Book Review – Doctor Who Ninth Doctor vol. 2: Doctormania

  • Title: Doctormania
  • Author: Cavan Scott
  • Artists: Adriana Melo, Cris Bolson, Matheus Lopes, Marco Lesko, Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line: 9th Doctor
  • Characters: Ninth Doctor, Rose Tyler, Captain Jack Harkness
  • Collection Date: 2016
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/10/2017

**Spoiler Alert** Doctormania is the second volume in Titan Comics Ninth Doctor graphic novel series – it was also a bit confusing and I ended-up reading it three times before reviewing. But then, I also kept not having time to review it. The graphic novel consists of several stories.

In the first story, the Doctor takes Rose and Jack to the Eye of Orion. Jack is surprised by the giant ziggurat on the planet’s surface – and the Doctor knows it and the famous hanging gardens of Slarvia shouldn’t be there. They quickly discover the location has been hacked by the Geohacker Taggani. Geohackers hack planets, rearranging the surface as they see fit, or to make a point. The Doctor, it turns out, was quite a fan of Taggani – until one of his “hacks” killed the entire population of a planet. The Doctor turns Taggani over to the Shadow Proclamation but not before Jack’s face ends up on the planet’s moon.

In the TARDIS, the Doctor, Rose, and Jack receive a message from Jack, dressed in a Time Agent uniform, a message that Jack doesn’t remember sending. The TARDIS crew realises it may be from before Jack’s memories were wiped. The TARDIS follows the signal to Gharusa, only to find the planet strangely welcoming. The minute they step out of the TARDIS, they are greeted by an enthusiastic fan who talks about how much she loves “Doctor Who?” minisode series. The Doctor has even written a book about his experiences. They are attacked by “Chumblies”, though the Doctor insists they aren’t Chumblies. The fan jumps between the Doctor and the Chumblies attack but isn’t seriously hurt.

The “Doctor” arrives in a flying car that resembles the Third Doctor’s Whomobile and destroys the Chumblies with EMP mines. Meanwhile the young female fan squees at being in the middle of everything, and the gathering crowd asks for selfies and autographs. The local police arrest the Doctor for identity theft. However, this actually makes things easier – Rose sneaks in to the holo-vid studios by pretending to be a reporter for the Daily Planet (or maybe the Daily Bugle – she isn’t sure herself) to interview the Doctor’s companion, Penny. She discovers the fake Doctor is in fact a Slitheen. The Doctor easily convinces the police he is who he says he is by letting them do a body scan. The Slitheen, Penny, is accidentally killed by the fan who is trying to protect the real Doctor, which, of course, makes him very angry. Rose is kidnapped by the Doctor and taken to the home planetary system of the Slitheen. Jack and the Doctor follow in the TARDIS. The Doctor (the Slitheen one) accepts an offer to speak at the peace conference for the warring planets (four at least) of the system that is home to the Slitheen for a large fee. Rose exposes her. This causes the other planets to unite against the Slitheen family – whose crimes are even beyond their own standards. However, the weather control station on Clix is basically hacked and a storm of acid rain burns (and eventually kills those without shelter) anyone out in the open. Jack and the Doctor, though, has used Slitheen skin suits to investigate the planet un-noticed. They put Rose’s “friend” the Doctor in one to protect her and to preserve the evidence. They discover the plot, reveal it to the entire system, and back it up with the living evidence. As they are leaving the Doctor receives a phone call from Mickey.

The TARDIS lands in San Francisco, where the Doctor meets Mickey – but Mickey wants him to leave, as he wanted “the other one” – and to avoid a paradox. In San Francisco, people are suddenly gaining super powers, such as flight. But soon gargoyles are attacking and those with super powers are disappearing. As you may suspect, these events are connected. San Francisco is also experiencing the Northern Lights, which is not in any, way, shape, or form, normal. The Doctor and Mickey discover the super-powered people are only the first stage – and they eventually turn in to gargoyles – but not before Rose discovers the power of flight. The Doctor realizes the Northern Lights are actually a wormhole – a punchway, an extremely destructive type of hyperspace travel. He goes to the terminus of the line to stop it. But it’s Rose who ultimately stops the punchway and saves everyone.

Meanwhile the few gargoyles are sent back in time to be dealt with by UNIT including Dr. Harry Sullivan.

Doctormania was a bit too meta for me. The second story with the Doctor Who? fan girl was uncomfortable to read, and felt like the author was biting the hand (eg fans) that feed him. The second part of that story though, was interesting in that the internal politics of the various planets in the “Slitheen” system (the graphic novel does not forget that “Slitheen” is a family name and the people are a different species) are actually pretty interesting. Seeing the Slitheen burned by acid rain is both horrifying and empathy-provoking. The Taggani story is a bit weird. The final story I actually liked. But throughout the book, it was, I don’t know – strange. The book quotes famous bits of Ninth Doctor dialogue either directly or stylistically but that was the problem. It felt artificial. Like someone had watched a couple of episodes of Ninth Doctor Doctor Who or even just read memes and quote pages -without really absorbing the characters. Rose seems, well, not exactly dumb, but rude – and dismissive of things she doesn’t understand. Jack is egotistical and more concerned with looking good than helping others, especially the Doctor and Rose. It all seems rather flat. Most of the art is actually very good, and hopefully the writing style will improve. I’d like to see the Titan Comics Ninth Doctor Series go more in the direction of the other series, especially the Tenth Doctor series which has become it’s own, original thing. I’d give this book 3.5 stars – it’s still Recommended, but with reservations.

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Book Review – Doctor Who: Breakfast at Tyranny’s

  • Title: Breakfast at Tyranny’s
  • Author: Nick Abadzis
  • Artists: Giorgia Sposito, Valeria Favoccia, Arianna Florean, Hi-Fi, Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line:  Tenth Doctor (Year 3 – “Facing Fate”, Vol. 1)
  • Characters: Tenth Doctor, Gabby Gonzales, Cindy Wu, Anubis (“Noobis”)
  • Collection Date: 2017
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/08/2017

I absolutely love the title of this volume of Titan Comics Doctor Who original graphic novel adventure for the Tenth Doctor (as played on the BBC series by David Tennant), Breakfast at Tyranny’s, however the title really has little to do with the actual stories. Still, it’s a great title. This is the opening volume of the Third Year of Titan’s Tenth Doctor series, yet they have changed the numbering so rather than having it officially as Volume 8 as it should be, it’s “Facing Fate vol. 1”, which, I’m guessing will be the theme for Year Three.

The story opens with the main characters back in their old lives. Gabby is working as a waitress at her family’s restaurant, where she experiences the daily abuse of being in customer service. Cindy and her “dog”, Anubis, are also back home where Cleo starts a relationship with her that revolves around a lot of shopping. And the Doctor wakes homeless and alone on the streets, with no companions and no TARDIS. It’s Cindy who discovers the mysterious “department store” is the center of this cruel illusion and wakes up. With mental encouragement from Anubis (“Noobis”) she wakes in an Axon-like spaceship and breaks free of the loop where she is being held captive and drained of her energy. She returns to the illusion to break out Cindy, Anubis, and the Doctor. Although they break free of the illusion then escape the strange, organic spaceship, when they return to Anubis’s home, they learn from the Seekers they were only gone a few moments. The organic spaceship, which looks like a Red Tardis escapes, grabbing Cindy with a Lovecraftian tentacle.

The Doctor, Gabby, and Cindy follow in the Doctor’s TARDIS, and after an accidental Time Ram they land in Ancient China. But the alien Red Jade General landed months earlier. Arriving after a devastating flood, he offers to build a wall to prevent the river from causing such destruction again. Unfortunately for the people, they do not realize the high cost of trusting this General. When the Doctor and company arrive, a dam has been built to hold back the river, the town is behind the wall but isolated from the rest of the country, meaning friends and relatives from the next town over can’t see their friends and family any more. The dam is also guarded by personifications of elemental forces.

The Doctor and his companions meet Master Wu and his son. Much of the second story is framed as a story that Master Wu Wei tells his son. Master Wu recognizes the Doctor, and before long they have organized the families of the people in the village to attack the Guardians. Anubis assists Gabby who uses her ability to create block transfer butterflies to enter the isolated town. The villagers, with the Doctor’s help, defeat the Guardians. Gabby finds a building and searches for Cindy. She finds hundreds of Cindy Clones, whom she stirs up in rebellion. Eventually she finds “the original”, “mother”, Cindy.

By this time, the Doctor also gets in after Gabby opens the door, and the Doctor and company confront the Red Jade General. It turns out that the Red Jade General is from a Nestene Conscience-type race, who can manipulate organic matter rather than plastic. Unfortunately, it used the residents of the town as raw material to create the Cindy clones. The Doctor is able to defeat the Red Jade General and destroy it’s fake TARDIS, then he and his companions leave in the TARDIS.

I really enjoyed this graphic novel volume, especially the second story set in Ancient China. The artwork for both stories was wonderful, especially the washed, scroll-like pages for the second story. I highly recommend “Breakfast at Tyranny’s”, and will look forward to future volumes.

Book Review – Tenth Doctor vol. 7: War of Gods

  • Title: War of Gods
  • Author: Nick Abadzis and James Peaty
  • Artists: Giorgia Sposito, Warren Pleece, Arianna Florean, Hi-Fi, Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line:  Tenth Doctor
  • Characters: Tenth Doctor, Gabby Gonzales, Cindy Wu
  • Collection Date: 2016
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 9/29/2017

War of Gods concludes Year Two of Titan Comics Tenth Doctor series. The story picks up immediately from where the previous volume ended – with Sutekh taking over Anubis on the Shining Horizon space ship. Sutekh had hidden a splinter of himself in Anubis and now sought to take over. There is a flashback to the aired episode, “The Pyramids of Mars”, with the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane, and it’s explained that Sutekh hid himself in a pocket universe, rather than dying. Sutekh also gathers several other evil beings, such as the Great Nocturne from the last volume, in order to absorb their energy, though they think at first that Sutekh will release them. One being is used to stop up the tunnel between the Shining Horizon and the pocket universe. Sutekh threatens all: Gabby, Cindy, Dorothy, the Doctor, and Anubis. However, The Doctor and company are able to stop Sutekh, and Dorothy sacrifices herself. Anubis survives and is made young and innocent by exposure to Dorothy’s abilities. The story is well-told, with great art, and concludes the year-long arc.

The second story in this issue is a bit problematical – the Doctor and Gabby are in the TARDIS – with no mention as to what happened to Cindy. The TARDIS is pulled off course by the Randomizer, and lands in modern London. The Doctor tries to leave immediately – but he and Gabby hear a scream for help. They confront hologram monsters, and the real monsters behind them who are trying to invade Earth after their prison was weakened by Sutekh’s actions. The Doctor is tortured with visions of seeing those he cares about getting hurt: Martha, Rose, Donna, even Gabby. Some of what the Doctor sees is memories – some is actually happening in the moment. The Doctor talks the human conduit into rejecting the monsters and they are pushed back into their prison.

The problem with the second story, besides a story that comes off as too simple, is the truly appalling art. The Doctor doesn’t look right at all – actually looking more like the Eleventh Doctor than the Tenth. Gabby also doesn’t look right. Everyone in the story, including the guest characters, has a long, lean look that’s distorted. The story tries to make a point about the Doctor’s fear of loss, but it falls flat in a story that doesn’t quite work. I also missed Cindy who disappeared for no reason.

Still, overall 3.5 Stars out of 5 and this volume is recommended for the first story, which, as usual, has lovely art, a great story, and excellent characterization.

Book Review – Doctor Who Tenth Doctor vol. 6: Sins of the Father

  • Title: Sins of the Father
  • Author: Nick Abadzis
  • Artists: Giorgia Sposito, Eleonora Carlini, Leandro Casco, Simon Fraser, Walter Geovanni, Arianna Florean, Azzurra Florean, Mattia de Lulis, Adele Matera, Rod Fernandes, Gary Caldwell, Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line:  Tenth Doctor
  • Characters: Tenth Doctor, Gabby Gonzales, Cindy Wu
  • Collection Date: 2016
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 9/25/2017

**Spoiler Alert** Doctor Who volume 6 – Sins of the Father is part of Titan Comics continuing adventures of the Tenth Doctor as played on the television series by David Tennant. The series includes two new companions for the Tenth Doctor: Gabby Gonzales and Cindy Wu, her best friend.

This volume opens with the Doctor and his companions on vacation in New Orleans in the Jazz Age. Gabby is enjoying herself, but she’s concerned about the Doctor as well, since it’s unusual for him to spend so much time essentially doing nothing. Meanwhile, Cindy has fallen hard for a jazz musician, Roscoe Ruskin. Gabby takes the Doctor to a club, thinking they will hear Roscoe play, then Cindy will be able to introduce her boyfriend. But it isn’t to be, as Roscoe is attacked by a parasitic alien that steals his ability to play music. The Doctor is called in to investigate why Roscoe is suddenly ill, and discovers the same thing has been happening to other musicians, both at the current club and at others. Then the club is attacked. The being, now able to manifest, is similar to a Nocturne. Gabby helps fight it off, using her Santee music box, and creates a shield – but everyone in the club is knocked conscious or killed. Gabby awakes to see the Doctor about to board the TARDIS and she insists on coming along.

The Doctor and Gabby take the TARDIS to Chicago, where the possessed Roscoe and the woman (and host of the parasitic entity) who attacked the club have gone. In the 1920s, Chicago had the most advanced recording studios of the age. Gabby and the Doctor have to stop the entity from recording it’s song which can wreck havoc and spark an invasion. They succeed but at a terrible cost and Roscoe dies, having sacrificed himself to stop the invasion. The woman recovers. The Doctor and Gabby return to New Orleans, bringing the woman home as well as Roscoe’s body, and having to tell a now devastated Cindy what happened.

There is a short interlude where the Doctor takes Cindy and Gabby home to talk to their respective families. The Doctor makes a favorable impression on Gabby’s mother, and Gabby’s trip home is happy and successful. For Cindy, not so much – she looks for any record of Roscoe and barely finds him, just a reference to the Storyville players. But Cindy’s relationship with her family is more complex and less happy than Gabby’s. It’s a short trip and interlude and then the new TARDIS crew is off again.

In the TARDIS, Anubis arrives asking the Doctor to visit him and Dorothy Bell. Dorothy is now able to look into parallel dimensions – an ability of the Osirans, and it frightens her. They reach the spaceship where Anubis and Dorothy are, catch-up a bit, and have a meal, then Anubis asks the Doctor to track down some difficult to obtain elements for him. Gabby stays with Dorothy and Cindy goes in the TARDIS with the Doctor.

The easy trip, however, turns out to not be so easy. There is turbulence on the TARDIS and it is dragged to a location incredibly early in Time. The TARDIS materializes, and the Doctor asks Cindy to stay inside while he investigates. Meanwhile, Gabby and Dorothy find disturbing Sutekh and Anubis graffiti on the Sutekh statue in the garden. While waiting for the Doctor, the Doctor’s warning hologram appears and urges her to leave the TARDIS where she meets a strange android with a blank ball for a head. The android is, of course, hostile. Cindy runs off to see herself approaching the Doctor – she shouts a warning, just in time for the Doctor to attack the android with his sonic screwdriver. But they then see a cult throwing people into the Untempered Schism. They are on Gallifrey, in it’s distant past – but even at it’s most primitive, the Doctor insists this is wrong. The Doctor is captured by more of the faceless androids, and threatened with execution.

Cindy is sent off – and with the help of the Doctor’s hologram in the TARDIS flies to his rescue. In the TARDIS they again set off to obtain what Anubis needs. Meanwhile, it has gone dark where Gabby and Dorothy are – even though as it’s a spaceship it should have artificial light. Anubis is confronted with Sutekh.

The last issue in the collected volume might be from the Doctor Who Comics Day special. It’s three very brief adventures, one for each of the last three modern Doctors (10, 11, 12). The Tenth Doctor, Gabby and Cindy confront aliens trying to infiltrate a Roman conclave in 111 A.D. The second short feature has the Eleventh Doctor and Alice in Philadelphia in 1789, where they run into Zombie French Werewolves. And the third has the Twelfth Doctor at Comic Con in the present. It’s the Twelfth Doctor who puts everything together and realises that a WordRider has been trapped on Earth. It’s a being that hides in words, and it’s being is a syllable – in this case, “con” – as in “Confederation, Conclave, convention” etc. The Doctor rescues the being and brings it home via TARDIS.

Sins of the Father is a good graphic novel, and less of a mish-mash of stories than the previous volume. The Anubis-Sutekh story is starting to pay off and will no doubt come to a conclusion in the next volume, War of Gods. I enjoyed the first story – the use of music and it’s importance to Gabby and Cindy was very well-done, as was Cindy’s ill-fated romance. It was also nice to see the Doctor take a vacation, though it does become a busman’s holiday, because: Doctor Who. The conversations between Dorothy and Gabby were also well done. Overall, this volume has a lot of characterization of the Doctor’s companions and it benefited from that.

Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who Tenth Doctor vol. 5: Arena of Fear

  • Title: Arena of Fear
  • Author: Nick Abadzis
  • Artists: Elena Casagrande, Eleonora Carlini
  • Line:  Tenth Doctor
  • Characters: Tenth Doctor, Gabby Gonzales, Cindy Wu, Capt. Jack Harkness
  • Collection Date: 2016
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 8/08/2017

This is the third time I’ve tried to post a review of this graphic novel. First time I read the book, my Internet went out for a week and I couldn’t review it. Second time, I got the entire review posted, only to have it completely disappear when I hit save. Rest assured, I will copy this review to Word before hitting send this time. Just background as this is definitely not a “first impressions” review.

Titan Comics Arena of Fear features the Tenth Doctor as played by David Tennant on the BBC series, Doctor Who. This volume picks-up directly after the first volume, and the first story is told from the point-of-view of Cindy Wu. She has lost her memory, as have her companions, Capt. Jack, Cleo, Erik, and Muthmunno a Neanderthal healer. No one has their memories – and the environment is hostile, with the people being forced to constantly fight each other. They join an alien “River Goddess” and find the Doctor. They locate the Doctor, deep in meditation, who helps everyone to regain their memories. Gabby shows up and goes on the attack. But the Doctor realizes she shouldn’t have the power she has. Gabby is being controlled by Ebonite. The Doctor uses the Song of the Santee to bring Gabby out of it. Breaking Ebonite’s control also means that the Doctor and Gabby are able to free the group entirely – who are being held in a miniscope. The Doctor will help everyone to get home, and invites Gabby and Cindy to travel in his TARDIS. Muthmunno decides to gather the Neanderthals who are held captive in the miniscope and seek “new hunting grounds” – a planet where they can live without being driven to extinction.

The next story really feels like filler – Cindy complains that the TARDIS is haunted. The Doctor tells her it’s not possible. Gabby explains she may have seen the impressions of the Doctor’s past lives, and shows her portraits of the previous Doctors. However, they are attacked in the library. The Doctor rescues the two then, explaining he was re-configuring the TARDIS rooms to get more power.

Finally, Gabby asks the Doctor to take them on vacation. They land in Dewbury, the most haunted village in the UK, just in time for the Paranormal Literary Festival. Gabby, Cindy, and the Doctor discover the village has a high incidence of OCD – often apparently caused by encounters with the Witch of the Wishing Well. The Doctor meets an old man who was affected, who senses the Doctor is a mage, and takes him to the cave that is home to the witch. The Doctor senses time traces with his sonic screwdriver and finds a window to the Time Vortex. The witch is a being, held captive by the Vortex. The old man, Randall, states the Witch has seven faces, and to the Doctor it mentions Regeneration. The Doctor sees a connection to the Untempered Schism. He’s able to use the TARDIS to free the “witch” – which cures the affected in Dewbury, including Randall. But the TARDIS is deeply affected and even starts to break apart.

Finally, references to Anubis and also Sutekh are sprinkled throughout the book, and it ends with Dorothy Bell convincing “dogface” Anubis, he isn’t Sutekh. Still, these references will no doubt have consequences in the next volume or two.

Arena of Fear has some excellent art, but at other times Gabby and Cindy are drawn in such a similar fashion it’s hard to tell them apart. Much of this novel also feels like it’s a transistion between last volume’s adventures with Neanderthal kind and something to happen with Anubis, Sutekh, and the Osirans. The Doctor even uncovers a device to hold an Osiran captive, while heading for New Orleans in the TARDIS. Still, a good story, and no doubt an important part of the on-going series.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Heralds of Destruction

  • Title: The Heralds of Destruction
  • Author: Paul Cornell
  • Artists: Christopher Jones, Hi-Fi
  • Line: 3rd Doctor
  • Characters: Third Doctor, Jo Grant, UNIT
  • Collection Date: 2017
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 7/06/2017

The Third Doctor story Heralds of Destruction is a fun read that feels like a Third Doctor Era story. Taking place just after “The Three Doctors”, the story features Jo Grant and the full UNIT crew as well as the Master, and a surprise guest villain responsible for the ubiquitous “alien” invasion. The story opens with Jo and Capt. Mike Yates on a date, only to be interrupted by an emergency. The Doctor, similarly, is playing chess when he is called in. The Doctor meets Jo, the Brigadier, Mike, Sgt. Benton, and various UNIT men in the small English village of Fairford to combat robot machines. The Doctor tries to talk to these “aliens” with no luck at first. It soon turns out the machines are composed of micro-machines (nanotech) that can rebuild itself from local materials. The Doctor blocks in the machines with a force field, then takes a sample to his lab to study.

At the lab, the Doctor encounters himself, or rather, the Second Doctor (or does he? Double identities and people pretending to be someone they are not is a strong theme in this graphic novel). As the Brigadier keeps an eye on the situation in Fairford, he encounters the Master and fights off his hypnotism. Meanwhile, at the lab, Jo is attacked by the micromachines, which take over her body. The Doctor hypnotizes her and goes into her subconscious. The lettering for this inner journey is fantastic, though Jo’s subconscious is just as forthright, honest, and happy as Jo herself.

The Doctor is able to have a conversations with the micromachines and not only rescue Jo but keep this part of the hive mind on his side, rather than on the side of the real villain – who is not the Master.

The Master, despite his impersonations of various people throughout the book, actually ends-up working with the Doctor, even pointing out that a certain character isn’t who he says he is (to say more would spoil one of the biggest surprises of the novel, which I won’t do).

The villain is actually out to steal Time Lord technology – something the Master doesn’t want to happen either, thus his partnership with the Doctor. As they, and UNIT, go to capture the villain, the villain succeeds in transporting his lab building back in time.

In 1868, the Doctor, the Master, and the bad guy all try to convince the all-male British Parliament to follow different paths – from accepting the bad guy as dictator, to preserving history.

The Doctor though is able to use his previous alliance with the small group of micromachines that attacked Jo, to influence the other – thus, taking away the villain’s main weapon. The Master fails to gain control of the micromachines, but escapes custody. The villain is captured and jailed. The Doctor returns the lab and UNIT to the proper time. He also discusses with Jo, that in a sense the Master and even the villain were right – he’s been sitting in one place, doing one thing, too long. When Jo intuits that he’s planning to leave in the TARDIS, now that he can, he agrees – and invites her along. We also see clear indications that Capt. Mike Yates isn’t satisfied with his life and longs for a Golden Age that is less complex and cleaner and prettier (for lack of a better term). This sets-up his otherwise inexplicable behavior in, “Invasion of the Dinosaurs”, something that otherwise does come from nowhere.

I enjoyed this book very much. It really felt like a Third Doctor adventure. Everyone was in character. It featured all the UNIT crew, including Corporal Bell – a female UNIT officer, and Osgood a tech (whom the author points out is a nod to the Osgood in the new series). The art in this book is very good – everyone looks as they should, and the colors are fantastic. I also loved the chapter lettering for the trips to Jo’s subconscious. The relationship between the Doctor and Jo is also very well-written and I really enjoyed it. Highly recommended.

Free Comic Book Day 2017

Free Comic Book Day 2017 was Saturday May 6th, 2017. I went with a friend of mine and we arrived probably around 11:00 am. So there was a long line that wrapped around the corner. However, it was still an excellent event. There were cosplayers, and Vault of Midnight, my local comics shop, had their side walk activity area with vendors, artists, and kids activities. This year there was even a food truck! Once inside the store was less packed solid than last year – making it even easier to get to the free comics on the back wall as well as to look around the store for other items to purchase. This year we were allowed to choose four free promo books. I also picked-up my weekly pull list comics and inquired about a Doctor Who graphic novel that was missing from my collection. It is to the credit of the excellent staff at Vault of Midnight that even as busy as they were, they were still willing to check on a special order for me.

On to the comics, this year I picked-up four free comics, all tie-ins by chance. I picked up: Titan’s Four Doctors FCBD event issue; IDW’s Star Trek the Next Generation Mirror Broken; Archie Comics Betty and Veronica (a tie-in to Riverdale, somewhat), and DC’s Wonder Woman.

I’m going to start by discussing Wonder Woman. I picked this free promo comic up thinking it would be a tie-in to this Summer’s Wonder Woman movie. However, I was a bit disappointed because it’s actually a re-print of Wonder Woman Rebirth #1, which I have already read. In fact, Wonder Woman has been on my pull list since Rebirth started. Also, with two volumes of Wonder Woman Rebirth available in graphic novel format – it’s probably something that a lot of people have read since it’s included in the first Wonder Woman Rebirth Graphic Novel. That’s the negative. The positive is – I re-read the comic anyway and I really enjoyed it. As much as I enjoy Rebirth, and I do, Wonder Woman and Green Arrow have been the hardest lines for me to “get in to” so to speak. I finally dropped Green Arrow (I applaud the extremely brave social commentary of Green Arrow – but I found I couldn’t connect to Oliver and it always ended-up at the bottom of the stack when I was reading my books.) Wonder Woman is also teetering on the edge of being dropped from my pull – though I’d probably get the graphic novels instead. With two completely different storylines, Wonder Woman is really hard to follow month to month, especially if one isn’t that familiar with her storyline and background in the comics. But having said all that, I re-read this, the first issue of Wonder Woman Rebirth, and I found I really enjoyed it. Having read the bi-weekly book for about a year, I had a slightly better idea what was going on. If you haven’t read the new Wonder Woman, I do recommend it, I just feel the graphic novels are an easier format for enjoying the stories.

Betty and Veronica I picked up as a tie-in to Riverdale, the new series on the CW that’s based on Archie Comics. This story was fun, and full of surprises. It’s narrated by J. Farnsworth Wigglebottom III (a.k.a Hot Dog) Jughead’s dog. The dog speaks directly to the audience and is amusing and fun as he both narrates and comments on the action. Wigglebottom even “eats” two pages of the comic and then has Betty and Veronica giving exposition instead – in swimsuits. There’s a fair amount of humor in the book too. The story involves a national coffee chain buying out and closing down Pop’s the diner where the kids hang out. Betty is angered by this and rallies everyone to save Pop’s. When she discovers that Veronica’s father owns the coffee company, and the bank that holds Pop’s mortgage, Betty explodes at Veronica – and the issue ends there. The back of the book includes informative advertisements for Archie Comics, including the “new Archie”, and a Riverdale tie-in. There are also character portraits from Riverdale. Overall, I enjoyed this. The story is somewhat basic, one of the characters even comments that threats of Pop’s closing seem to happen a lot. But the breaking of the fourth wall, and the humor, make this an enjoyable read. Betty and Veronica and the other newer Archie comic books make for an excellent comic for teens and children, filled with Americana and a slightly old-fashioned bent.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Mirror Broken is a return trip to the Next Gen Mirror Universe. This story follows Lt. Barclay’s Mirror Universe double. I have always like Lt. Barclay and his Mirror Universe counterpart is tough, capable, and definitely shaped by the circumstances of his universe. In the Mirror universe, the Empire is breaking down, having suffered catastrophic wars with the Klingons and the Cardassians – Spock’s era of reform is over, resulting in an even more ruthless attitude within the Terran Empire – or what’s left of it. Assassination is still the only means of advancement, something we forget as we see Barclay contemplating getting out of engineering and into a “better” life. I liked the focus on a single character with basically a concluded story in this promo book. It’s also a good intro to the ST:TNG Mirror Universe comic, and the write-up for that series promises to be very character-focused, introducing a character per issue before any major plot. That’s the type of writing I like in comics – focus on character, and character interaction as well as world-building. The plots should always add to this. But when mere “action” takes over, without character being explored – the stories can fall flat. This issue of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Mirror Universe comic emphasizes character, and a relatively minor one at that (Barclay) and I enjoyed it. The last pages of the book explain three other available series from IDW, with three sample pages of each one. They are Star Trek – Boldly Go, which follows on from the reboot Star Trek films, taking place just after Star Trek Beyond. The second is Star Trek / Green Lantern. And the third is, Star Trek – Waypoint. Star Trek – Waypoint is an anthology series featuring all the various versions of Trek, though the sample issue seems to be set in a future version of Trek (Data has been uploaded to the Enterprise and is now the ship’s computer, though he projects holograms of himself to various duty stations.) all three of these series looked pretty good, and I actually plan on looking for a graphic novel version of the ST/GL crossover series. The art in this book (and the sample pages) is also very good, with a lovely painted look that’s has a dark undertone that’s appropriate for the Mirror universe. The color palettes for the sample pages fit the various versions of Trek they represent. If you are a Star Trek fan, check out IDW’s comic series – you won’t be disappointed, I think.

Doctor Who – The Promise (Four Doctors, FCBD 2017) begins, appropriately enough with teh Twelfth Doctor and Bill running on an alien planet. They find an ancient temple and enter, using YMCA as the visual key lock. The Doctor locates a fob watch, but it’s broken. He and Bill tell the local aliens a story and prevent a civil war. In the TARDIS, Bill asks the Doctor to tell her the real story and he tells her about his friend, Plex. The story flashes back to when the Ninth Doctor has to break the bad news to the hermit, Plex, that his entire planet has been destroyed. Plex then reveals to the Doctor he’s producing clones from his own stem cells and siphoned Time Lord Arton energy. The Tenth Doctor visits Plex when he dies, where he sees a hologram from his friend, who sends him to the planet of the clones. The Tenth Doctor has t “fixing” the overly deferential nature of the race of alien clones. The Eleventh Doctor awakens Plex, who becomes the leader of his re-united planet. Though as the Twelfth Doctor tells Bill, he’s afraid the society will break down again. This is a pretty good story, though it’s a bit hard to follow at times, since the different Doctors visit Plex at different times in his life – and nothing occurs in linear order. The back of the promo book includes a very handy catalog of Titan’s various Doctor Who graphic novels and specials. The art is excellent, and colorful in this book.