Showing posts with label Jack Harkness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jack Harkness. Show all posts

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Review - Torchwood # 4

Torchwood # 4
"World Without End" - Part 4 (of 4)
Written by: John Barrowman & Carole Barrowman
Art by: Antonio Fuso & Pasquale Qualano
Colours by: Marco Lusko

With the final issue of its first volume, the Torchwood comic finally aligns its seemingly disparate plot threads into something of a linear fashion. As a result, the narrative feels a lot smoother and concentrated on a singular storyline as opposed to the scattered approach seen in previous issues. In fact, re-reading the four issues of this volume in one go heavily reduces the staccato feel to the plot, and almost makes the awkward pacing bearable – clearly John and Carole Barrowman are writing for the trade paperback, which makes the individual issues frustrating at times. Despite its confusing narrative style, there is a really interesting story at the heart of this comic which makes it worthwhile preserving with the pacing. While some aspects of the plot are made clearer in this final installment of the volume – there are plenty of mysteries that are carried over such as what is going on with Rona the stowaway. While this issue shows definite improvements, it still doesn't feel like the Torchwood that fans may remember. That said, I am happy to see the Torchwood narrative move forward as many spin-off stories seem to revolve around the original team line-up from Seasons One and Two. There just needs to be more work on developing the new supporting cast-members into likeable characters.

The art continues to be handled by Antonio Fuso and Pasquale Qualano, who manage to maintain a level of consistency between their differing art styles. At times it is noticeable when the two artists pass the baton to each other, but it isn't too disorientating – although, I do wonder why the series requires two artists on each issue. Fuso and Qualano do a great job at communicating that 'black-ops' tone that Torchwood fans will remember from the series, with an added nautical element that the Ice Maiden provides. There is definitely a darker feel to the art on this series compared to the various Doctor Who comic series, mirroring the more mature tone that Torchwood had in its televised form. I must admit that I'm not overly keen on restarting the series after four issues to signify a new story-arc, especially since the next story-arc seems to be a direct continuation to this one. With the Doctor Who comic series it makes sense as each 'year' is treated like a season of the television show, but here it doesn't make sense. Given the improvements to this series since its first issue, I am hopeful that when Torchwood returns with its “Station Zero” storyline that it will be adopting a more streamlined narrative that befits the monthly comic-book format. Despite all the problems, I am enjoying this series and am curious to find out more about the mysteries teased.

Score - 8.0 out of 10

Torchwood # 4 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!

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Review - Torchwood # 3

Torchwood # 3
"World Without End" - Part 3 (of 4)
Written by: John Barrowman & Carole Barrowman
Art by: Antonio Fuso & Pasquale Qualano
Colours by: Marco Lusko

This penultimate issue of Torchwood’s first volume suffers from many of the same problems that has plagued this series from the beginning – namely, the pacing. Having read most of Carole and John Barrowman’s book, “Exodus Code” – which this comic follows on from – I can see a lot of their novel writing style here in their comic book scripts, and unfortunately the two techniques don’t flow together well. In novel format, the constant scene changes adds an intriguing sense of pace with chapters dedicated to specific plot threads that come together to form a larger narrative – however, in a monthly comic book, it comes across as a muddied story with too much going on at once. I have to applaud the Barrowmans for creating multiple, engaging mysteries but it can be frustrating when the various storylines cannibalise each other for dominance in the issue. The main focal point of the issue should be on Captain Jack Harkness and the crew of the Ice Maiden, but they seem relegated to the back-burner in this issue for a focus on the events unfolding in Torchwood House and with Captain James. Rather annoyingly, both of those alternate story-arcs end with mysterious figures that aren’t revealed to the reader – it’s this staccato approach to the storytelling which weakens what could have been a thrilling adventure.

The art from Antonio Fuso and Pasquale Qualano remains top-notch and despite the differences in style between the two artists, they are relatively compatible as they work together to produce the issue. Both artists make use thick dark lines, which helps emphasise the grittier tone of Torchwood compared to the more fairy-tale nature of Doctor Who. Fuso and Qualano manage to capture that “black ops” feel to the series, especially in the scenes set aboard the Ice Maiden – you can almost imagine the salty sea air and the rusting metal of the cabins when reading the page. The likenesses, whilst not photo-realistic, manage to evoke memories of Eve Myles and John Barrowman’s performances and unsurprisingly, Barrowman knows how to write Jack Harkness to a tee, having lived inside the characters head for over a decade through the various television and audio adventures. While this series does have its flaws, the compelling mysteries at the heart of the story ensure that it is worth persevering with the clunky narrative – after three issues, the story is becoming clearer and easier to follow as the three distinct storylines begin to coalesce. With one episode left, it seems highly likely that this will end up being a prelude to the next volume of adventures, and I think when it is all collected in graphic novel format, it’ll be a lot more coherent and enjoyable for Torchwood fans to get to grips with.

Score - 7.8 out of 10

Torchwood # 3 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!

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Review - Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 5 (of 5)

Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 5 (of 5)
"Supremacy of the Cybermen" - Part 5 (of 5)
Written by: George Mann & Cavan Scott
Art by: Ivan Rodriguez
Colours by: Nicola Righi

Even though it was obvious that this series would need to hit the reset button to restore events to normal, Cavan Scott and George Mann manage to make this final chapter engaging and utterly thrilling throughout. Focused firmly on the Twelfth Doctor and Rassilon, this issue sees these two characters working together to use the Cybermen’s Cyberiad against them and restore the original timeline, thus undoing the death and destruction caused by the Cybermen. The grandiose nature of this reset button feels very Russell T. Davies in nature, mirroring similar unlikely deus-ex-machinas seen in previous season finales “Last of the Time Lords” and “Journey’s End”. Sure, it gets a bit timey-wimey and convenient, but the sheer emotional impact of the moment ensures that the somewhat shaky logic of the reboot is overlooked. The epilogue, which shows the Twelfth Doctor maintaining memories of the death and destruction, is rather poignant and reminds me of “Heaven Sent” and the internal and private torment that the Doctor carries about inside of him. Even though the events of this miniseries are undone by the end, it leaves an indelible mark on Gallifrey’s rebel time-lord.

With the heavy focus on the Twelfth Doctor story segments, Ivan Rodriguez handles the reins for this final issue and his art style is perfect for the dark and bleak future that the Cybermen have created. He puts in an incredible amount of detail and emotion into the panels where the Doctor is becoming incorporated into the Cyberiad, particularly the Tenth Doctor’s conversion into the Cyber-king, which is quite chilling to see. It’s quite unnerving to see the Doctor broken and beaten across these various timelines, so once the reset occurs, it is a relief to see the Cybermen’s work being undone across a series of panels spanning multiple timelines. Overall, this has been a great little miniseries which took the concept of a multi-Doctor storyline but added the unique twist of keeping each incarnation of the Doctor separate and encountering the same threat. While some readers might be angry that the story hinged on a ‘cosmic reset’, it should be noted that many televised Doctor Who stories do the same, so it’s not unfamiliar territory for the franchise.

Scott and Mann definitely should be applauded for creating a brilliant adventure that ties deeply into the events of “Hell Bent” and providing a worthy ‘sequel’ to that chapter. I’m sure it was tremendous fun for the writers to unleash the Cybermen against all the different eras of the Doctor, and part of me was disappointed that we didn’t see more from the first eight Doctors in this storyline, although given the limited space available, it makes total sense why the comic was restricted to the most recent four. With the bar set so high for its Doctor Who event series, Titan Comics will have a hard time beating “Four Doctors” and “Supremacy of the Cybermen” next year!

Score - 9.5 out of 10

Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 5 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 mini-series when you pick up your copy!

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Review - Torchwood # 2

Torchwood # 2
"World Without End" - Part 2 (of 4)
Written by: John Barrowman & Carole Barrowman
Art by: Antonio Fuso & Pasquale Qualano
Colours by: Marco Lusko

In an attempt to better understand the story being told in this comic, I purchased “Exodus Code” - the novel from Carole and John Barrowman which introduces the Ice Maiden and its crew into the Torchwood universe. I'm only three-quarters of the way through the book, but it has definitely made it easier to follow the plot and connect with these new characters – although it shouldn't have been necessary. Possibly as a reaction to the criticism of the first issue, Titan Comics provides a lengthy recap page at the front of this issue, complete with plenty of character biographies to help acquaint readers with this new cast of characters. While the opening issue of this series felt overwhelmed with constant scene changes and multiple narratives, this second issue slows the pace down considerably and focuses on the core Torchwood group on the Ice Maiden and the murder mystery occurring at Torchwood House, with the possibility of the pair connecting together in the next issue. Things even slow down long enough for the team to enjoy a cup of tea!

Antonio Fuso and Pasquale Qualano continue to capture the dark, brooding nature of Torchwood with their artwork, although sometimes the action set-pieces feel a bit stilted and hard to follow. During the quieter scenes, the artists do much better and as mentioned before, the thicker lines on their art style reminds me of 2000AD artist, Dom Reardon and his wonderful work on Caballistics Inc. Definitely worth a read if you're a fan of Torchwood! This issue also introduces Vlad - a character I've been reading about in “Exodus Code” - and it's interesting to see the artists model him on Sean Bean, giving him a gruff and dangerous personality. It's quite a departure from the version I had built up in my mind's eye whilst reading, but I do like this interpretation of the character.

While this series is still rough around the edges in places, this second outing is a strong improvement on the first issue as Carole and John Barrowman streamline the narrative and spent a bit more time developing the characters. It seems the transition from novel-writing to comic-writing hasn't been an entirely smooth process, but this second issue definitely shows promise and I look forward to seeing this new team of Torchwood operatives being fleshed out and put through their paces in future episodes.

Score - 7.7 out of 10

Torchwood # 2 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!

Review - Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 4 (of 5)

Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 4 (of 5)
"Supremacy of the Cybermen" - Part 4 (of 5)
Written by: George Mann & Cavan Scott
Art by: Ivan Rodriguez & Walter Geovanni
Colours by: Nicola Righi

Things take a deadly turn for the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors as their various timelines begin to crumble around them and each incarnation finds themselves assimilated into the Cybermen’s hive-mind. With a reset button no doubt waiting in the wings, Cavan Scott and George Mann have some fun with the ‘doomed’ timelines featuring the earlier incarnations of the Doctor, testing each of them to limit. Even though these tragic events are destined to be undone, there is something chilling about seeing the Ninth Doctor blowing up the Earth to prevent the Cybermen from accessing it, or the Tenth Doctor merging with a Cyber-King to prevent it from attacking the Sontarans. I suspect that somehow the actions of these Doctors will somehow have some ripple effect that will allow the Twelfth Doctor to succeed against his foes – or perhaps the technology that Rassilon has implemented in the Eye of Harmony may provide the solution to undoing all of the Cybermen’s work.

Ivan Rodriguez and Walter Geovanni do a superb job of capturing the desperation and emotion in each section of this multi-layered story, particularly in the Tenth Doctor’s chapter. The pained and determined expression on his face after he thinks Gabby and Cindy have died feels utterly authentic to the character and David Tennant’s portrayal of him. There’s plenty going on in this penultimate issue and both artists rise to the challenge with confidence. While the multi-narrative structure of this event has slowed the pace down at times, it remains an effective and innovative way to tell a multi-Doctor storyline without having the characters meet. Evoking memories of the universe-ending climax to “The Pandorica Opens”, this penultimate episode certainly increases the tension to unbearable levels and I cannot wait to see how Scott and Mann intend to resolve this truly epic cliff-hanger in the space of one issue. It’s a tall task, but I have every faith in the two writers after their amazing work in their individual Doctor Who titles.

Score - 9.4 out of 10

Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 4 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 mini-series when you pick up your copy!

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 9th Doctor # 6

Doctor Who: The 9th Doctor # 6
"Official Secrets" - Part 1 (of 3)
Written by: Cavan Scott
Art by: Adriana Melo
Colours by: Marco Lesko

Rather appropriately considering the recent launch of the Third Doctor miniseries, this latest issue of the Ninth Doctor ongoing sees The Doctor, Rose and Jack taking a trip back to the 1970s (or maybe 80s?) to visit the classic UNIT formation. As with his initial story-arc, Cavan Scott creates a wonderfully smooth transition between storylines as the TARDIS team travel back in time to find Dean, inadvertently becoming tangled up in another monstrous adventure. I’m enjoying this narrative technique as the stories bleed together, creating a greater sense of cohesion between events as plot threads overlap and dangle willy-nilly. It’s great to see a modern incarnation of the Doctor travelling back to the UNIT heyday and judging from the set-up, this is a post-Fourth Doctor version of UNIT. Sadly, the Brigadier doesn’t make an appearance (possibly due to a rights issue) but that gives us the opportunity to focus on Harry Sullivan instead who has taken charge in his absence. Scott manages to achieve that distinctive UNIT tone, but refreshes and updates it in places with the inclusion of new UNIT agent Tara Mishra, who may just end up being a new companion. Tonally, the story reminds me of the Third Doctor serial, “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” as giant kaiju creatures erupt from the ground and UNIT attempt to keep it a secret from the general populous.

Adriana Melo produces some of the best work of her Doctor Who comics career in this issue, ably capturing the mood of the era with her depiction of UNIT HQ and the various soldiers. Her double-page spreads revealing the giant monsters are impressive too, crafting awe-inspiring visuals with a hint of epic cinematography. The final page cliff-hanger with the giant crab reaching for its victims is absolutely brilliant, evoking memories of the Macra, and providing a genuinely unsettling image that would even haunt readers hiding behind the sofa. Marco Lesko elevates Melo’s wonderful artwork with his brilliant colours, providing a professional finish to the page and adding extra emotion to each panel. With this story, Cavan Scott once again demonstrates his wide knowledge and love for Doctor Who, by transplanting his characters into familiar eras of the series’ long history to create unexpected drama. Once you finish an issue, you find yourself bemoaning the fact that Christopher Eccleston only ever did thirteen episodes of Doctor Who but grateful that Scott is on hand to provide “missing adventures” that slot nicely into the Season One timeline. My one criticism is the lack of focus on Jack Harkness’ missing memories – a complaint the character had himself in the previous issue – hopefully, Scott will pick up on this plot thread in the near future! Overall, this is some absolutely spectacular storytelling and a burst of nostalgia on multiple levels!

Score - 9.7 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor # 6 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the Comixology website.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Review - Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 3 (of 5)

Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 3 (of 5)
"Supremacy of the Cybermen" - Part 3 (of 5)
Written by: George Mann & Cavan Scott
Art by: Ivan Rodriguez & Walter Geovanni
Colours by: Nicola Righi

Cavan Scott and George Mann continue to thrust the Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors into battle against the Cybermen across a variety of different time-zones in this third issue of the Supremacy of the Cybermen miniseries. Splitting the narrative four ways has become something of a double-edged sword for this series – while it ensures the storyline has the right amount of epic scope as the Cybermen traverse time and space to dominate the galaxy, it also means that the issues feel a bit cluttered as each Doctor vies for attention. Given some of the dramatic events of this episode, it is clear that the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctor plot threads are going to be rewritten and undone before the end of the series with no lasting effects, which again diminishes some of the impact of those sequences. That said, it is great fun to see the Tenth Doctor fighting alongside the Sontaran armies against hulking great Cyberkings and the Eleventh Doctor battling hordes of Cyber-Silurians. Scott and Mann do their best to keep all four sections moving along at a fast pace, but sometimes it feels that the Twelfth Doctor section is the only essential element of the story. Hopefully the other sequences will have more of an influence on the main plot in the final two issues of the series.

Ivan Rodriguez and Walter Geovanni continue to handle art duties with Rodriguez handling the ‘past Doctors’ adventures as Geovanni focuses on the central Twelfth Doctor plot thread. This division of artists hammers home the separation between the ‘real’ story and the ‘disposable’ plot threads of the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. Rodriguez does a great job at conveying the increasing peril and lack of hope for the past Doctors as each adventure comes to a downbeat ending with the Cybermen achieving victory in each timeline. This issue also references the one-page prologues that appeared throughout the rest of the Titan Comics Doctor Who books which saw every incarnation of the Doctor attacked by the Cybermen at various points in their existence. This precision attack into the Doctor’s past reminds me of the Great Intelligence’s attempt to kill the Doctor during “The Name of the Doctor” and I wonder if a similar fix will be implemented to undo the damage to the time-stream. Even though much of this story will be undone by a cosmic reset button, I am eagerly awaiting the explanation that Scott and Mann have to this grand dilemma that the Doctor finds himself in. The writing duo have certainly stacked the odds against the Doctor here and I literally have no idea how he can get himself out of this predicament! While this event may have some minor structural flaws, it remains fully engaging and a treat for old-school Doctor Who fans. This has been the perfect way to celebrate the Cybermen’s 50th anniversary!

Score - 9.4 out of 10

Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 3 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 mini-series when you pick up your copy!

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 9th Doctor # 5

Doctor Who: The 9th Doctor # 5
"The Transformed" - Part 2 (of 2)
Written by: Cavan Scott
Art by: Adriana Melo
Colours by: Matheus Lopes

Following on from the previous issue, this concluding episode of “The Transformed” sees the Ninth Doctor working together with a version of Mickey Smith from his future to prevent humans from turning into monstrous gargoyles. Cavan Scott develops his central plot nicely, although the introduction of super-powered humans does send the series veering into superheroes territory, which doesn't quite fit well with Doctor Who. Once again, the interactions between Mickey and the Ninth Doctor take a backseat to the central plot-line, but the moments where the two heroes work together are nicely written and demonstrate the growth made to the Mickey Smith character, as well as the differences between the Ninth and Tenth Doctors. As with the conclusion to his initial story-arc, “Doctormania”, Scott provides a nice cliff-hanger to tie the adventures together into an ongoing narrative. After mashing the Ninth Doctor with his future by bringing Martha Jones and an older Mickey Smith into the mix, this issue ends with the promise of some old-school UNIT action as Harry Sullivan and Sergeant Benton appear at the conclusion. I'm really enjoying Scott's approach to his Doctor Who stories, blending aspects from the character's fifty-three year history to create a love letter to the character and all of his guises.

Series artist Adriana Melo returns to art duties following a guest spot from Cris Bolson last issue, and she quickly makes use of the existing character designs whilst introducing her own distinctive style to the storyline. I love Melo's interpretation of the TARDIS team, and the way she brings Rose, Jack and the Doctor to life on the page – while not an exact reproduction of the actor's likenesses, Melo captures the very essence of the characters. Her art style has a wonderful grittiness about it that suits the series' darker tones and I'm really looking forward to seeing her tackle a 1970s UNIT era story-arc. While the superhero elements of this story-arc lacked that Doctor Who flavour, Scott managed to weave a fun storyline that offered a well-observed character examination of Mickey Smith, and how the Doctor's influence shaped his life for him. There's a child-like exuberance to Cavan Scott's writing that just reflects off the page, and makes reading the Ninth Doctor series an absolute joy. Not content to tell stories tied to the Ninth Doctor's era, Scott has demonstrated a williness to bend the rules of time and space and bring key elements from the Doctor's past and future into play, resulting in some of the most unpredictable and exciting Doctor Who stories in recent years. If you're a Doctor Who fan and not reading this series, I recommend you pick up a copy of the next issue as soon as it's on sale - it's like taking a dip in a bath of Doctor Who continuity...

Score - 9.5 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor # 5 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the Comixology website.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Review - Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 2 (of 5)

Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 2 (of 5)
"Supremacy of the Cybermen" - Part 2 (of 5)
Written by: George Mann & Cavan Scott
Art by: Ivan Rodriguez & Walter Geovanni
Colours by: Nicola Righi

Cavan Scott and George Mann’s second issue of their Doctor Who epic event “Supremacy of the Cybermen” continues to weave its multiple narratives together, making use of dual artists to distinguish between the ‘present day’ events of the Twelfth Doctor and the Cyber-President Rassilon, and the altered timelines of the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. The pair have also written short one-page prologues featuring the other eight incarnations of the Doctor having encounters with the Cybermen which contradicts the established timeline, hinting at some time-travelling manipulation on the part of the Cyber-army. This suggests that unlike last year’s event “The Four Doctors” which took the form of a traditional multi-Doctor serial, Scott and Mann intend to keep the various incarnations of the Doctor separated throughout the duration of this event and will focus on the alternate timelines each of them find themselves in. This is a great decision and allows Titan Comics to present a different approach to the multi-Doctor story-arc and keeps the action shifting between narratives.

Including the Sontarans and Silurians in the event is another master-stroke, which not only demonstrates the extent of the Cybermen’s influence over the time-stream but also offers recognisable secondary threats for each Doctor to deal with. The one nit-pick of having four narratives running concurrently throughout the comic is that it does feel slightly cramped at times and there isn’t a great deal of advancement made in each section. While the initial issue had a great deal of shock value by throwing the readers (and the Doctor) into the deep end, this follow-up feels a bit slower in pace and focused on explaining the situation each Doctor finds themselves in. That said, the connections to the television show are the strongest they’ve ever been as this story acts as a direct sequel to Season 9’s closer “Hell Bent”, following Rassilon after his exile from Gallifrey and giving readers more ‘screen-time’ on the Doctor’s home planet. As such, this whole story-arc feels more integral to the continuity of the series, picking up directly on loose plot threads from the show itself.

Ivan Rodriguez continues to provide art duties for the ‘past Doctors’ sequences, whilst Walter Geovanni stands in for Alessandro Vitti on the ‘present day’ Twelfth Doctor story-arc on Gallifrey. Despite the use of two different artists, this series flows together nicely and could have even benefited from four different artists working on one Doctor each. That said, Rodriguez does a brilliant job on the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctor narratives, bringing both the Silurian and Sontarans to life on the page. Geovanni’s take on a Cyberman-infested Gallifrey is equally impressive and reflects many of the visuals introduced in “Hell Bent”, even providing a brief flashback to the events from that key episode. While Geovanni’s panels lacks the same grittiness and intensity seen in Vitti’s artwork from the previous issue, it is still a strong showing from the Brazilian artist and suits the change in scenery from Karn to Gallifrey well.

Overall, this was a worthy follow-up to the series’ amazing first issue and it certainly maintains much of the momentum and pace from the Cyberman’s invasion of time. At times, the comic does feel a bit dense with four narratives competing for prominence but that just adds to the ‘season finale’ feel of the series. Scott and Mann have both proven themselves to be consummate fans of Doctor Who and its lengthy history, and that shows in their energy and desire to push the boundaries in their storytelling. This is a storyline that could only be told in the comics, reaching far back across all of the Doctor’s past incarnations and changing history with alarming levels of destruction. Sure, there will probably be a cosmic reset button at the end of this adventure, but its great fun to watch two die-hard fans of the series play about in the Doctor Who sandbox with such glee.

Score - 9.2 out of 10

Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 2 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 mini-series when you pick up your copy!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 9th Doctor # 4

Doctor Who: The 9th Doctor # 4
"The Transformed" - Part 1 (of 2)
Written by: Cavan Scott
Art by: Cris Bolson
Colours by: Marco Lesko

With a dash of “timey-wimey” goodness, Cavan Scott has created a fantastic scenario for fans of the Ninth Doctor era by bringing Mickey Smith back into the Doctor's life – unfortunately for the Ninth Doctor, this is a Mickey Smith ten years older than the one he is familiar with. The antagonistic relationship between the Doctor and Mickey was a strong element of the Ninth Doctor's era, and the way the two built up a level of respect for each other was a great piece of character development throughout the Tenth Doctor's era, so it's great to see Scott play with the Doctor / Mickey relationship, and in typical Doctor Who style, perhaps this encounter is what leads the Doctor to begin to respect Mickey more in the first place. It's also great to see some more of Mickey's post-Doctor Who life after the brief glimpse seen in “The End of Time” as he and his wife Martha Jones remain protectors of the Earth. Despite the historical setting of this ongoing series, Scott has found some wonderfully inventive ways to keep things fresh and exciting – referencing the Time War, Jack's missing memories, and now his very own “Time Crash” between Nine and Mickey.

Keeping on the right side of a universe-destroying paradox (or a continuity headache), Scott manages to keep the unlikely team-up of Nine and Old-Mickey engaging throughout the episode. The scenes between the two are what drives the issue, and at times they even overshadow the main plot of superheroes and gargoyles fighting about the San Francisco skies.  Even Martha Jones makes a cameo appearance in the episode, although carefully concealed so the Doctor won't meet his future companion ahead of time. It's fun to see Scott dance through the constraints of continuity to deliver such a great story that works on multiple levels. The story could have been told with the Tenth Doctor, but it would have lost that whole clash of the egos element. That said, it would have been fun to see a later Doctor meet up with Mickey and Martha, given how “The End of Time” put an end to the Russell T Davies era of companions. Maybe the characters will reappear in some of the other Titan Comics series down the line – I've always thought they'd be a great fit for Torchwood, especially after Martha Jones guest-starred in the second series.

Guest-artist Cris Bolson is on art duties for this issue, alongside colours by Marco Lesko, and the pair do a fantastic job at bringing modern-day San Francisco to life onto the page with the Golden Gate Bridge, trams and steep hills all featuring. Bolson excels at capturing the actor's likenesses, especially Noel Clarke's turn as Mickey Smith – showcasing the character's evolution from Rose's goofy ex-boyfriend to a genuine protector of Earth. His Doctor, Jack and Rose are spot-on as well, ensuring that the series maintains its strong connection to its source material. The Gargoyles are well-designed by Bolson too, and its cute to see Mickey initially mistake them from the Krillitane, referencing his encounter with them in “School Reunion”. The issue flows along nicely with some nifty aeronautical battles set against a mysterious Northern Lights sky. It's a solid artistic job, and a worthy addition to the ever-increasing roster of Doctor Who artists.

After the cliff-hanger ending of Issue 3, I had high hopes for this encounter between the Ninth Doctor and an older Mickey Smith and Cavan Scott delivered on every aspect. The script bounces along with that energetic enthusiasm that has become a trademark for Scott's writing and his love for the source material shines through on every page. Much like with the Eleventh Doctor series' creative team, Scott is having great fun at playing with the constraints of continuity and crossing narrative streams that could never be done in the TV show. In some ways, its bittersweet as the television show itself seems to have lost the unpredictability that comes out in Scott's work. I'd love to see Peter Capaldi's Doctor cross over with some of his past companions, perhaps in a Back to the Future manner, avoiding making contact and causing a paradox. With no Doctor Who expected on our television screens until Christmas, Titan Comics' current crop of series' are the perfect antidote to a Time Lord-free diet! Fresh, inventive and unpredictable, the Ninth Doctor series is an absolute must-read for old and new fans alike!

Score - 10 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor # 4 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the Comixology website.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Review - Torchwood # 1

Torchwood # 1
"World Without End" - Part 1 (of 4)
Written by: John Barrowman & Carole Barrowman
Art by: Antonio Fuso & Pasquale Qualano
Colours by: Marco Lusko

Ever since the conclusion of Torchwood: Miracle Day in 2011, there has been a question mark over whether the series would ever return and as the years passed by, and Doctor Who moved further away from the Torchwood universe, it looked like the adventures of Captain Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper had come to an end. However, the launch of this ongoing comic series, written by John and Carole Barrowman, promises to tell new and exciting adventures for the Torchwood gang, spinning out of their 2012 BBC Books novel “Exodus Code”. For those who haven't read “Exodus Code”, the shift in status-quo is quite significant from the events of Miracle Day and the writers do their best to catch readers up with the new characters introduced in that book, but this first issue feels a bit too cluttered at times as it attempts to replicate the swish, cinematic style of Torchwood with plenty of scene changes and multiple plot-threads occurring at once. While it may flow better in the collected edition format, this first issue lacks a coherent central thread, and perhaps the scene with the stowaway could have been better used to introduce readers to the new status-quo. As a result, the issue required a re-read to get a firm grasp on what was the main narrative thread, and which sequences were teasers for future storylines.

Despite the clunky narrative gear-shifts, I found myself very intrigued to learn more about the new Torchwood members aboard the Ice Maiden – so much so, that I went out and picked up “Exodus Code” to catch up on the events between stories. One of the problems with Torchwood is that they killed off too many of its strongest characters throughout the series with Owen and Tosh wiped out in Season Two, and then Ianto in Children of Earth. Even now, most of the spin-off material focuses on that classic Torchwood era, and the show hasn't really been able to recapture that same tone from the first two seasons. With the crew of the Ice Maiden, John and Carole Barrowman look to be restoring the notion of a supporting cast to the series, moving Torchwood from out of Jack and Gwen's shadow to add a bit more content. While briefly explored in this issue, I do like the concept of an AI computer that thinks it is the captain of the ship, overriding and ignoring the real captain's commands when it wants. The comic series also depicts Jack's trademark sexuality as it appears he is in a relationship with Hollis but willing to flirt with every other living creature on-board the ship. I hope future issues spend more time with the characters and their relationships as there is plenty of potential here to rebuild that 'team dynamic' that felt lost in the final two Torchwood serials.

The art for this opening issue is provided by Antonio Fuso and Pasquale Qualano, and the pair do a brilliant job at capturing the darker tone of Torchwood, compared to the brighter artwork seen in Titan Comics' Doctor Who comic series. In some panels, the art reminds me of Dom Reardon's thick, black and white style – and Reardon drew 2000AD's excellent Caballistics, Inc series, which shares many similarities to Torchwood. While Fuso and Qualano manage to nail the tone of the series, some of the action sequences were hard to decipher. It's unclear exactly how the Ice Maiden transports itself – it looks like it teleports out of the ocean and has some weird catchment net that accidentally ensnared Rona. That said, the opening sequence with the tentacled eyes grabbing ahold of Jack was excellently done and felt like a typical Torchwood opening. There's a wonderful sense of continuity from both artists as it is difficult to tell the difference between the two – in fact, I was convinced this was the work of a single artist. The pair also manage to capture the likenesses of John Barrowman and Eve Myles in Jack and Gwen, and the designs for the other Ice Maiden characters are well realised too.

Overall, this was an issue that required multiple readings for multiple reasons. Initially, I was expecting this incarnation of Torchwood to closely resemble the classic series, and while some of those elements are there, I hadn't expected the comic to follow the events of “Exodus Code” so closely. While I appreciate the connection to continuity, it has put me on the back foot and made me seek out the novel to acquaint myself with the series' new status-quo. I have to say that this initial issue wasn't really that new reader-friendly and even people familiar with the Torchwood television show may find themselves lost and confused. Perhaps a comic-book adaptation of “Exodus Code” would have been a better starting point for the series, given how important the book appears to be to the Torchwood continuity. Aside from those problems, there were some interesting moments in this series and plenty of potential for future storylines once readers have grown accustomed to the new set-up. Hopefully future issues of the comic series will slow down the pace a little to allow these new characters the opportunity to breathe and develop, and the writers would do well to focus on fewer plot threads at once, otherwise readers will remain disorientated at the series' choppy pace.

Score - 7.4 out of 10

Torchwood # 1 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!

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Review - Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 1 (of 5)

Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 1 (of 5)
"Supremacy of the Cybermen" - Part 1 (of 5)
Written by: George Mann & Cavan Scott
Art by: Alessandro Vitti & Ivan Rodriguez
Colours by: Nicola Righi

Last year’s Doctor Who comics event, “The Four Doctors” had a suitably epic feel as the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth incarnations of the Doctor dealt with the after-effects of the War Doctor’s involvement in the Time War. While that event was a fun call-back to the classic multi-Doctor adventures of the past, and dealt with plot threads from the series’ 50th anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor”, this latest event looks to the future and directly addresses plot points from the recent season finale, “Hell Bent”. Deeply entrenched in the series’ continuity, the Twelfth Doctor sequences in this issue feel like a natural continuation of the Doctor’s adventures in Season Nine, mopping up the loose ends from “Hell Bent” like a janitor working overtime. I love the way that writers Cavan Scott and George Mann literally immerse the reader in Doctor Who’s rich and complex history, cherry-picking elements from all of the featured Doctor’s eras. There’s a real sense of importance from this issue, perhaps due to the fact it spins out of the recent series and makes changes to the status-quo in regards to important characters such as Rassilon and Ohila.

Wisely keeping the Doctors separated for the time-being, this opening issue felt operatic in tone as Scott and Mann balanced the four Doctors in their separate timelines, cutting between each narrative throughout the issue and ending each plot thread with a cliff-hanger. Not only does the story feature Cybermen, but two other iconic Doctor Who monsters make their appearances under the thrall of the Cybermen. Judging from the partial conversions, it seems that Scott and Mann will be making use of the concepts and technologies introduced in “Nightmare in Silver” – yet, there are plenty of references to Cybermen of all eras here. I certainly hope we see some old-school “The Tenth Planet” Mondasian Cybermen at some point, as I love their classic mesh cloth design. I also appreciated the synopsis at the front of the issue, which reminds readers of each Doctor’s last encounter with the Cybermen – pointing out that the Ninth Doctor has yet to meet them in that body – a fact I’d overlooked. Given that Rose has no knowledge of the Cybermen when she meets them in “Rise of the Cybermen”, I suspect something will ‘reset’ the status-quo of that particular timeline – not a complete surprise, given that London has been reduced to a post-apocalyptic waste.

The art team of Alessandro Vitti and Ivan Rodriguez easily rise to the challenge of this daunting multi-Doctor story spanning multiple time-zones and planets. The scenes taking place on Karn effortlessly evoke the nightmarish landscape of the ruined planet, bringing back memories of the classic Fourth Doctor adventure, “The Brain of Morbius”. I’m not sure how the art is split between the two artists, but the whole issue felt consistent throughout, with both artists complementing each other nicely. With such a varied narrative, Vitti and Rodriguez’s artwork is absolutely vital in ensuring readers don’t get confused during the scene changes, and their distinctive background work helps achieve a firm separation between plot-threads. There’s a real sense of pace to this adventure, partly down to the strong script and also due to the absolutely pitch-perfect artwork from both Vitti and Rodriguez. Their grittier style offers a different take on the multi-Doctor storyline, much darker and grimier than Neil Edwards’ work on “The Four Doctors”, and it perfectly suits the Cybermen’s invasion of the Doctor’s timeline.

Without a doubt, this is the best Doctor Who comic that Titan Comics has published to date. Filled with plenty of continuity nods for hard-core Whovians like myself, “Supremacy of the Cybermen” is a delight to read. Scott and Mann have captured the grand operatic stylings seen during Steven Moffat’s run and delivered a worthy sequel to “Hell Bent” that presents the Cybermen as a worthy challenger to the Dalek’s claims of ‘supremacy’. Joined with artists whose style encapsulates the doom-laden tone of the book, these writers have really made an event out of this storyline, which acts as the perfect cap to Titan Comics’ second year of publishing Doctor Who comics. If you haven’t read a single one of their comics since July 2014 or you’re a lapsed reader who has left the numerous series’ behind, you should rush down to the local comic store with your cash in hand, or begin downloading furiously from Comixology, because this story is THAT important for Doctor Who fans, and you won’t want to miss out!

Score - 10 out of 10

Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 1 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 mini-series when you pick up your copy!

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 9th Doctor # 3

Doctor Who: The 9th Doctor # 3
"Doctormania" - Part 3 (of 3)
Written by: Cavan Scott
Art by: Adriana Melo
Colours by: Matheus Lopes

Cavan Scott and Adriana Melo bring the opening story-arc to the Ninth Doctor comic series to a dramatic close, as the Season One TARDIS team of Jack, Rose and the Doctor attempt to prevent a Raxacoricofallapatorian Civil War from taking place. Taking cues from The Hunger Games, Scott has Rose and her Slitheen captor, Slist, on the run from a group of dangerous hunters in the jungles of the planet Clix, part of the Raxacoricofallapatorian Empire. Rose is definitely the focus of this concluding installment of the storyline as Scott goes to great lengths to showcase her idealistic nature and innocence – key traits of hers seen during those Season One years. I really enjoyed her interactions with Slist as she attempted to help him, despite his mistreatment of her earlier in the tale. I was really impressed with how Scott took Billie Piper’s performance in the show and recreated it onto the page, ensuring Rose’s ‘voice’ remained strong throughout. While the Doctor and Jack were vital elements, this was definitely Rose’s issue!

Adriana Melo continues to sprinkle her artistic magic over this issue as her grittier style lends itself well to this storyline, especially when it comes to displaying the gruesome consequences of the acidic rain on the skin of the Slitheen. As I’ve said in previous reviews, Melo and Scott have taken the goofy, fart monsters and made them into truly terrifying threats. Melo establishes a ferocity to the creatures that was lacking in their televised appearances, and I absolutely adore her designs of the other Raxacoricofallapatorians, such as the Jinglatheen. Aside from making the Slitheen seem cool, Melo does a tremendous job at capturing the likenesses of John Barrowman, Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper, but without being a slave to realism. Her art is dynamic and flows with ease on the page, ensuring that the story moves with a rapid pace.

With this issue, Cavan Scott has demonstrated his innate ability to write thrilling Doctor Who stories that dovetail nicely into the established continuity of the television show, enhancing the experience and offering essential information. I’ll be honest, I could have quite happily gone the rest of my life without seeing another Slitheen, but this storyline actually has me enthused about the creatures and interested in future instalments featuring the complex Raxacoricofallapatorian hierarchy. Keen to play with his reading audience, Scott introduces a humdinger of a cliff-hanger in the final page, which is sure to get heads scratching. I love the fact that he is clearly having a great time playing about in the Ninth Doctor era, expanding that initially short period of the Doctor’s life with some excellent adventures, making use of events from later episodes to inform his plots.

Doctormania” has been a promising start for the Ninth Doctor series, fully justifying the decision to move from a mini-series format to a fully-fledged ongoing title. Scott and Melo prove themselves to be highly capable team, and on the basis of this inaugural adventure, I hope to see plenty more stories from the pair exploring the hidden secrets of the Ninth Doctor’s era. Scott’s love for the character and this particular era is evident from his work on the page, and that surprise cliff-hanger demonstrates his willingness to shake up continuity and offer readers some genuinely exciting stories that take the Ninth Doctor into brand-new territories. Even though the Ninth Doctor’s time on the show was over ten years ago, Scott and Melo have done a fantastic job in making the character still relevant and exciting all these years later. As with all of Titan Comics’ Doctor Who output, this is essential reading for fans of the show – old or new.

Score - 10 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor # 3 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the Comixology website.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 9th Doctor # 2

Doctor Who: The 9th Doctor # 2
"Doctormania" - Part 2 (of 3)
Written by: Cavan Scott
Art by: Adriana Melo
Colours by: Matheus Lopes

I’ll be honest – I hate the Slitheen. I get that they were created during the early days of the Doctor Who relaunch when Russell T Davies wasn't entirely certain of the tone to take the series, and he introduced these funny, farting monsters with child-like faces to appeal to a younger audience, but they seemed to reek of the more ridiculous elements of classic Doctor Who. While there were sinister elements are work with the characters – they wear the skin of dead men to sneak into positions of power – they were played as laughs with fart jokes and pantomime performances. Here, Cavan Scott, takes the Slitheen and makes them into genuine threats once more, expanding more on the monsters’ backstory and providing a glimpse into the complicated civil war encompassing Raxacoricofallapatorius’ inhabitants. There’s even a spot of sympathy for the creatures as one of their skin suits rupture, resulting in sudden decompression which kills them in a particularly brutal fashion.

Adriana Melo continues to deliver some wildly impressive artwork in this issue, developing the Slitheen into a truly menacing monster, replete with razor-sharp teeth and claws. I also loved her designs for the other Raxacoricofallapatorian families which took the Slitheen design but changed it slightly, resembling the differences between frogs and toads. Melo ensures that the issue is well-paced and her art style is wonderfully clear and cinematic at times. There’s a grittiness to her work on the page which suits the Ninth Doctor’s era of the show and I love the way she brings the series’ cast to life but without being a slave to the actor’s likenesses. Her Rose Tyler looks like a real character rather than Billie Piper running around fighting rubber-suited aliens – she’s a fantastic fit for the series and I hope she sticks around beyond this opening three part story-arc.

The script crackles along with such energy and excitement, it’s clear that Cavan Scott is a massive fan of the source material and is enjoying every moment he gets to write for his favourite character. While I might not be the biggest Slitheen fan in the world, the monsters rightfully belong in a Ninth Doctor story and Scott’s storyline fleshes them out (pardon the pun!) and fixes many of the problems with the creatures. While taking the Ninth Doctor into outer space may be a departure from the tone of his earth-based stories seen in Season One of the television show, bringing in the Slitheen ensures that the story maintains that Ninth Doctor feel. Adding to that nostalgia factor is Scott’s keen grasp on the character’s voices and personalities – the story feels so authentic, you’d swear it had been written way back in 2005, rather than eleven years after the Ninth Doctor last appeared.

As surprised as I am to say this, Cavan Scott and Adriana Melo have actually made the Slitheen cool, transforming the fat farting monsters from “Aliens of London”, “World War Three” and “Boom Town” into something genuinely creepy. With the addition of synthetic skin suits, the Slitheen can now take the form of anybody – which immediately makes them a more dangerous threat – and Melo’s more ferocious take on the creatures makes them appear more violent and deadly. I wonder if Scott can give Peter Kay's atrocious Abzorbaloff from “Love and Monsters” a make-over, but I suspect that job may be impossible! Overall, this was a fabulous second issue to the series and with a sterling creative team at the helm, I'm predicting big things for the Ninth Doctor in the future.

Score - 9.8 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor # 2 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the Comixology website.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 9th Doctor # 1

Doctor Who: The 9th Doctor # 1
"Doctormania" - Part 1 (of 3)
Written by: Cavan Scott
Art by: Adriana Melo
Colours by: Matheus Lopes

After the phenomenal success of the Ninth Doctor mini-series, Titan Comics has wisely commissioned an ongoing series featuring Christopher Eccleston's incarnation of the Time Lord, meaning that all four Doctors since the 2005 relaunch have now got their own comic book series. Cavan Scott returns to the scripting duties, bringing with him Brazilian comic book artist, Adriana Melo, famous for her work on Star Wars: Empire, Witchblade and Ms. Marvel. Taking place shortly after “Weapons of Past Destruction”, Scott continues to make use of the Season One TARDIS team of Rose, Jack and the Doctor – providing fans of that era with more un-televised adventures to slot in-between “The Doctor Dances” and “Boom Town”. Free from the budget restraints that forced most of Season One to take place on Earth, Scott is able to think big and create sprawling space dramas that take the Doctor and his crew to far-flung planets and alien civilisations, adding a whole new dimension to the Ninth Doctor's era that was missing from the show. Throwing the reader and the TARDIS team into the thick of things, he has the Doctor come face to face with...The Doctor?!

The Doctor meeting his doppelgänger is a reoccurring plot device which has been used for almost all the Doctors, starting from the First Doctor adventure “The Massacre” and including such adventures as, “The Enemy of the World”, “Meglos”, “Journey's End”, “The Rebel Flesh” and “The Wedding of River Song”, so it is nice to see it used for the Ninth Doctor. It also puts the Doctor in the uncomfortable situation of being a celebrity, as the faux-Doctor achieves a cult-like status on Gharusa Prime with a television series entitled “Doctor Who?”. In a nice slice of meta-commentary, Cavan Scott affectionately pokes fun at the Doctor Who fan-base through the obsessive alien fan. Before the Doctor can get any real answers, the group are attacked by the Chumblies, or rather what someone thinks the Chumblies looks like, as the Doctor is immediately suspicious. I must admit that, real or not, I quite liked seeing the Chumblies returning to Doctor Who mythology, following their one and only appearance in the First Doctor serial, “Galaxy 4” - Cavan Scott is clearly a man who knows his Doctor Who history.

From the very first panel, Adriana Melo makes this comic her own, capturing the likenesses of the three main actors, but without being a slave to detail. As such, there's a wonderful fluidity to her work as she creates dynamic panels that showcase the action from the start. I really like her take on the Ninth Doctor, which uses Christopher Eccleston's likeness as a base to build upon the character. She also does a fantastic job with Rose and Jack, channelling the essence of the characters onto the page with remarkable ease. Also impressive are her alien designs, such as the cute purple-faced 'Doctorian' who greets the TARDIS team upon their arrival. While her style occasionally fluctuates between panels, I really am enjoying this new addition to Titan Comics' roster of Doctor Who artists and immediately think she'll be a perfect fit for the Ninth Doctor series. I mean, anyone who can make the Slitheen actually look scary must be something special!

Overall, this was a fantastic re-debut for the Ninth Doctor. With an ongoing series to work with, Cavan Scott seems to be planning for the long haul, briefly touching upon the sub-plot of Captain Jack's missing memories, for what I'm assuming will be the main thrust of this series. As with his work on the miniseries, Scott has the Ninth Doctor's voice down perfectly and genuinely seems to love Doctor Who history, both old and new, as he blends monsters such as the Slitheen and the Chumblies together in a wonderful stew of narrative goodness. In the space of a single issue, Adriana Melo has quickly proven herself to be a worthy addition to the Doctor Who family, capturing the mood of the Ninth Doctor's era and its characters but also adding in her own visual flourishes. Once again, Titan Comics has struck gold with yet another excellent ongoing series and I'm genuinely excited to see what this creative team has up their sleeve, as I'm sure it will be absolutely “fan-tas-tic”!

Score - 10 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor # 1 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the Comixology website.

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!

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 6

Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 6
"Arena of Fear" - Part 1 (of 2)
Written by: Nick Abadzis
Art by: Eleonora Carlini
Colours by: Arianna Florean

Following the shock cliff-hanger at the end of the prehistoric themed storyline, “Medicine Man”, Nick Abadzis blends both of his ongoing plot threads together to weave an interesting tapestry of a story, which can only be described as Doctor Who meets The Hunger Games. Developing his “B-team” of characters, Abadzis focuses on Jack Harkness, Cindy, Cleo and Erik – removing their memories and letting them interact on equal footing. It’s an interesting character study, watching their innate core personalities come to the fore. I also really enjoyed the ‘quest’ format to this adventure as our heroes traversed the strange alien world populated with feral Neanderthals and unusual alien creatures, with Abadzis taking the opportunity to flesh out the alien bounty hunters who cameoed in the previous adventure.

Eleonora Carlini does a tremendous job on art duties, maintaining a degree of consistency with the previous two artists whilst showcasing her own unique art style. She brings dynamic sense of action to some of the issue’s more dramatic scenes with some striking panel structure and varied perspectives. Considering the last three issues have had three different artists working on them, I'm pleasantly surprised at the level of continuity that has been utilised in regards to the character design and visual style, this is partly down to the colouring from Arianna and Azzurra Florean, which manages to create a sense of unity across the different artist's work. Talking of the colouring, I loved how adding rich purples and reds achieved such a dramatic change of tone, signifying Mr Ebonite's involvement in the group's current predicament. It really added a sinister atmosphere, culminating in the reveal that Gabby has been brainwashed to fight against her former friends.

Mister Ebonite is proving to be an interesting antagonist for this series' second year – I really like his Gothic-chic character design, particularly his floating skull companion. While he may not look like a traditional Doctor Who villain, he certainly suits the comic book format with his more mystical slant. Aside from Anubis in the final arc of the first year of adventures, this series has lacked a primary antagonist and I think Ebonite fits the role perfectly. I'm looking forward to seeing him reappear throughout the remainder of this series to plague the Doctor and Jack Harkness. On that note, how great is it that Captain Jack Harkness is featured in this book?! I love that we're getting to see untold adventures between The Tenth Doctor and Jack, presumably set after the Torchwood: Children of Earth series, given the references in Ebonite's dialogue. It would be cool to see him appear in the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctor series, since he never met those incarnations on-screen. Hopefully, his appearance here will lead to a Torchwood series from Titan Comics – it would be fun to revisit that series, especially since it looks like there are no plans for a new Season anytime soon.

Overall, this was another brilliant installment for the Tenth Doctor series – I particularly liked how this latest storyline seemed to organically arise from the previous ones, throwing all the characters into a mixing bowl and seeing how they interact with each other in this weird Battle Royale scenario. Nick Abadzis is doing a sterling job at building a stronger narrative than the one seen in the previous volume, creating inter-connected stories that seem to be building towards a crescendo. I'm really enjoying the unpredictable nature of this current direction, moving from prehistoric Earth to a bizarre 'Arena of Fear' on an alien planet – thematically, it reminds me of the classic Second Doctor serial, “The War Games” inter-spliced with some elements from the modern “arena death-match” genre. I'm looking forward to the conclusion of this story-arc and seeing where Abadzis and his trusty team of artists plan to transport us next.

Score - 9.6 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor (Vol. 2) # 6 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!

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Review - Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 3

Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 3
"Cindy, Cleo and the Magic Sketchbook"
Written by: Nick Abadzis
Art by: Elena Casagrande & Arianna Florean
Colours by: Azzurra Florean

Much like in the series itself, this issue of the Tenth Doctor adventures is a “Doctor-lite” episode in which the time-lord himself doesn’t appear in the story. Instead, Nick Abadzis focuses on some of this supporting cast, picking up immediately after his Year One finale to see what Cindy and Cleo are up to. While the idea of a Doctor Who story without the Doctor present might sound uninteresting, Nick Abadzis manages to keep the story exciting and engaging, removing the safety-blanket of the Doctor to put his friends at greater risk, much like in the televised episodes, “Blink”, “Turn Left” and “The Christmas Invasion”. It certainly added a whole new perspective onto events, increasing the tension when the mysterious Mr. Ebonite appears and attempts to take the book away from Cindy and Cleo.

Once again, Abadzis makes use of Gabby’s sketchbook, lavishly brought to life by Arianna Florean’s fantastic sketches. Rather than serving as a brief glimpse into Gabby’s inner thoughts, Abadzis actually makes the book a key plot device, with Dorothy Bell sending a warning from the future through the pages of the book – kind of like “Blink” meets The Never Ending Story. It’s a great concept and allows Abadzis to further build up the mythology he’d set up in the final story-arc of Year One. Dorothy’s warning of upcoming doom teases a dark future where a corrupted version of Anubis is responsible for unleashing more evil into the universe, including a cameo of the Beast from “The Impossible Planet" and "The Satan Pit”. If Nick Abadzis is revisiting that character, then that would be a pretty cool development!

Elena Casagrande and Arianna Florean are a fantastic dream team of artists; working together to bring this uniquely crafted issue to life. I loved the way that this episode flowed from the inner monologue of Gabby’s sketch-book to the dramatic developments in the park. The duo complement each other’s work perfectly and I love the fact that Gabby’s sketchbook has become a vital element of the story, meaning that Florean is able to bring more of her wonderful sketches into the series. I would quite happily read an entire issue of Gabby’s sketchbook journal! Casagrande’s artwork remains as absolutely brilliant as before, and I loved the energy her art brought to the fight against Ebonite and his skull. Talking of which, I would love to see this mysterious character return in future episodes as he had such a distinctive design and very intriguing power set.

Despite the absence of the Doctor from the narrative, this was an absolute gem of a story demonstrating Nick Abadzis’ skill as a writer. The shock reveal of Captain Jack Harkness was a delight too, especially after recently finishing the Ninth Doctor mini-series. Obviously, this is a post-Torchwood Season Two Jack Harkness so it will be interesting to see how he interacts with the Doctor, assuming the two even get to meet! With all the recent Jack Harkness love – including Big Finish’s recent Torchwood audio series – it would be great for Titan Comics to release a Torchwood series, as it’s one of the much-missed elements of the Doctor Who universe. But, back to this series, I have to say that this might be the finest issue of the Tenth Doctor comic series yet, which feels odd considering the Doctor is absent throughout. I’m really enjoying the slow build of the series’ central story-arc and this second year seems to have a stronger foundation at its heart, compared to the first year of stories.

Score - 9.8 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor (Vol. 2) # 3 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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