Book Review – Doctor Who: Vortex Butterflies

  • Title: Vortex Butterflies
  • Author: Nick Abadzis
  • Artists: Giorgia Sposito, Iolanda Zanfardino, Arianna Florean, Nicola Right, Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line:  Tenth Doctor (Year 3 – “Facing Fate”, Vol. 2)
  • Characters: Tenth Doctor, Gabby Gonzales, Cindy Wu, Anubis (“Noobis”)
  • Collection Date: 2018
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/04/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Vortex Butterflies is the second volume in the third year of Titan Comics Tenth Doctor Series. It opens in ancient China, where Cindy Wu gives each of her 500 clone daughters a name. Gabby Gonzales, meanwhile, is dealing with the aftermath of seeing her best friend die – even if it was “only” one of her clones. But the TARDIS is also acting weird, so the TARDIS Team leave in a hurry and travel through the universe again – a time summarised by Gabby’s art in her notebook. Noobis decides to stay at the Xenopsychology Library of Aramuko – someplace the Doctor recommends for healing. The Doctor then drops Gabby and Cindy off at an apartment in London, where they have everything they need, while he follows some strange signals in the TARDIS and tries to discover what’s wrong with it.

Cindy and Gabby meet Sarah Jane Smith, which is awesome. Gabby enrolls in short-term art classes, and Cindy is feeling a bit left out, though she gets along well with Sarah. Gabby also has a few incidents of uncontrolled Vortex Energy and Block Transfer butterfly production – which confuses her, but she recovers quickly.

Meanwhile, the Doctor lands his TARDIS on Mechma Onzlo III Station and picks up a Xerobian gadget which he names Marcie. Marcie is half technology, half sounding-board, and adorable! As Cindy and Gabby settle in with Sarah Jane in London, Noobis relaxes at his library and meets a new friend, the Doctor and Marcie set out in the TARDIS to follow the mysterious signals that are interfering with the TARDIS’s ability to travel in the time/space vortex. The Doctor takes the TARDIS to an extremely empty area of space and Marcie finds the signal but has trouble creating a recognizable form for the Doctor, such as an illustration. The Doctor looks outside the TARDIS and sees a new system with an accretion disk. He lands the TARDIS on the orbiting asteroid. There he is confronted by a being who claims to be a future version of Gabby – a version the Doctor abandoned there. This being starts to attack Gabby in London, but Sarah temporarily isolates Gabby’s time signature which allows her to fight back. And the Doctor, although Marcie is destroyed (whimper!) leaves in the TARDIS.

However, the last page features the round-headed people in a cave from volume one, Breakfast at Tyranny’s, who are out to establish a case against the Doctor.

Vortex Butterflies has some wonderful art – the Vortex Creature at first appears to look like the Third Doctor Doctor Who television series credits. The Tenth Doctor also meets up with the Twelfth Doctor, an unexpected cameo that I really enjoyed. I also really loved seeing Sarah Jane, and she’s perfectly in character (and mentions her work from the series The Sarah Jane Adventures). Gabby, Cindy, and even Noobis are more in character and actually have more to do than they have for a while (even when Cindy and Gabby are essentially on vacation in London). It’s just a fun, enjoyable read. Vortex Butterflies is a great graphic novel and highly recommended.

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Doctor Who Episode Review – Deep Breath

  • Series Title:  Doctor Who
  • Story Title: Deep Breath
  • Story Number: Series 8, Episode 1
  • Original Air Date: August 23, 2014
  • Cast: Peter Capaldi as The Doctor, Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald, with Neve McIntosh as Madame Vastra, Catrin Stewart as Jenny Flint, and Dan Starkey as Strax

“I am alone. The world, which shook under my feet, and the trees and the sky, have gone. And I am alone now… The world bites now, and the world is grey, and I am alone.” – The Doctor (Peter Capaldi)

“But he is the Doctor. He has walked the universe for centuries untold, he has seen the stars fall to dust.” – Madame Vastra

“I wasn’t. I didn’t need to. That was me talking. You can’t see me, Can you? You look at me and you can’t see me. Do you have any idea what that’s like? I’m not on the phone, I’m right in front of you. Please, just… just see me.” – The Doctor (Peter Capaldi)

I remember, just barely, watching “Deep Breath” in the movie theater for the premiere. And, of course, watching it and the rest of the season on BBC America and later still on DVD. See my review of Doctor Who Series 8. But I’ve decided to re-watch Peter Calpaldi’s Doctor Who from the beginning. If you have been reading my Patrick Troughton Era reviews, this means I very well may skip “The War Games” but I did review the rest of his stories that are available on DVD. Anyway, I have seen series 9 and 10 on BBC America, but not watched them on DVD so those reviews will be forthcoming eventually. What is amazing about “Deep Breath” is that although it in much more subtle than the Matt Smith era, it does set up themes that will be returned to over and over throughout the Peter Capaldi Era.

The opening of “Deep Breath” is in essence merely a McGuffin. As cool and as incongruous as a dinosaur in Victorian London in the Thames is, and as silly as said dinosaur vomiting up the TARDIS which caused it to be transported, that is merely a McGuffin – the dinosaur bursts into flames immediately upon the Doctor promising to save it. This leads the Doctor and the Paternoster Gang to investigate a series of similar murders, which leads to the Doctor discovering a restaurant of clockwork people, which is really an ancient spaceship.

This spaceship is the S.S. Marie Antoinette, sister-ship to the Madame de Pompadour, which the audience knows from the David Tennant episode, “The Girl in the Fireplace”. So the audience knows about it’s clockwork occupants who replace parts with human (and in this case, dinosaur) parts. The Doctor, however, keeps insisting that he can’t quite remember why it is so familiar.

My the themes of identity and obsessions with endings and even death link this story with the entire Peter Capaldi Era. From Clara not recognizing the Docor, not seeing him as the Doctor, and being freaked out that he regenerated, he’s “renewed”, but his “face has lines” and “he’s old”, to the “broom speech” where the Doctor is ostensibly talking about the droid leader, but he could easily be talking about himself. When he’s “translating” for the dinosaur who is so alone, the Doctor could be talking about himself as well. And in the last scene between the Doctor and Clara, he practically begs her to “see him”. Capaldi’s years as the Doctor would feature many more references to both the Doctor’s great age, and his almost being ready to give up because he’s fought for so long. This is what is very good about this episode – it introduces a theme, which will be returned too again and again, not so much in Series 8, but usually at least once a season during the Capaldi years. And even his final Christmas special is as much about whether or not he will regenerate as anything else.

However, independent of the season and the era, even though it looks very good, the plot of “Deep Breath” isn’t that impressive. The opening gambit with the dinosaur is used more as an elaborate joke and then as a McGuffin to introduce the real plot as anything else. I actually felt bad about the dinosaur exploding, but it’s a sign of bad writing as well. How do you get rid of the extraneous character who’s only purpose was to get your characters together so they can solve the mystery? Why making that character yet another victim in the series of crimes. Goodbye, dinosaur.

But worse, the central plot is lifted straight from “The Girl in the Fireplace”. Even the Doctor remarks that droids using human parts, a hidden spaceship that crashed eons ago and is looking to return home “the long way around”, and the name of the ship, S.S. Marie Antoinette, sister-ship to the Madame de Pompadour, sounds familiar. And for anyone watching, unless they never saw “The Girl in the Fireplace” – it does sound familiar – it’s the same plot. Steven Moffat is literally stealing from himself. And this isn’t the first time he does it – Amy Pond’s entire characterization and her arc plot are identical to Reinette in “The Girl in the Fireplace”, from first seeing her as a child, to Reinette/Amy’s steady belief that the Doctor will always be there for her (something Clara also does in “Deep Breath”). Moffat doesn’t so much write original stories, as re-write his most popular ones over and over again, changing only the character and maybe the setting. This something often found in genre writing such as mysteries or romantic suspense. It works for awhile, but sooner or later as a reader, one realizes it’s the same story over and over and over again.

Still, having re-watched Patrick Troughton’s Era on DVD, I’m excited about re-watching the Peter Capaldi era again.

 

Book Review – Doctor Who: Lights Out

  • Title: Lights Out
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Holly Black
  • Characters: Twelfth Doctor
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/11/2016

Doctor Who Lights Out is the last volume in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary 12 Doctors 12 Booksset of mini-books. GoodReads describes these as “e-books” and they may have been first published that way, but my set consists of 12 little mini-books the size of your hand, plus 12 postcards in a slip case. I bought the set from either Amazon or Barnes & Noble (I don’t remember which).

This particular story features the Twelfth Doctor as played by Peter Capaldi. Clara is mentioned but is not actually present in the story. The story begins in first person with a “space trucker”, someone who ferries coffee beans from the Intergalactic Coffee Roasting Station (ICRS, pronounced Icarus) to “the planet of the coffee shops”. This un-named character is waiting in line at a coffee shop, a couple of people behind the Doctor, when the lights suddenly go out – when they come back on, someone is dead, and people nearly panic because the coffee supply has been cut off. The Doctor immediately begins to try to solve the mystery.

But as the Doctor starts talking to people, suddenly the lights go out again – and there’s another murder. The Doctor suggests he and our point-of-view character go to the station control center to find out about the power outages. During the walk through long corridors the lights go out again, but no one is killed.

The Doctor and our character go to the control center, only to find both workers dead. The Doctor convinces our main character that they must go to his ship. On the ship, the Doctor has a talk to him about monsters – about becoming a monster. We learn more about the guest point-of-view character, whom the Doctor had rescued from a scientific “research” laboratory that was creating merged creatures, monsters, as weapons. The Doctor’s “pep” talk convinces our point of view character that the Doctor must take his escape pod and return to the Station and he will do what is needed.

The ending of this story was surprising, but it felt a bit rushed. I wasn’t sure I liked it. Having the main point-of-view character as the “monster”/murderer was a different approach as well. I just don’t know about this last story.

The series, however, is worth getting both for veteran Doctor Who fans and for new fans. In fact, I’d say, this collection is ideal for new fans – it introduces each of the Doctors and some of their best-known companions. The stories are modular and not dependent on any continuity knowledge and can be read independently. Each story features the Doctor and a single companion, or no companion, or a companion for the individual story only – a format familiar to New Who fans. Even eras of the show that had a larger supporting cast, are stripped down to the Doctor and a companion. This means the stories are approachable to New Who fans. And Classic Who fans aren’t forgotten – there is a story here for each Doctor as well as featuring some of the best known companions. The booklets are small – about the size of your hand, and short – easily read in a single sitting. Recommended.

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: Silhouette

  • Title: Silhouette
  • Series: BBC Books New Series Doctor Who Adventures (new series)
  • Author: Justin Richards
  • Characters: Twelfth Doctor, Clara, Vastra, Jenny, Strax
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/15/2016

Doctor Who Silhouette is all about atmosphere. Set in Victorian London in the Winter, with plenty of snow, frost, and cold – it’s a novel to read during the Holiday season. The opening scene is in the TARDIS, with Clara asking to meet yet another probably fictional legendary character, but the Doctor refuses. The TARDIS picks up an unusual power spike from Victorian London, and the Doctor takes Clara there instead – and thus our adventure begins. The Frost Fair and it’s accompanying Carnival of Curiosities is in town, stretching out over the frozen Thames, near the embankment. Mme Vastra is called in to investigate a locked-room mystery, where the victim’s previous location before dying in his locked office was the Carnival. One of Strax’s drinking buddies has also mysteriously died. Clara and the Doctor attend the Fair and the Carnival, with the the Doctor looking to avoid involving Vastra, Jenny and Strax. However, that doesn’t last. The Doctor sees a Shadowplay show at the Carnival that’s a bit too good. Clara meets her soulmate at the tea shop in the Fair, as does Jenny the next day, and Vastra a few days later.

The Doctor and Clara meet Vastra, Jenny, and Strax and decide to work together on the different aspects of the mystery.

There are three fascinating characters associated with the Fair and Carnival: Silhouette, Affinity, and Empath. They are working for a mysterious arms dealer named Milton – and not entirely of their own free will. The three had been part of the Carnival – and talented. Milton turned each into a human weapon. Silhouette has the ability to control ink and the paper it was written on completely. She can even turn origami birds into weapons. Affinity has the ability to take on the aspect of someone else, like a mirror, thus it’s Affinity who is the teacher Clara meets at the Fair and it’s Affinity again who is the servant Jenny meets at the Fair as well. The price for Affinity’s ability to be just like someone else, but not in a creepy copy way, is when he isn’t imitating someone he has no face. Empath can amplify and then absorb emotions. Milton is using him to absorb anger and release in into a large hollow glass ball. Milton plans to release the cloud of negativity into London so the city will tear itself apart.
The atmosphere – frosty, Winter London, is wonderful in this novel. The side characters, especially Silhouette and Affinity, are wonderfully depicted. Mme Vastra, Jenny, and Strax are all in character, as are the Doctor and Clara of course. Milton’s dastardly plot is dastardly. Well, that’s a bit unfair, once it becomes clear – it’s frighteningly real.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and highly recommend it.

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.