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.

Non-Fiction Book Review – Companion Piece

  • Title: Companion Piece: Women Celebrate the Humans, Aliens, and Tin Dogs of Doctor Who
  • Author: L.M. Myles and Liz Barr (eds.)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/07/2016

Companion Piece is another book in the “Chicks Dig” series (other volumes include: Chicks Dig Time LordsChicks Dig Comics, etc.). This essay collection focuses on the companions in Doctor Who. The essays represent a variety of viewpoints, but often have a Feminist perspective. What I love about Companion Piece is that the essays really get you to think and to re-consider one’s opinions about various eras of Doctor Who and the companions therein. This collection begs the reader to reconsider companions that they may have not really cared for, and to think about how others might view a character – positively. But it also gives the reader unique, thought-provoking essays that will have the astute female reader nodded her head – and not as yet another dismissal of early companions as “screamers” (the “defense” of Barbara Wright is brilliant, as is the essay on Nyssa or “Science Princess FTW”). Companion Piece moves way beyond the common, oft-repeated fannish “wisdom” of long-time male Doctor Who fandom and gives the reader new ideas to consider. It even had me reconsidering my opinions about a couple of companions that I’ve never liked [Mel, Peri].

This essay collection is highly recommended to all Doctor Whofans but also to anyone interested in Feminist film/literary/television critique, as well as anyone who just wants to read passionate, intelligent, essay-writing.

The collection also is overwhelmingly positive, never strident. I loved that.

Again, highly recommended.

Non-Fiction Book Review – Behind the Sofa: Celebrity Memories of Doctor Who

  • Title: Behind the Sofa: Celebrity Memories of Doctor Who
  • Author: Steve Berry (ed.)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/19/2015

Behind the Sofa Celebrity Memories of Doctor Who is a essay collection put together to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK. A number of people relate stories about Doctor Who – some of whom I knew of (Neil Gaiman, Jonathon Ross, etc) some I didn’t. Some of the interviewees describe themselves as massive fans of the show, many having seen it from the very beginning in 1963. Others are newer fans, having started to watch New Who in 2005 or even later (one or two even started with Matt Smith). Others, such as Micheal Grade admit not liking the show. Grade’s interview is an interesting artifact – he seems to almost take pride in taking Doctor Who off the air then turns around and says New Who, particularly with Russell T. Davies at the helm was brilliant. In Grade’s mind, he seems to think he’s solely responsible for the success of New Who (newsflash – he isn’t).

Some of the essays in the book are brilliant. Most are interesting. Some contain fascinating stories and trivia. Several people with connections to Doctor Who are interviewed – but this isn’t solely a collection of essays by actors and other people involved in making the program. Some of the essays, especially regarding the book being a fund-raiser for Alzheimer’s Research – are heart-breaking.

What struck me once I had finished the book is just how much Doctor Who is a cultural touchstone in the UK – literally everyone is familiar with the show. They might not have watched it during the Classic Era. Or they might have only watched the program occasionally. But it’s familiar to the British people, and is a cultural well, since I don’t like the phrase “phenom” – touchstone. I had heard similar comments before – but I hadn’t really thought about it. I guess I saw the show as a classic but still an SF “cult” show – something the “cool” people watched and everyone else ignored. But it’s an everyday classic in the UK, and everyone is familiar with the show, the TARDIS, and the Daleks.

If you can find a copy of this book, do buy one. You’ll be helping a great cause, and it’s a good read!

Non-Fiction Book Review – The Official Quotable Doctor Who

  • Title: The Official Quotable Doctor Who: Wise Words from Across Time and Space
  • Author: Cavan Scott and Mark Wright
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/29/2014

I’ve actually had the idea for this book, which is precisely what it says on the cover, forever. Doctor Who is a very quotable show, and quote books such as Primetime Proverbs or I’d Rather Kiss a Wookie – the Star Wars Quotebook are popular and fun. So, reading this I thought – how’d someone else get to do this first?

However, the book is fun. The quotes – from both the Classic Series and New Who are good and most favorites are included. However, there are some mistakes, such as – “The coffee’s just about as filthy as UNIT tea, if that’s possible.’ – Jo Grant, Planet of the Spiders” – which is simply wrong. Jo’s last episode is “The Green Death” and she didn’t suddenly reappear in “Planet of the Spiders” (Jon Pertwee’s last story). So, either the attribution is wrong, or the episode title is wrong. Since I can’t quite picture Jo saying, “filthy”, I’m guessing she never said that – it was someone else. And there are other similar errors. I’m pretty sure all the transcribing is correct – but some of the titles or attributions contain errors.

A second issue is that any quote from the Doctor is simply attributed to “The Doctor” – I really think the actor who played the Doctor should have been included. Episode titles are included, but not everyone has the entire run of the series from “An Unearthly Child” to the last Capaldi episode memorized. I mean, I’ve been a fan since the 1980s – and I have to look stuff up occasionally.

By the way, I actually have a hardcover version of this book, not an e-book. There’s also an UK version available, but Amazon UK won’t ship it to the US. I’d love to know why.