Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 7

Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 7
"Arena of Fear" - Part 2 (of 2)
Written by: Nick Abadzis
Art by: Elena Casagrande
Colours by: Rodrigo Fernandes

Trapped in an alien world with an eclectic mix of Neanderthals, modern-day humans and alien bounty hunters for company, Nick Abadzis brings the Tenth Doctor’s adventures in the Arena of Fear to an epic conclusion with this issue. Over the past four installments, Abadzis has built up a strong storyline, filled with a rich supporting cast that each plays a part in this grand finale. Most of the tension comes from the confrontation between a mind-controlled Gabby and her former friends with Abadzis revisiting plot points from previous storylines and having her manifest deadly psychic butterflies – a talent briefly glimpsed at the end of the series’ second storyline, “The Arts in Space”. It’s nice to see these nods to past stories, suggesting that Gabby has some latent psychic abilities that are being nurtured by the adventures that the Doctor has taken her on. It’s also good to see her best friend Cindy Wu get more ‘screen-time’ as she replaces Gabby for the second half of this adventure and acts as the Doctor’s companion and confidante, earning her the right to travel in the TARDIS at the story’s end.

I’ve really enjoyed the “Arena of Fear” storyline with its The Hunger Games overtones, but it would have been nice to see the adventure developed over a few more issues with more focus on the individual ‘battles’ between the mind-wiped friends. Despite this, I have really enjoyed how the various plot threads of the past few issues have come together to form a strong narrative that transcends time and space. While it was nice to see Captain Jack Harkness make his Titan Comics debut, it did feel like he was side-lined with the mind-wipe plot device and the frantic action of this concluding episode. I like the idea of him working with Cleo and Erik to potentially form a new version of Torchwood and hopefully this plot thread will be investigated in future episodes, or potentially a spin-off comic series?

I absolutely love the cover from guest artist, Todd Nauck, with its bright colours and distinctive takes on the Doctor and Gabriella. I’d love to see him draw interiors for a story-arc in the future, as his artwork really captures the sense of fun and adventure that comes with the Doctor Who franchise. Inside the issue, Elena Casagrande continues to deliver top-class artwork that reflects the added darkness in the storyline, especially the sequences featuring ‘Dark Gabby’ and Mister Ebonite. I was wowed by the attention to detail seen in the panels featuring Gabby’s horde of psychic butterflies as they overwhelmed our heroes. There’s a wonderful momentum to Casagrande’s panels in the climactic fight scene against a giant-sized Mister Ebonite, as she captures the epic scale of the battle onto the page.

I’ve really enjoyed watching this story evolve over the past five episodes, moving from a simple excursion into pre-historic times into a battle for survival in the Arena of Fear. There are plenty of subtle homages to classic Doctor Who stories such as “An Unearthly Child”, “The War Games” and “Carnival of Monsters”, resulting in an old-school “mash-up” of Doctor Who stories with a modern twist. Abadzis and his rotating team of artists have done a fantastic job at maintaining consistency across the three different ‘acts’ of this adventure, with Leonardo Romero, Eleonora Carlini and Elena Casagrande maintaining a very similar art style across each issue. Overall, this was a fitting conclusion to a wonderfully epic story-arc and I certainly look forward to seeing what Nick Abadzis has in store for the Doctor, Gabby and Cindy in the next adventure.

Score - 9.3 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor (Vol. 2) # 7 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the Comixology website. Be sure to put in a standing order for the upcoming issues in the series when you pick up your copy!

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