The modern series with its single episode/hour long stories can feel a bit like synopsis of Dr Who adventures. And that's certainly the case here, squeezing plots into 22 pages or so -- but, as I say, it means the stories don't feel too far removed from the TV version (unlike when comics try to evoke the older Dr Who series in a similar truncated format). Some stories, like the decidedly brain-twisting Room with a Deja Vu (Rich Johnston and Eric J.), deliberately have the feel of a quirky short story more than a full length adventure.

Among the most memorable, arguably, are The Time Machination (by Tony Lee and Paul Grist) with its story of The Doctor in Victorian London, encountering H.G. Wells, and having to avoid being captured by an early incarnation of The Torchwood Institute, and The Whispering Gallery (by Leah Moore & John Reppion and Ben Templesmith), in which Templesmith's art does lend it some notable mood, and the story itself does successfully generate a sense of emotional consequence for The Doctor and Martha.

I won't necessarily say there's anything here that's an instant classic, but as a grab bag of Doctor Who stories, with stronger and weaker tales, it satisfies. And it's probably one of the better of the Doctor Who TPBs I've read and reviewed (to date).

Cover price: __.


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