Showing posts with label River Song. Show all posts
Showing posts with label River Song. Show all posts

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 15

Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 15
"Physician, Heal Thyself"
Written by: Si Spurrier & Rob Williams
Art by: Simon Fraser
Colours by: Gary Caldwell

There's a huge amount of satisfaction to this issue as writers Si Spurrier and Rob Williams wrap up their sprawling fifteen-issue epic with a healthy dose of timey-wimey goodness and some brilliant narrative gymnastics. There's no denying that this has been a densely plotted and sometimes confusing journey for both the Doctor and the reader to follow, but Spurrier and Williams do their best to pull back the curtain and explain the inner-workings of this time-loop of an adventure. There are some grey areas that I was unsure of, and I think the whole fifteen-issue saga would definitely benefit from a re-read with the added foresight of knowing the ending in advance. While this novel-style approach to the storytelling has resulted in a fantastically well-plotted adventure rife with lots of intricate details and wonderful narrative loops, it has also been very tough to keep up with at times, especially in monthly installments. I've really enjoyed this long-form approach to telling a Doctor Who comic story, and it reminds me of how Season Six revolved around River Song's back-story with most of the episode's tying into her origins and the apparent death of the Doctor at Lake Silencio. This was one of the most intellectually-demanding and time-bending Doctor Who stories I've ever encountered and I applaud both Mr. Spurrier and Mr. Williams for pulling it off with such self-assured confidence.

To say that I'm a fan of Simon Fraser's artwork would be an understatement, I love the raw emotion that he infuses into his panel and I've followed his work since the early days of Nikolai Dante in 2000AD. Echoes of his work on that strip can be seen in his panels for this issue, particularly the blood-red rage of Abslom Daak as he unleashes his pent-up anger on the Squire. Fraser's work on the Abslom Daak sequences of this issue were absolutely brilliant and a worthy tribute to the character's co-creator, Steve Dillon, who passed away in October. I'm very glad that Daak got his happy ending – and only he would see banishment to a time-locked Time War infested with Daleks as a happy ending! Fraser's artwork was such a natural pairing for Abslom Daak that I would love to see him working on an Abslom Daak mini-series set during the Time War - come on, Titan Comics, you can make this happen!

Overall, this was a solid conclusion to a year's worth of spectacular stories, tying up the loose ends in true Doctor Who hyper-exposition fashion. Spurrier and Williams should definitely take a bow after fifteen issues of the most well-choreographed scripting that I've ever seen in a comic. It is truly a talent to keep track of all those loose plot threads over fifteen issues whilst ensuring that the story remains engaging, coherent and above all else, fun. I'm looking forward to seeing what Year Three brings the Eleventh Doctor under this extremely capable creative team.

Score - 9.6 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor (Vol. 2) # 15 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, 18 May 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 9

Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 9
"Running To Stay Still"
Written by: Si Spurrier
Art by: Leandro Casco
Colours by: Rodrigo Fernandes

Si Spurrier continues to tell his sprawling Eleventh Doctor epic storyline, which sees the Doctor accused of war crimes during the Time War and struggling to prove his innocence. As opposed to the previous year's story which featured individual stories that connected together to form a wider 'season-long' story-arc, this year's tale has been far more serialised with a singular narrative thrust driving the adventure along. While this does make it trickier for new readers to jump into the storyline, it certainly means that long-term followers of the series are rewarded with a densely-plotted adventure, filled with clues and references to earlier issues. Spurrier, along with his co-writer Rob Williams, has crafted an absolutely thrilling “whodunnit” mystery that reaches into the heart of modern Doctor Who mythology and offers a satisfying glimpse at the untold events of the Last Great Time War.

Now armed with a potential suspect, the Doctor attempts to appeal to the Overcast to call off their temporal bounty hunter, The Then and The Now, but finds himself blocked by the Malignant. Spurrier continues to raise the stakes for the Doctor, putting River in stasis as the Malignant begins to eat away at her body and critically injuring the Squire in the midst of a battle. This is Doctor at his lowest point, plagued with self-doubt and faced with momentous odds – something we don't get to see too often in the television series itself. He's usually the man with a plan, and although previous issues have seen him manipulating events and his companions in a last-ditch effort to prove his innocence, there's the strong sense that this is the Doctor out of his depth for the first time in a long time. I must admit that I found myself uncomfortable witnessing the Doctor's cold, calculated approach of pushing Alice away and forcing her to use the Master's TARDIS to break into the time-locked planet of Lujhimene to discover answers to the mysteries that have plagued the team (and the readers) since the start of this second year of adventures. Clearly, this is a Doctor who no longer has the luxury of being the nice-guy and is forced to make some tough decisions to facilitate his endgame. I'm guessing he knows that Alice is destined to go back to the Time War, but has he just sent her to her death?

Returning to the series after helping out during the seventh issue, Leandro Casco brings a refreshing look to the Eleventh Doctor series with his thick, bold line-work and smooth, nearly-animated character designs. Despite his distinctive style, Casco manages to create consistency with the previous artists, particularly Warren Pleece. I love the way that Casco ensure the story flows along nicely, especially during the action-orientated scenes between the Squire and The Then and The Now. As with its earlier appearances, The Then and The Now affects the Doctor, bringing forth former and future regenerations at once as it plays with the Doctor's chronology. Casco does a brilliant job at illustrating this side-effect and I loved seeing his interpretation of the other incarnations of the Doctor merging into one. While Casco did a fantastic job at bringing the TARDIS crew to life, I'm not sure his style lends itself well to drawing the elderly, wrinkled skin of veteran companion, The Squire. To be fair, she is a tricky character to get right but Casco's smooth style didn't really gel with the increased lines on her face, resulting in a juxtaposition that made her look mummified at times. Luckily, she spent most of the issue in a space-suit so it wasn't too distracting! On the flip-side, I absolutely love his representation of River Song and her mass of curly hair – it manages to channel Alex Kingston's take on the character without being a carbon-copy portrait of the actress. Much like his version of Matt Smith's Doctor, it captures the essence of the character without being a slave to realism.

Once again, this was another solid chapter of the Eleventh Doctor comic-book series and what promises to be a turning point in the narrative structure of the series. I've enjoyed the twists and turns up until now, but with six issues remaining of this storyline, I hope that we're going to start seeing the pace change up as we head towards the third act of the adventure. I've enjoyed seeing the Doctor being chased relentlessly by The Then and The Now, but it has resulted in each episode feeling somewhat similar to each other in structure. The Doctor goes somewhere, discovers a clue, gets chased away by the Then and the Now – this seems to have been the format for the past few episodes, and while enjoyable, it has become slightly formulaic. With Alice's decision here, though, it seems like we're about to get a shake-up to the status-quo and a different type of adventure to those seen recently. Perhaps we'll get a War Doctor-centric issue instead, shedding light on the mystery of the Malignant and the strange boy glimpsed in flashbacks? I remain utterly enthralled by the mysteries that Spurrier and Williams have conjured up onto the page, and cannot wait to get some much-needed answers.

Score - 9.3 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor (Vol. 2) # 9 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, 20 April 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 8

Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 8
Written by: Si Spurrier
Art by: Warren Pleece
Colours by: Arianna Florean

After last issue’s revelation that the Master wasn't behind the creation of the Malignant, things are looking increasingly bleak for the Doctor as he finds himself once again in the frame for “war-crimes” during the Time War. While this latest issue is lot less action-packed than its predecessor, it is still a thoroughly entertaining chapter in the series’ long-running storyline, offering more clues and questions to the central mystery at the heart of Year Two. I’m really enjoying the “long-game” approach that Rob Williams and Si Spurrier have adopted with this series, teasing and plotting out key reveals way in advance. I’m appreciated the densely plotted narrative structure and both writers are doing a tremendous job at maintaining the suspense through each twist and turn of the tale. It feels like a natural evolution of Year One’s storyline, tightening the ‘flabby areas’ and creating a much more personal and continuity-driven mystery at the heart of the year-long narrative. That said, I have felt a slight twang of fatigue at the heavy focus on the “Whodunnit?” side of the storyline, given that the series hasn't really deviated from the plot point since its return.

One of the strengths of this issue, and in fact this entire storyline, is the way that both Spurrier and Williams examine a broken and insecure Doctor – this motif was briefly touched upon by Ewing and Williams in the first year, but came across as slightly inauthentic at times, but here it feels completely accurate and in keeping with the character’s shame of his War Doctor incarnation. As much as he likes to think he is a hero, he knows deep-down that he is capable of making cruel decisions and I love the way that Spurrier and Williams pick at this side of his personality, whilst maintaining the same Matt Smith ‘voice’ inherent to this incarnation of the character. This slower, more character-driven issue by Spurrier is good fun and I like the increased focus on Absalom Daak and seeing how his time as the Doctor’s companion has changed him for the better. Despite the slower pace, there’s some surprising revelations, the chief foremost being that a renegade sect of the Daleks may be the ones responsible for the Malignant, once again shifting suspicion from the Doctor. But there are still plenty of questions waiting to be answered, and much of the fun of this series is the way Williams and Spurrier litter the issues with reveals.

Recurring artist, Warren Pleece, is back on art duties for this issue and he does a fantastic job at bringing the ‘Mos Eisley Cantina’-esque space bar to life. It’s particularly apt that he is the artist on this issue as his interpretation of Absalom Daak seems to be softer and more sensitive than Simon Fraser's and it suits this more resigned (and dare I say, relaxed?) iteration of the Dalek Killer. However, that may be short-lived, given his discovery at the end of this issue that there are more Daleks to kill. In fact, this raises a question for me as I’m not sure why everyone thinks the Daleks are extinct as chronology-wise, they've escaped the Time War. The last Dalek story to take place in the series’ continuity (aside from the Stone Dalek in “The Pandorica Opens” / “The Big Bang”) is the Season 5 episode, “Victory of the Daleks”, which effectively rebooted the monsters, albeit in the gaudy Power Ranger colours that were never seen from again… I guess it’s just “timey wimey” stuff.

This was another strong episode of the Eleventh Doctor comic series, which manages to maintain the excitement and tension of its preceding episodes, adding more twists and turns to the central narrative of this year of stories. As we head past the half-way point, it seems like we’re coming to the end of the mysteries and we’re going to get more answers, which I’m looking forward to seeing. Spurrier and Williams have crafted a truly fantastic Doctor Who adventure that rewards loyal readers and long-time fans of the show. While there is a hint of fatigue settling in, Spurrier’s last page cliff-hanger promises the return of the Malignant to re-establish them as a threat following their absence in the series and remind readers of the crime that the Doctor is fighting to exonerate himself from. It’s extremely well-timed and will hopefully offer a shot in the arm to the series’ narrative as it begins to drift dangerously close to repetition. As I've said before, this is such a densely and intricately plotted series and I feel extremely confident putting my brain in the hands of Spurrier and Williams as they take it (and me) on a wonderful journey through some of the unexplored eras of Doctor Who history.

Score - 9.2 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor (Vol. 2) # 8 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, 23 March 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 7

Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 7
"The One" - Part 2 (of 2)
Written by: Rob Williams
Art by: Leandro Casco & Simon Fraser
Colours by: Gary Caldwell

After last issue’s surprise reveal that the Doctor and his merry band of companions had broken through the time barrier and entered Shada, the prison planet of the Time Lords, Rob Williams takes time to have fun with the ambiguity over the canonicity of the legendary unfinished adventure by having the Doctor unable to remember his previous time on the planet. Williams also provides a subtle nod to the serial’s writer, Douglas Adams of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy fame, with a rather depressive AI system that bears similarities with Marvin the Paranoid Android. Williams’ script manages to be very accessible and requires no real background knowledge of “Shada” and its complicated history, but rewards those hard-core Whovians who do know about it. There’s a fabulous pace and momentum to this story as the Doctor, River and the others attempt to break through the prison security to find out whether the Master was involved in the war-crimes that the Doctor has been accused of.

Unfortunately, this issue features two artists working together and while their styles do contrast against each other – the point at which the ‘switch-over’ occurs allows the transition to occur relatively seamlessly minimising disruption to the narrative. I really enjoyed Leandro Casco’s art in this issue, which offered a distinctive take on the Eleventh Doctor and his many companions. There’s a smoothness to Casco’s style that adds a minimalist flavour to his artwork and gives it an animated style – unfortunately, this does contrast against Simon Fraser’s more detail-laden style, which makes use of shading and intricate line-work. Both art styles are great and would have worked perfectly on their own, but blending the two together in one issue is slightly problematic. However, as I’ve said before, the editors picked the perfect transition moment to switch between the artists as the companions find themselves placed in stasis. I really enjoyed the sequence from Simon Fraser where the Squire uses her sword to prevent the Doctor from being placed into stasis for one thousand years. It’s full of dramatic tension and the emotion of the scene leapt out of the page – it was definitely the highlight of the issue for me.

Ultimately, this issue offered little in the way of answers, choosing instead to bombard the reader with more questions than before. For example, what was on the photo that the Doctor printed out of the Master’s TARDIS – was it something incriminating himself in the genocide of the Cylors? Also, what exactly is going on with Alice – the Shada AI made a blink and you’ll miss it reference to “fluctuating Tachyon technology in her neck”, further building up the mystery about her visions of the future. Obviously, the Squire remains a conundrum for both the Doctor and the readers, revealed her to be a being with no history – which suggests that she might be some kind of artificial construct? Interestingly, the Shada AI asks if she is the owner of the Master’s TARDIS – a question that goes unanswered, meaning that my theory that she is a hidden incarnation of the Master remains open, ready to be disproved at a later date! I’m really enjoying the multiple layers of mystery that Rob Williams and Si Spurrier have piled onto this storyline, crafting a “whodunit” that continues to confuse the reader and take them on a journey of twists and turns.

Despite the inconsistencies between the two artists, this was a strong issue of the Eleventh Doctor comic series which pulled the rug out from under the reader’s feet by dismissing the Master as the master-mind behind this storyline. Of course, it’s possible that he is still involved further down the line, but I’m intrigued to see where Spurrier and Williams intend to take this storyline over the coming months. With such a firm grasp on Doctor Who mythology, it feels like they have fifty-plus years of material at their hands. Forget “hiding behind the sofa”, the compelling mysteries of this storyline will have you shouting at the TV for answers, thanks to some absolutely brilliant storytelling from Spurrier and Williams. I can't recommend this series enough to fans of Doctor Who - go buy it now!

Score - 9.2 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Eleventh 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, 2 March 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 6

Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 6
"The One" - Part 1 (of 2)
Written by: Rob Williams
Art by: Simon Fraser
Colours by: Gary Caldwell

River Song takes the spotlight in this sixth issue of the Eleventh Doctor comic series, following the shock revelation that the Doctor was breaking her out of the Stormcage prison to help him locate the Masters' TARDIS. Rob Williams wastes no time in establishing their unique dynamic on the page, playing with this pre-”A Good Man Goes to War” status of the Doctor having no idea who River Song actually is. Williams does a tremendous job at bringing River Song to life on the page, effortlessly channelling Alex Kingston's multi-faceted portrayal of the character. It's great to see the banter between her and the Doctor, with her teasing him about her knowledge of his future, but also the very real relationship beneath this surface flirting, when she tries to restore his confidence and offers him her TARDIS diary to snap him out of his self-doubt. While she may divide viewers in her appearances on the TV show itself, she is a tremendous addition to the cast of characters in this second year of adventures and I hope she reminds a strong presence in the remaining nine issues of this story-arc.

Simon Fraser returns to art duties after a two issue hiatus and absolutely reinvigorates the book. While I enjoyed Warren Pleece's art, Fraser's style feels much more dynamic and action-packed as he uses a variety of visual flourishes to inject pace into the story. I particularly liked the panel where he clicks his fingers to open the TARDIS doors and the group of companions rush towards the reader. It's a great image that showcases the juxtaposition of the TARDIS and the outside world – a visual that is often used to similarly great effect in the TV show itself. My favourite panel of the whole issue is where the Doctor throws River back her diary, demonstrating a return to the clever, confident trickster no longer plagued by the self-doubt of his past actions. Fraser also has a tricky action sequence to choreograph as the Doctor lures the Then and the Now to the TARDIS and then slingshots it to the time-locked wall allowing them to crash through the other side. Despite the complexity of the sequence, Fraser manages to interpret it well, allowing the reader to clearly understand the motion and action of the events.

While the inclusion of River Song shows a willingness to embrace “New Who” continuity by the series' writers, the conclusion of the issue which reveals that the Master's TARDIS is stored on Shada, the lost prison planet of the Time Lords was a particularly “deep cut” of classic series continuity. “Shada” was the un-produced TV serial for the Fourth Doctor, written by Douglas Adams of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy fame. To see it referenced here is a particularly nice slice of continuity mining, much like Absalom Daak being brought from the Doctor Who Magazine's strips into the Eleventh Doctor's era. Unfortunately, I never watched the episodes of “Shada” that were made, nor have I read the book which was later published, but I am eager to see how the Doctor and his crew of companions instead to traverse the deadly prison planet to locate the Master's TARDIS. I have also developed a theory surrounding the Squire, following the clues given by River Song – she states outright that she wasn't a companion of the Doctor, but later says that she clearly does know the Doctor. I may be going out on a limb here, but I think The Squire is an incarnation of The Master, hidden in plain sight, and much like the Professor Yana incarnation, she will awaken and turn evil. In fact, she may even regenerate into the Professor Yana version at the end of this storyline.

This was an excellent episode of the ongoing mystery surrounding the Doctor's war-crimes and his efforts to clear his name. I love how Rob Williams and Si Spurrier are adding more and more nuggets of Doctor Who continuity into the adventure, really cementing this storyline into the DNA of the TV show. This series is packed with enough twists and turns to leave the reader out of breath and begging for the next big reveal. Williams and Spurrier have managed to turn what some may consider optional expanded universe material into vital, must-read stories for fans of the TV show. If you're not reading this series, you're missing out on some of the strongest and most rewarding Doctor Who adventures for some time! If you're a fan of the Time War and the early Eleventh Doctor era, then you need to be reading this stories – luckily, Titan Comics have been collecting the stories into trade paperbacks, so go back and check those out and then come back here for the next review!

Score - 9.6 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Eleventh 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, 27 January 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 5

Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 5
"The Judas Goatee"
Written by: Si Spurrier
Art by: Warren Pleece
Colours by: Hi-Fi

After last issue's tease that the Master may be the architect behind the conspiracy framing the Doctor for despicable war-crimes during the Time War, this follow-up adventure from Si Spurrier and Warren Pleece sees the Doctor take his unlikely group of companions to yet another far-flung planet in order to get some tangible evidence that points to the Master's involvement. Spurrier certainly captures the multi-tasking element of the Doctor's personality well as the narrative feels just as layered as Inception, with multiple reasons for their diversion disclosed along the way. This frenetic scripting ensures that the reader gets caught up in the whirlwind of chaos left in the wake of the Doctor, creating a sense of urgency to this storyline as they struggle to catch up with a lead character who is several moves ahead, yet still trailing behind his greatest nemesis.  With the Doctor presented as distant and distracted, the series' gang of supporting characters prove all the more vital, acting as the reader's window into the action and allowing Spurrier (and Williams) the chance to explain their wonderfully complex plot to the layman. It's a technique often used in the TV show itself, and it's great to see it employed with great effect in comic book form.

I've admired Titan Comics' restraint in keeping the iconic Doctor Who monsters off the printed page, apart from some minor exceptions in the Weeping Angels and Cybermen, but it was great to see the Sontarans make their Titan Comics debut. It was a brilliantly placed cameo – not only was it a nice nod for the fans, but the concept of a war over facial hair works perfectly with identical clone armies of the Sontarans. This issue also gives us our first glimpse of the Master, albeit in silhouette, and judging from the goatees sported by the renegade Sontarans, I'm guessing we're going to see the classic iteration of the character, rather than John Simm or Michelle Gomez's incarnations. This decision certainly appeals to me, as I find the Roger Delgado version to be the definitive take on the character and I think the goatee perfectly defines the villainous nature of the Master.

In a rather surprising move, a third character from the TV series makes a cameo appearance at the end of this adventure as the Doctor and his companions break into the Stormcage prison to meet with River Song. It's a fantastic cliff-hanger and an inspired decision from the series writers as I'm sure River's presence will add a whole new dimension to the series, especially if she joins the team as a companion for the remainder of the story-arc. While River may be a somewhat divisive character amongst the Whovian fan-base, I am looking forward to seeing what her strong personality can bring to the series' status-quo. It's also quite a timely appearance given the recent Christmas Special, “The Husbands of River Song” and the Big Finish audio series, “The Diary of River Song – Series One”. It seems that years after her death, the character is still casting a heavy shadow over the Doctor Who franchise.

Whereas the first year of adventures merely dabbled with the TV show's monsters with appearances of the Nimon and the Cybermen, this second year of adventures feels firmly entrenched in the show's continuity referencing not only the Time War and War Doctor, but also bringing characters such as The Master, Sontarans and River Song into the mix. I'm a sucker for stories set during the gap between “Doctor Who: The Movie” and “Rose”, so it's great to see this era explored in spin-off media, especially since it seems the series is keen to move on and away from the Time War. With this increased focus on the War Doctor and the hidden adventures he underwent between “The Night of the Doctor” and his appearances in “The Day of the Doctor”, it would be great if Titan Comics released a War Doctor series, possibly once its Eighth Doctor mini-series has come to an end. Back to this series, I am thoroughly enjoying each issue of the Eleventh Doctor series as Spurrier and Williams spin together a rich tapestry of adventure filled with plenty of twists and turns. It's absolutely brilliant storytelling and essential reading for fans of the Doctor Who mythology.

Score - 9.5 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor (Vol. 2) # 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 series when you pick up your copy!
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