Book Review – Doctor Who: Operation Volcano

  • Title: Operation Volcano
  • Author: Andrew Cartmel, Ben Aaronovitch (creator – Countermeasures characters), Richard Dinnick
  • Artists: Christopher Jones, Marco Lesko (colors), Jessica Martin, Charlie Kirchoff (colors), Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line:  Seventh Doctor
  • Characters: Seventh Doctor, Ace, Group Capt. Gilmore, Rachel, Allison
  • Collection Date: 2019
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/02/2019

Operation Volcano is a new volume in Titan Comics occasional graphic novel series featuring “Classic Doctors” from the BBC Series Doctor Who. This volume features the Seventh Doctor as played by Sylvester McCoy on the series, Ace and the Intrusion Countermeasures Group. There is one main story in the book and two shorter stories, plus a black and white First Doctor strip featuring the original TARDIS crew. This is a new volume in Titan Comics occasional Classic Doctors series.

The main story does not start out with the Doctor and Ace just landing somewhere and getting involved in events. Rather, they are called in by the Intrusion Countermeasures Group headed by Group Captain Ian Gilmore. Gilmore actually uses a rather ingenious “dead drop” to get the Doctor’s help, and the last story in the book is Ace and the Doctor getting the message.

Professor Rachel Jensen and Dr. Allison Williams discover an aboriginal cave painting that seems to show a spaceship leaving or being ejected from a volcano, when they discover the spaceship in the Australian desert they send for the Doctor and Group Captain Gilmore. Besides the Doctor’s receiving the message being shown a little out of order (we do see him meet Group Captian Gilmore in the library) we also see flash-forwards to Gilmore being found, alive (having been in stasis) in a spaceship orbiting the Earth in 2029.

Once Gilmore, his aide, the Doctor, and Ace arrive in Australia they meet a small group of Australian soldiers, Rachel and Allison. A nuclear arms protestor shows up, with an Australian Aboriginal – they are both trying to protect sacred sites which have already been the site of a British nuclear bomb testing several years ago. Ice makers and showers are installed to beat the heat of the Outback desert. All the women are lining up to use the showers, but complain because someone’s been in the shower awhile. A man enters the building and there is an attack. The man attacks a “snake” on the back of the other man’s back and the other man drops dead. The Doctor insists that the snake isn’t a snake at all but an extra-terrestrial being, furthermore he insists it’s “one of the good guys”. The same man who destroyed the being later attacks Ace. The Doctor organizes a trip into the Outback, providing lightweight radiation suits for everyone. Ace volunteers to commune with the aliens. She discovers that they are law officers, after some criminals, and that the criminals hid their ships in volcanos on Earth then used their ability to understand any language, manipulate people, and resemble the local standard of beauty – to manipulate and influence history.

By the time everyone returns to their base, there’s been an attack. Rachel and Allison are kidnapped, the Doctor and Ace create a sand skimmer that works like a catamaran on land to escape and they organize a rescue at the other alien ship in Mexico. This succeeds but with Gilmore on the wrong side of the alien door when the ship takes off.

The Doctor and Ace are able to help the good guy aliens return to their planet, the bad guy aliens are stopped, Rachel and Allison are rescued, and the Doctor even arrives at a medical station in 2029 to pick-up Gilmore and bring him back to his office.

The second story sees Mags the werewolf return to her home planet. A dictator has taken over through unfair elections and launched a campaign against werewolves. Werewolves have to wear armbands identifying themselves, and many are just being picked up and locked away. At first, it seems Ace and the Doctor are too late to help Mags rescue her sister and boyfriend (he was Mags’ boyfriend but now her sister is dating him). However, the Doctor has plans. He embarrasses the dictator both by exposing his cruelty to werewolves and by showing him to be a coward. The people rise up against the dictator, and the Doctor promises fair elections will be held. Mags gives her sister and her former boyfriend her blessing. The Doctor offers Mags a trip in the TARDIS.

The next story is one I’ve read before, maybe in a Free Comic Day event, but it has the Doctor and Ace tricking a group of war-like aliens to leave their bunker – so they can be arrested.

And the final story is a black and white story about the First Doctor, Susan, Barbara, and Ian – though primarily about Ian, Barbara, and Susan. Ian finds something that makes him think Susan thinks he and Barbara are barbarians. But Susan tells him it’s from when they first met before they traveled together. She then gives them a tour of the TARDIS before showing them her artwork.

I liked all four stories, including the one with Susan, Barbara, and Ian. The four stories don’t fit together though. They really have nothing to do with each other. It gives the feeling that the extra stories were added to make up the page count in the book. And I could have done with the main story being longer instead.

Still, this is a great collection. Not only are Ace and the Doctor in prime form, but the Intrusion Countermeasures group, first introduced in the aired episode, “The Remembrance of the Daleks” (but without a formal name or title for the group) are also well-written and in character. I liked seeing Ace working with two women, and all three were intelligent and professional. The good guy aliens who look like red and black snakes (except when they are flying, then they look like butterflies) were really cool. And I loved how Ace and the Doctor make no assumptions about them being “evil” based on looks. Actually, it’s the other aliens who manipulate their looks to give them an air of human perfection.

The theme of looks versus actions also continues on in Mags story and it’s even, in a way the theme of Susan, Barbara, and Ian’s story. So there is that.

This is also a gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous book. All the characters from the television show Doctor Who look as they should. The artwork also has a painted quality to it. And the aliens are very cool looking, and their home planet is beautiful. The Australian desert also looks particularly pretty.

In short, I really enjoyed Operation Volcano and it is highly recommended.

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