Book Review – Eleventh Doctor Vol. 1 – After Life

After Life is the first collected volume in Titan Comics Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) Doctor Who series. The art is fantastic and I really loved it. It has a wonderful painted quality, with some pages looking like a watercolor with subtle differences in shading of essentially the same color palette such as grey or sepia; whereas other pages use bright colors, but not the traditional “comic” 4-color look. It’s truly excellent art. The panel order is also very clear, and the imagery is sharp and crisp not blurry or fuzzy.

The first story is this collection of five issues was my favorite, it introduces Alice Obiefune, who first loses her mother, whom she had been caring for, for years. Then she loses her job. Then her landlord throws her out of her apartment so he can sell the building at a profit for luxury apartment complexes. Also, when she reaches out to a friend she finds her friend is moving away. Alice, needless to say, is very sad and depressed. And she runs into a Rainbow Dog – an alien; and the Doctor. Alice helps the Doctor chase the Rainbow Dog, but then the Doctor sees a Time Lord Cardinal out of the corner of his eye, gets distracted, and runs into a light pole. Soon after he leaves Alice, and disappears. Alice returns to her apartment, determined to fight back and at least keep the apartment. Then the TARDIS arrives. Alice and the Doctor spend some time together, rescue the Rainbow Dog and reunite it with it’s child-alien owner. The Doctor takes Alice for a trip in the TARDIS.

The Doctor and Alice head for what the Doctor says is a beautiful place, an entire planet set aside as a System-Wide Park. A national trust or national park. But when they arrive, the planet’s been destroyed and turned into an amusement park. To make matters worse, everyone is deliriously happy – artificially so. The Doctor and Alice find the aliens responsible and put a stop to it, and free the citizens of the park and the planet with it’s waste mines and destruction. It was a good story, but told too quickly – it should have been two issues at least.

The third story ties in with the second one, in that the same “group” or villain is at the root of what’s going on, but the story is somewhat confusing and jumps back and forth in time a bit too much. It’s also a somewhat predictable story of the musician who makes a deal with the devil to get his talent. The only interesting bit is that the Doctor also makes some sort of deal – and although Alice and temporary companion John Jones manage to save the Doctor – he can’t remember what he was willing to sell his soul (so to speak) for. However, since we again see a glimpse of a Time Lord Cardinal, we can certainly guess. I just felt this story was both predictable and a bit flat.

The final two issues bound into this graphic novel are a single story. Characters from the previous two stories appear again, and the story is set on a deep space research station or base, where something has gone horribly wrong and a number of people are in comas as a result. The Doctor, and Alice find out eventually that the station was torturing an “Autonomous Reasoning Center” literally a walking mind. This mind doesn’t want to hurt people or even take revenge for being hurt – it simply wants to know – but it’s attempts at communication were painful or hurting others. The Doctor straightens it all out.

All four stories in volume one were good, but I felt the first story was the best. In a sense, this volume of the new Titan Comics Doctor Who graphic novels seemed to be aimed a bit more at younger children or at least at teens. But the stories are still good – just not mind-blowingly great. I have the second volume and look forward to reading it soon.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Atom Bomb Blues

  • Title: Atom Bomb Blues
  • Series: BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Andrew Cartmel
  • Characters:  Seventh Doctor, Ace
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 2/22/2013

Finishing this book gave me a sense of accomplishment and a sense of sadness. I have been collecting and reading the BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures (PDA) and Eighth Doctor Adventures (EDA) paperback books series for years (at least since 2001 and possibly before that). I’ve always thought that of the six series (so far) of books based on the BBC television series, Doctor Who, that the PDAs and EDAs had the best writing and were the closest to the characterizations from the actual TV series. So reaching the last Past Doctor Adventure was sad… but since I’ve read most of the PDAs, it was also a sense of accomplishment, it is a series of 76 books after all — that’s a lot.

So, getting on to the review of this particular book in the series. Atom Bomb Blues brings Ace and the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy’s version, e.g. the 7th Doctor) to New Mexico in 1945 during the development and testing phase of the nuclear bomb. The novel moves very fast at the beginning and introduces some great characters. Later on it gets a bit confusing. However, overall I did really like the book, it was an enjoyable read, and the Doctor and Ace were in character. This is a stand-alone Ace and the Doctor novel and not part of Mike Tucker & Robert Perry’s mini-series within the PDA series starring Ace and the Doctor.

One of few things I did find annoying about the PDAs was that every time the series takes the Doctor and his companion to the US there are very basic errors (Dying in the Sun being one of the worst). Unfortunately, Atom Bomb Blues is no exception, with the author continuously mis-spelling “chili” as “chilli”. Very distracting. (At the beginning of the novel a Mexican-American cook/housekeeper’s chili is an important plot-point of sorts). Minor problem, yes, but annoying anyway. I also think it should have been colder in the New Mexico desert at night, but whatever.

However, I did like the plot and the characters. “Cosmic Ray” seemed a bit out of time (his accent and slang are very 60s) but that gets explained later. Ace was wonderful — I especially liked how she reacts to the Doctor’s withholding information. That was very like the series itself, especially the 7th Doctor Era.

Overall, I recommend this particular book in the BBC Past Doctor Adventures series. This is a nice Swan Song for the series to go out on. The book is an enjoyable, fast read.

Book Review – Ninth Doctor Vol. 1 – Weapons of Past Destruction

Titan Comics started their excellent series of Doctor Who graphic novels with the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, and quickly added the Twelfth Doctor. Now they have gone back in time so to speak and started a Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) series. Weapons of Past Destruction is the first volume in that series. The novel is set between “The Doctor Dances” and “Boom Town” and also features the Doctor’s companions, Rose Tyler and Captain Jack Harkness.
The Doctor brings Rose and Captain Jack to a planet dedicated to art and science for vacation, but when the TARDIS arrives the planet has been completely destroyed. Captain Harkness takes the three to an illegal weapons bazaar, which upsets the Doctor. When the Doctor finds a dealer selling Gallifreyan weapons he freaks out a bit. Soon, the Doctor and his companions are caught up in a galactic conflict between the Unon and the Lect. As is the case with such things, Rose, Jack, and the Doctor are separated, reunited, separated again, in various combinations. But the story does draw to a successful conclusion. It also has a story that gives one time for thought.
The artwork is truly, truly gorgeous – and the characters’ voices are true to the Ninth Doctor Era of Doctor Who.
I enjoyed this graphic novel and I hope Titan Comics continues the series. Recommended, along with the other Doctor Who graphic novels.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Instruments of Darkness

  • Title: Instruments of Darkness
  • Series: BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Gary Russell
  • Characters:  Sixth Doctor, Mel, Evelyn
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/11/2012

Doctor Who Instruments of Darkness is one of the BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures which feature Doctors 1-7 and were published just after the 1996 TV movie (starring Paul McGann) and coherently with the Eighth Doctor Adventures starring McGann’s Doctor (and with new Companions).

This particular story was only so-so. I liked seeing Evelyn in a novel (she’s a companion from the Big Finish audio plays) and her interaction with Mel was great. But, on the other hand, unlike “Spiral Scratch” which had me liking Mel, even though I have never liked Mel as a Doctor Who companion, in Instruments of Darkness she’s back to her old, boring, annoying self.

I must admit, I put this book down halfway through – and though I did pick it up again and finish it, the story really didn’t stick with me. I think part of the problem is that it spends much too much time with characters other than the Doctor and his companions, especially at the beginning of the story. I’m willing to put up with that for a chapter or two (it almost seems to be part of the outline for this series of books) but not the majority of the first half. And it doesn’t make me more sympathetic to the characters – because they all get killed anyway (or most of them do). And in this novel in particular, most of the characters specific to the novel are bad guys. Even the teens and young people with ESP powers, at the end, prove to be just as dangerous as the various forces that were holding them hostage.

Overall, I have to give this a three out of five rating. It’s OK, and not extremely bad like some of the PDA Doctor Who adventures, but it’s not extremely good either.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Spiral Scratch

  • Title: Spiral Scratch
  • Series: BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Gary Russell
  • Characters:  Sixth Doctor, Mel
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/04/2012

This is a tie-in to the wonderful British Science Fiction television show Doctor Who. It is not a novelization of an episode but rather an original story, that borrows the characters of the Sixth Doctor (played by Colin Baker) and Melanie Bush (played by Bonnie Langford) under license from the BBC. Doctor Who is the world’s longest-running science fiction program, having run continuously from 1963 to 1989, picked up for a TV movie in 1996, and then returned to the screens in 2005 and still running strong. The program will celebrate it’s 50th Anniversary next year (2013). The BBC Past Doctor Adventures (sometimes referred to as PDAs) were published by BBC Books and are one of five series of original tie-in novels. There was also a series of novelizations published by Target Books (the paperback arm of UK publisher WH Allen). Of all the various Doctor Who novels I’ve read I find the PDAs and EDAs (Eighth Doctor Adventures, published at the same time) to be the best.

This was one of the best Doctor Who BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures I’ve read. The story felt like a good Doctor Who story, something that could have been done on the series – if they’d had the budget. It’s actually a complex tale. The Doctor and Mel head to Carsus, the universe’s ultimate library to meet an old friend of the Doctor’s, a retired Time Lord named Rummas. It’s not quite a vacation, but not quite a mission to save the universe – yet. However, while traveling to Carsus, various other versions of the Doctor and sometimes Mel appear in the TARDIS. When they arrive at the library, first the Doctor find Rummas dead, then he’s alive. Mel sees other versions of his helpers at the library. And before long she and the Doctor have to save the universe.

However, it isn’t just the universe at stake – it’s the multiverse. Spiral Scratch deals with multi-universe theory in a highly interesting way without being too bogged down in long explanations. Before long, The Doctor and Mel are trying to save Helen, but as things get more complex, and they continuously fail and return to the Library, it becomes apparent that something bigger is going on.

What that is… is Monica, a Lamprey, a creature that lives in the Vortex itself and devoures Chronon (time) Energy. However, Rummas has become trapped – because Monica lives outside of time, and Rummas lives life in a normal line and cannot change his own past — every time Rummas tries to stop Monica, she can simply slip back and stop him. Rummas, unaware of this, continues to call the Doctor to him, bringing in more and more versions of the Doctor from different alternate universes.

Our version of the Doctor, and Mel, are unaware of this – as is the reader at first, as they try to rescue various time-sensitives, from various planets, in various different universes of the multi-verse. And each time the Doctor fails – he or Mel sees ghost images of other versions of himself in the TARDIS control room.

The fun of this novel starts with the various different universes such as an Imperial Earth where Rome never fell. The novel also includes chapters without the Doctor or Mel as Monica goes about her business of wrecking havoc – which the reader can slowly put together like clues in a great mystery novel. I also liked the other versions of the Doctor — one dressed in mourning black, with a scar on his face, missing an eye. He’s kinder and gentler than “our Doctor” but also blames himself for Peri’s death (in the universe where Rome never fell – she was from the Americas and a native princess named Brown Perpugilliam). Another Doctor travels with a human/Silurian hybrid named Melanie Baal. These “other” Doctors and Mels are fascinating.

The conclusion of the story is fantastic, and I loved it. I’m not going to spoil it here, but trust me… if you’re a long-time Who fan, familiar with various versions of the show and official tie-ins to it, you will enjoy Spiral Scratch. Also, this novel fills in a continuity gap from the original series that most fans will recognize. I also loved, loved, loved that. And I will say, though normally I don’t really like the companion Mel, I found that this book made me much more sympathetic to her, which is an accomplishment. I highly, highly, highly recommend this novel to fans of the TV Series Doctor Who. I also think that if you like a good tie-in novel with a strong SF plot, you’ll enjoy this… though if you don’t know Doctor Who you’ll probably miss some subtleties of the plot.

Book Review – Tenth Doctor Vol. 4 – The Endless Song

The fourth volume in Titan Comics collection of their Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) collection of Doctor Who comics starts the second year of the series. This collection includes two stories. In the first, the Doctor and Gabby arrive at one of the most beautiful planets in the universe, where the native intelligent species, the local animals, and the human colonists live in harmony. However, soon after the Doctor and Gabby arrive they discover something is wrong – the Santee – living music – are dying from a mysterious illness, and without them the Bovodrines the lungs of the world will die, and without oxygen the humans will also die. The Doctor and Gabby work with a female scientist who has been studying the Santee until she’s injured to discover the source of the outbreak and reverse the effects.
In the second story, Gabby and the Doctor land on pre-historic Earth, where they help a Neanderthal shaman fight off alien slavers who are taking the various clans that live there.
In between we have Gabby’s sketchbook, notes, and letters sent in a book to her friend Cindy.
The Endless Song has beautiful art, and both stories are very good. I liked how the Shaman in the second story was written, with his own form of intelligence and his local knowledge. And the first story was a very unique Science Fiction story and well told. This is another excellent volume in Titan Comics Doctor Who series. I recommend it. If you haven’t read any of the previous volumes it’s also a good place to start, as it doesn’t pick up on any previous stories but starts a new series of adventures for the Doctor and Gabby Gonzalez.

Note: I’ve read the Tenth Doctor volumes 5 and 6 but I haven’t reviewed them yet. I want to re-read them before posting. But once I read and review both volumes they will be cross-posted here from GoodReads.

Book Review – Doctor Who Tenth Doctor vol. 3 – The Fountains of Forever

**spoiler alert** Doctor Who The Fountains of Forever is the third volume of Titan Comics Tenth Doctor graphic novel series. I enjoyed this volume very much! The volume opens with The Doctor and Gabby walking into the TARDIS covered in mud from a recent vacation. The Doctor decides to show Gabby the TARDIS’s laundry facilities. Unfortunately, things go wrong when the TARDIS’s rather special laundry facilities bring a sentient mud creature into the TARDIS.
The second story, which fills the rest of this volume, has the Doctor trying to recapture some alien tech from a specialized auction. The tech however, falls into the hands of a old-time Hollywood actress. But in an unexpected twist – she doesn’t want the tech to become young again, but to live long enough to see the hospital wing she’s donated her money and time to completed, as she’s dying. However, that isn’t all – the tech everyone is after comes from the Osirians (from the Classic Who story Pyramids of Mars). This surprising introduction of a Classic alien society makes for a great story, and I enjoyed it very much. This story is highly recommended.
The only negative about this particular graphic novel is that I thought the art wasn’t very good, especially of Gabby’s friend, Cindy Wu. Yet even the Doctor did not look like the Doctor in some panels. That was a bit sad, as the art in the Titan Comics Graphic novels to date has been extremely good.
Still, the story was excellent and I enjoyed it! Recommended.