Book Review – Doctor Who: Arena of Fear

  • Title: Arena of Fear
  • Author: Nick Abadzis
  • Artists: Elena Casagrande, Eleonora Carlini
  • Line:  Tenth Doctor, 
  • Characters: Tenth Doctor, Gabby, 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 Mystery of the Haunted Cottage

  • Title: The Mystery of the Haunted Cottage
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Derek Landy
  • Characters: Tenth Doctor, Martha Jones
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/08/2016

Doctor Who – The Mystery of the Haunted Cottage is another short, little volume in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary – 12 Doctors, 12 Books collection of mini-books. This one features the Tenth Doctor and his companion Martha Jones. The TARDIS lands in a bank of fog, but when Martha steps out of the TARDIS it immediately becomes a clear and sunny day with grass and trees and such. The Doctor and Martha meet four children – two boys and two girls, and Martha realizes she recognizes them as the Troublemakers – characters from a series of books that she read as a child. Quickly, she realizes that the situation is the same as the first Troublemakers book she ever read, “The Mystery of the Haunted Cottage”.

Martha and the Doctor work to figure out the clues and solve the mystery. When they take a boat down an underground river they are attacked by mysterious beings. They also quickly discover not only who is behind the mystery from the children’s book – but who the real threat is. This threat attacks the Doctor and Martha – causing them to run to escape through a maze of fictional characters and landscapes.

The Doctor confronts the being at the center of everything successfully and he and Martha, ultimately escape.

This story was a bit disappointing – it’s very simple, both in structure and in writing style. The Doctor makes some good points about “The Troublemakers” books and Martha makes some good counter-arguments (the books might not have been that good in an objective sense, but she loved them as a child and they set her on the path of a life-long reader). The descriptions of the Troublemakers books reminded me of Nancy Drew (syndicated series – written by ghost writers), and the characters also reminded me of Scooby Doo (but without a dog), because the Scooby kids included two guys: Fred and Shaggy – two girls: Velma and Daphne and they solved mysteries. Overall, though, the story was about as flat as the type of books and stories it parodied. The ending part, with the reveal of the real villain was slightly better, but not as good as other books in this series.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Heroes and Monsters Collection

  • Title: Heroes and Monsters Collection
  • Series: BBC Books – Special Themed Short Story Collection
  • Author: Various
  • Characters: War Doctor, Ninth Doctor, Tenth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor, Twelfth Doctor, with companions
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/07/2017

Doctor Who Heroes and Monsters is a collection of short stories featuring the Doctors from New Who. There’s a single War Doctor story, several stories each with the Ninth Doctor, Tenth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor, and Twelfth Doctor. There’s a pair of stories taking place at the same time and place – one of which is from Amy’s point of view on her solitary adventure and one from Rory’s on his only solitary adventure.

The problem is that though some of the stories are good – many are only so-so; and, nearly all of them read like they were written for children – not even young adults, but children. And it’s the type of children’s literature that, unfortunately, looks down on the child’s abilities to read, comprehend, and follow a good story – so the stories are overly simplistic instead.

The Amy-Rory pair of stories is one of the better sets. The Doctor lands the TARDIS on a giant shopping mall planet. Amy goes off on her own, and through kindness to a young boy, stops an invasion. However, the young boy is in his position due to a strange man, whom we suspect to be Rory. The next story in the collection shows us events from Rory’s point of view. I enjoyed that device for the pair of stories, however, it is a fairly simple story nonetheless.

The last story in the collection is a solo Twelfth Doctor story, which, while fun, and a bit less child-oriented, still has a predictable bent to it.

Overall, I was disappointed. Yes, it’s a quick read, but I’d rather have a bit more depth to my Doctor Who tie-in stories.

 

Book Review – Doctor Who: The 12 Doctors of Christmas

  • Title: The Twelve Doctors of Christmas
  • Series: BBC Books – Special Themed Short Story Collection
  • Author: Various
  • Note: Includes paintings for each story
  • Characters: One story per Doctor, with companions
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/22/2016

The Twelve Doctors of Christmas is a wonderful, wonderful book. Everything about this book is just awesome and it would make for a great Christmas gift for Doctor Who fans young and old. The presentation of this book is impressive – it’s a cloth-bound hard cover with incredible full-color art paintings – one per story. There is one short story per Doctor and one painting per story. The paintings are bound in groups, though, rather than as front pieces for each story, so you read four stories then get four pages of gorgeous art. Still, the full-color paintings are beautiful and aptly illustrate each story.

There are twelve short stories in the collection – one per Doctor, and the stories also feature many of the Doctor’s well-known companions. Each story also has a theme of Christmas – but it’s interpreted by the various authors in a broad way, so we get stories that range from Barbara and Ian “going home for the holidays” to the Seventh Doctor and Ace trying to rescue a crashed alien from Macy’s at Christmas (after hours) and trying to also save the few workers in the store. All the stories are inventive and approach the Holiday differently. It’s a wonderful collection.

This was an uplifting and fun read – and I could see myself re-reading it every year. It’s a beautiful presentation as a book, a great gift, and an enjoyable read. I simply loved it – and it was good to read at this time of year.

Stories, Doctor, Companion(s), Authors

  • All I Want for Christmas (First Doctor, Barbara, Ian) – Jacqueline Rayner
  • A Comedy of Terrors (Second Doctor, Jamie, Zoë) – Colin Brake
  • The Christmas Inversion (Third Doctor, Jo Grant, UNIT) – Jacqueline Rayner
  • Three Wise Men (Fourth Doctor) – Richard Dungworth
  • Sontar’s Little Helpers (Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Turlough) – Mike Tucker
  • Fairy Tale of New New York (Sixth Doctor, Mel) – Gary Russell
  • The Grotto (Seventh Doctor, Ace) – Mike Tucker
  • Ghost of Christmas Past (Eighth Doctor) – Scott Handcock
  • The Red Bicycle (Ninth Doctor, Rose) – Gary Russell
  • Loose Wire (Tenth Doctor) – Richard Dungworth
  • The Gift (Eleventh Doctor) – Scott Handcock
  • The Persistence of Memory (Twelfth Doctor) – Colin Brake

Book Review – Doctor Who: Beautiful Chaos

  • Title: Beautiful Chaos
  • Series: BBC Books New Series Doctor Who Adventures (new series)
  • Author: Justin Richards
  • Characters: Tenth Doctor, Donna, Wilf
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/03/2016

I have the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Edition of this book, which was originally published as part of the BBC Books New Doctor Who Books which were published alongside the series. This story features the Tenth Doctor as played by David Tennant and his companion, Donna Noble. Originally, books in that series read as Young Adult novels – but this one is very adult, as it deals with Alzheimer’s Disease in a very grown-up fashion. However, this being a Doctor Who we also have an alien menace that’s taken-up residence in a computer, and the return of the Mandragora Helix. Rather than chapters, the book is organized by days – giving the reader a definite feel for how fast things can happen to the Doctor and Donna.

The Doctor brings Donna back to Chiswick to spend time with her family on the one-year anniversary of her father’s death. Donna and her mother are immediately at odds, and Donna meets her grandfather’s new “lady friend”, Netty. Netty is a sweet woman, and someone that Wilf has truly fallen for, but she is also suffering from second-stage Alzheimer’s Disease.

Meanwhile, MorganTech is preparing for the release of the M-TEK – a personal music and video player. The Doctor examines the technology and discovers it to be light years ahead of anything that any Earth technology company should be able to produce. Meanwhile, Wilf has discovered a new star, which will be named after him – and a dinner is being given in his honor by the Royal Planetary Society. However, Wilf’s star isn’t the only new item in the sky – at least four other “Chaos bodies” or rogue stars have suddenly appeared. And MorganTech’s M-TEK is taking over the early beta testers who received free versions in a huge company giveaway.

The Doctor and Donna meet Netty, go with Wilf to the Planetary Society dinner, and soon investigate the confusing circumstances surrounding MorganTech and the M-TEK. Before long, the Doctor realizes he’s up against an old enemy, the Mandragora Helix from the Tom Baker (Fourth Doctor) story, “The Masque of Mandragora”.

I liked this Doctor Who story. The more adult nature of the story-telling suited it. If the other New Who BBC Books have risen to a quality like this one, I very much may need to find some of them to read. Recommended of course.

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.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Supremacy of the Cybermen

  • Title: The Supremacy of the Cybermen
  • Authors: Cavan Scott and George Mann
  • Artists: Ivan Rodriguez, Walter Geovanni, Alessandro Vitti, Tazio Bettin, Nicola Righi, Enrica Eren Angiolini, Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line: Multi-Doctor Specials (Doctor Who Comics Event)
  • Characters: Twelfth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor, Tenth Doctor, Ninth Doctor, Gabby Gonzalez, Cindy Wu, Alice Obiefune, Rose Tyler, Captain Jack Harkness, Jackie Tyler
  • Collection Date: 2017
  • Collected Issues: Issues # 1-5
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 3/25/2017

Supremacy of the Cybermen is the collection of the 2016 Doctor Who Comics event. It features the four modern Doctors and their companions in the main stories, plus cameos from every Doctor ever from Hartnell to John Hurt (the “War Doctor”). The story features Cybermen who have gotten a hold of time travel technology and are changing history. The Doctors, in various time periods know something is wrong but don’t know how to fight it. And, scarily enough, they are losing. From Cyber-Silurians in the Dinosaur Age, to Ace as a Cyber-person attacking the Seventh Doctor – this book is richly illustrated and quite depressing – until the very end.

It is the Twelfth Doctor who discovers that the Cybermen aren’t bent on attacking Gallifrey, but that Rassilon has forged an alliance with the Cybermen – giving them control of space/time and the Eye of Harmony (Gallifrey’s black hole that powers time travel) itself. The Doctor is justifiably angry at Rassilon and realises he is being duped by the Cybermen.

Rassilon is absorbed as pure regenerative energy, then the Doctor is also connected to the Eye of Harmony. Inside, the Doctor meets Rassilon and they must work together to overcome the Cybermen’s plot. But the Twelfth Doctor still remembers the disasters of the past – even after they are reversed.

I enjoyed this story very much, especially the cameos of the past Doctors. The artwork was particularly beautiful. And the story was very complex. Doctor Who Supremacy of the Cybermen is a story not to be missed by any Doctor Who fan. Highly recommended.