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.

Book Review – Doctor Who The Tenth Doctor Vol. 2 – The Weeping Angels of Mons

The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Gabby Gonzalez’s adventures continue in this second volume in the Doctor Who graphic novels from Titan Comics. I thought this book was even better than volume one. The artwork is excellent. The Doctor takes Gabby on his promised trip to the past – but they arrive in the middle of a World War I battlefield. A battlefield that’s under attack by Weeping Angels. First, the Angels appear singly but soon there are hordes of Angels attacking the British troops, and the German troops occupying the nearby town have all ready disappeared.
The flashbacks of the English soldiers who are sent back in time are incredibly well-thought out, as well as well-drawn. The Doctor figures out that the Angels are desperate because they are trying to feed on the future timelines of the Lost Generation – who have no future.
As the Weeping Angels try to approach the British Trenches the Doctor and Gabby help fight them off. Finally, the Doctor is able to reach his missing TARDIS, and trap the Angels underground.
He then brings Gabby home, and says goodbye to her. But, Gabby is not safe in New York as she (and all of New York) is soon attacked by Galactic Hunters who hunt with noise weapons.
I really enjoyed this graphic novel and I recommend it.

Book Review – Doctor Who Tenth Doctor vol. 1 – Revolutions of Terror

Revolutions in Terror collects the first five issues of Titan Comics Tenth Doctor range. The Doctor (David Tennant) meets a new companion, Gabriella Gonzalez (Gabby), a Hispanic-American from New York City. Gabby works in her family’s restaurant and also their laundromat, while studying accounting in night school. (Note to the editors – in the US it’s “accounting” not “accountancy”, and one must *pass* the CPA Exam before one is a certified public accountant. However, you can work as an accounting assistant without passing the exam.) Anyway, Gabby is tired of working for her family, and would rather go to graphic design school or art school and become an artist. Aliens attack the laundromat and soon the Doctor arrives to help. The alien invasion is connected to the Day of the Dead celebration – but the happiness and singing of those gathered to celebrate beats off the invaders.
The Doctor likes Gabby and takes her on “one trip” in the TARDIS to a futuristic art gallery. They end-up in danger, but it’s Gabby who rescues the artist captured by her own creation so to speak. The Doctor agrees to give Gabby a trip to the past too.
I enjoyed this graphic novel. The art is brilliant and the colors pop. I liked the idea of including Gabby’s sketchbook/diary as her comment on life in the TARDIS but I found the lettering very difficult to read. Cursive is not your friend, especially when it’s that small – and on a dark background.
The story felt, well, like they were trying to get their feet under themselves… feeling their way a bit… not polished. But it was enough to keep me interested in buying more of the graphics in the Doctor Who series. And I really enjoyed seeing a David Tennant original story.

Free Comic Book Day 2016

Last Saturday I went to Free Comic Book Day at my local comics shop, Vault of Midnight, and I really enjoyed it. I hadn’t been to a FCBD before so I was a bit nervous, but the store handled things really well – crowd control, vendors, and they even had some line entertainment to give everyone something to do and watch while waiting, in line, for awhile. The weather cooperated for a change, it was nice, sunny, warm but not hot. The store had tents outside along where the line formed, with various organizations such as Girls Rock, a local convention GrandCon, and the local 8-bit gaming society (who had tube TVs set up with old console games for kids to play). Most of the vendors were set-up for the kids in the crowd – but considering the wait, that was a good idea. In the line, however, it was mostly young adults and adults, patiently waiting and everyone being nice.

Once inside the store, crowd control was very good – I did not feel crowded or claustrophobic which was a good thing. I did still have to wait to get to the back of the store for my choice of three free books, but after I made my choices I still had time to shop – and I even bought some new graphic novels.  Overall, it was a really enjoyable experience, Vault of Midnight did a great job hosting, and it made me want to buy my graphic novels and comics at the store rather than other more convenient and/or cheaper venues much stronger (because yeah – I need to go back this Friday or Saturday and pick up one of the Doctor Who graphic novels (from Titan Comics) that I missed when I erroneously thought I already had it).

So what did I get for my “freebies”?

“DC Comics Previews – DC Universe Rebirth”

This is in a very real sense an advertising circular / catalog of DC Comics for the Summer, especially May and June. But the articles are exactly what I needed to know having been outside the loop for a bit, especially on the monthly titles from DC.  Here’s the thing – I was reading DC Comics in the late 80s/early 90s on a regular basis – even walking to my local comics shop every week to pick up that week’s releases that I wanted. Then I moved – to an area that didn’t have a convenient comics shop. For awhile I ordered via paper catalogs (remember those!) but eventually that got expensive and I lost interest and moved on to other things. I’d periodically buy graphic novels, and especially with the Nolan Batman Trilogy in theaters, and watching and absolutely loving Bruce Timm and Andrea Romano’s DCAU and follow-up Dc Animated films, I started buying graphic novels again – mostly on-line through retailers like Amazon, or occasionally in person at Barnes and Noble. Yep, I got dragged in again (not that that’s a bad thing).

Then DC did New 52 – which I tried out through several graphic novels (Batman, Batman the Dark Knight, Justice League, Nightwing) but I just did not like New 52 at all. My analysis of New 52 was – “Hey, DC – if we wanted to read Marvel, we’d read Marvel – DC fans read DC because we like DC!”. If that seems confusing, the DC I grew-up reading was very character-based. Justice League International, which later became Justice League America and Justice League Europe was a character-based book that was just fun to read. There were characters in the Justice League with virtually no powers at all (like Booster Gold and Ted Kord’s Blue Beetle) who tended to sit in the Hall of Justice cafeteria commenting on what was going like a modern Greek Chorus. Other characters had single powers: Fire, Ice, Black Canary, etc. And when something major did go down – the League would work together as a group to beat the supervillain or bring aid after a natural or man-made disaster. Plus with all the character interaction – there was good-natured humor too. there was also a lot of diversity – ethnic, gender, aliens, etc. All the heroes in the DC Universe belonged to the Justice League – like a professional organization of heroes, both minor heroes and major ones, and the League worked together in what they did. And the League was a home to some minor heroes who couldn’t really have their own books.

New 52 in contrast gave us flat, carbon-copy “heroes” who didn’t like or trust each other. It gave us “heroes” who didn’t want to be heroes – all of them, even traditionally very happy characters like The Flash were re-written to be grim and in a sense boring. Plus New 52 really dumped the diversity. Oracle, Barbara Gordon, formerly Batgirl, but before New 52 the leader of the Birds of Prey and Info-Central for all the DC Heroes, especially the Bat family – was killed off, and then Batgirl was re-introduced as “Batgirl”. Oracle has been one of my favorite characters – this is a woman who was, famously, paralyzed after being shot by the Joker in Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke. But rather than disappearing, or becoming a villain herself, or even just becoming bitter and mean – Barbara Gordon showed real strength – she returned to collage and got her MLS – Master’s of Library Science, which is not small or easy feat in and of itself. She then got a job at the Gotham City Library (again, not easy, considering the prejudice against disabled people in America), and finally she became Oracle – running the Birds of Prey with just her voice, and providing Batman and other DC heroes with the information they needed to do their jobs. Oracle, in short was awesome, and an example of how having diversity in one’s line-up means, introducing interesting and real characters – not some sort of imagined “government forced PC” as the Conservatives accuse Diversity of being (especially over at Marvel, and ESPECIALLY at Marvel when they started as a walkout of ex-DC employees who didn’t like having female, African American, and diverse heroes in the DC books in the 1960s and 1970s). Oracle was a great character who happened to be in a wheelchair, female, smart, educated, computer-literate, and used her wits and intelligence to be a hero not her brawn. And Oracle was by far not the only one – throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s DC continuously introduced a large and diverse cast of modern characters who were still heroes. What did New 52 do? Got rid of Oracle and brought back Batgirl – another character who was simply a young, female version of a major character with not a whole lot special about her. In short, Batgirl became bland – whereas Oracle was strong, intelligent, and independent.

New 52 was a failure for DC. In less than 6 months – half of the books were cancelled due to poor sales, including books that had been long-running in the past. Reprints of older collections of 1990s-era DC Comics sold well (well enough that additional volumes came out). DC admitted their error with Convergence – a universe-spanning multi-issue maxi series to fix the issues. I admit, I haven’t read Convergence yet. Hopefully, the graphic novels will come out sooner or later and I can catch-up. But now, according to DC Previews, this Summer DC is doing “Rebirth” and they are bringing back the traditional DC – with more characters, diverse characters, excellent writing and art, the more traditional approach to story-telling (e.g. fun and character-based) and combining both the traditional heroes of DC (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, The Flash, Justice League, Aquaman, etc) and new characters (Teen Titans including Cyborg, Doctor Fate, etc.) And I’m honestly excited to at least try single-issue releases of Rebirth, even though I prefer graphic novels and graphic novel collections.

Also in my free comic book stack was:

Doctor Who – Four Doctors (Four Stories) Titan Comics FCBD 2016 special

First, this isn’t to be confused with Paul Cornell’s excellent Four Doctors series then graphic novel. It’s a separate series of four short stories: 12, 11, 10, and 9 presented in reverse-chronological order (that is 12 first, then 11, and so on). The short stories are meant to give a feel for the various Doctor Who series (which are collected into graphic novels periodically). The stories are short and stand-alone, but they do give a feel for what Titan has to offer. I also liked that the Doctor Who free book gave the readers stories, not simply advertising. There were also single pages with lists of all the graphic novels (as well on-going series) currently available or planned – this gives you a reading list, something very helpful when just starting or even for keeping up. (The DC Previews free book also had a catalog in the back, with release months, to help in planning and organizing purchases.) I enjoyed reading the Titan Comics book.

Finally, I picked up the FCBD issue of Suicide Squad, expecting something to tie-in to the upcoming movie. This book had a lot of advertising – some totally off-base (Why would someone reading Suicide Squad want to even know about Scooby Doo or Johnny Quest? And if the reader was that young as to be interested in kiddie books – Why would they be reading something as adult as Suicide Squad?) In between the ads, there was a story, mostly for Deadshot, with a few interludes with other characters that in the very last few pages proves to be a prequel to the new film coming out this Summer. So, overall, it was a good choice.

Again, I had an excellent time at Free Comic Book Day at Vault of Midnight. The weather was perfect. I enjoyed the three books I choose. And I picked-up several additional graphic novels which should keep me busy for a little while. I review completed graphic novels on GoodReads, so look for reviews there in the coming weeks.

Doctor Who Four Doctors Event (Titan Comics) Review

The Four Doctors Event is a five-issue comic mini series written by Paul Cornell and published by Titan Comics. I know I first heard about this series from social media, I think on Twitter. Anyway, I was very excited about it because I really like Paul Cornell’s writing (Cornell writes the Shadow Police urban fantasy series, see reviews on my GoodReads page) – and I thought it was great to see him back to writing Doctor Who. Titan Comics is a new publisher for Doctor Who Comics and they definitely get Doctor Who. I’ve now read several of their graphic novels (collections of the soft cover series) and the art is always excellent, and the stories very much in the tone of New Who. Again, see my GoodReads page for specific reviews of the various titles I’ve read so far.

The art in the Four Doctors Event is excellent. The panels have a painted almost watercolor look, and the edges of figures are sharp and crisp. I like my comics art to be realistic and the panel order to be clear – and that’s precisely what the Titan Comics give me, including this series. But it’s also gorgeous and I really like the painted look.

Doctor Who has had multiple-Doctor stories before in both the Classic and New aired series, namely “The Three Doctors”, “The Five Doctors”, “The Two Doctors”, and the 50th Anniversary Special, “The Day of the Doctor”. These stories have been hit or miss – I loved “The Day of the Doctor”, and I enjoyed “The Three Doctors” but I felt the plot of “The Five Doctors” was more a series of cameo appearances than a good story and “The Two Doctors” was just too long and slow-moving. But the Four Doctors Event has a great story that takes advantage of several versions of the Doctor (the Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth and briefly the War Doctor). There were several surprises in the story that I don’t want to spoil, so I won’t – but it is a good story and well-written.

The only disappointment I had was that The War Doctor (John Hurt’s character in “The Day of the Doctor”) only appears at the very beginning. I kept expecting him to return, but he didn’t. The Ninth Doctor also isn’t in the story, except a very brief cameo at the end – but the explanation for his absence is brilliant! Overall, this story was excellent and had the same feel as “The Day of the Doctor” without being quite so bonkers at times (No “little girl” Elizabeth the First this time around) but it also wasn’t as grim as some stories I’ve read by Cornell. Not that there’s anything wrong with grim, I like grim – at times; but this mini-series had just the right New Who attitude, so I enjoyed it very much.

I normally never buy things twice, but I plan to purchase the Graphic Novel version of this story when it becomes available in January 2016. This comics mini-series (and no doubt the graphic novel) is highly recommended.