• Doctor Who Series 2: The Girl Who Waited, The Boy Who Lived

    Released by: IDW Publishing
    Release Date: December 24th, 2013.
    Purchase From Amazon

    Doctor Who has seen a resurgence in popularity these last few years so it makes sense that the characters from the BBC series would live again in comic book form, and so they do. This massive four hundred page plus collection of comics published by IDW brings together the first run of stories that follow the adventures of the eleventh Doctor (that’d be Matt Smith), all of which are written by Tony Lee and Joshua Hale Failkov (who also illustrates the last story in the collection).

    In the first of the many stories contained in this fairly massive collection of Doctor Who comics, The Eleventh Doctor is in the TARDIS with companions Amy and Rory. Something has blown a fuse on the TARDIS and it turns out that Rory has used a phone that can call any number at any time to check his email. As he did this while travelling through time and space it’s brought the various ‘spam bots’ to life and in order to fix this The Doctor crash lands the big blue box on a planet inhabited by holograms. From there, the Scroungers show up, threatening to blow up the planet in an hour if they can’t find something of value to take home with them. If that weren’t enough, emails from Rory’s ex-girlfriend and the hunky scuba instructor Amy met on her ‘Hen’s Weekend’ have brought those characters to life while the Ponds wait for the Doctor inside the TARDIS in hopes that he’ll sort this all out with the assistance of a floating stapler.

    The art style, from Andrew Currie, in this first story - a single issue - is light and at times almost cartoony but never to the point where it’s overdone. In fact, it feels quite appropriate to the light hearted story being told. There is a bit of action here and of course some monsters but this one is played more for laughs than anything else and it makes some interesting observations about our society’s obsession with technology and need to be constantly connected to the internet even when there are far more interesting things to see and do.

    The second story finds The Doctor and the Ponds arriving in Victorian London shortly after an alien has murdered a drunken lady of the evening. The locals fear that Jack The Ripper has struck again, but The Doctor seems more interested in witnessing the birth of the soon to be created football league. With some help from Rory and his nurse training, The Doctor notes some strange Kryon radiation emitting from a man who, when The Doctor calls out to him, runs away. When The Doctor catches up, the man turns into his true form – an alien. Amy and Rory fool the police into thinking that they are Inspector from the Ripper case and decides they should try and save the woman who would be his next victim… but they arrive too late and Amy is attacked by the alien. Thankfully The Doctor arrives in time to save her, as he is apt to do. The cops show up, see him holding an unconscious Amy in his arms and assume him to be the culprit. Soon after that, they team up with Inspector Abbeline, a genius according to The Doctor (and he would seem to be right) to catch the real killer and to set things right once and for all…

    This story, told in three chapters, is darker than the first but still ripe with the comedy you’d expect from a well written Who story. The artwork by Tim Hamilton, Richard Piers Raynor and Horacio Domingues is a lot less cartoony and while not quite ‘realistic’ it’s sketchier, darker, better suited to the Victorian setting and a good fit for the Ripper tale that is told. There’s an interesting aside to this tale in that it does show The Doctor, at Amy’s behest, wrestling with the idea of changing time to save a life and therefore the repercussions that would go along with it. This serves to flesh out the morality of the characters a bit and it makes this more than just another time travel adventure.

    Back in the TARDIS, our third storyline finds The Doctor still obsessing over soccer. In fact, he’s taking the Ponds to the World Cup in 1966. When Rory shows up with Bobby Moore’s jersey, he’s warned of the Blinovitch Effect that occurs when two of the same thing appear in the same time space and how this could result in the end of the universe as we know it…. or just cause a lot of rain. No one seems to know for sure. We also learn that The Doctor has a Dark Matter Stabilizer that looks an awful lot like a football rattle. Unfortunately, the TARDIS takes them to Wembley Stadium, albeit ten centuries too early to see the 1966 game. This is all well and good until a horde of Saxons mistakes the three of them for Danish Vikings. It turns out that the leader of the Saxons knows The Doctor but things get complicated, as they are wont to do, when the Vikings and Saxons get into it and the son of the Viking leader decides he wants Amy as his own. His father tries to talk some sense into him but soon it’s a case of patricide with Rory the only witness. When Rory and The Doctor find themselves on the bad end of a duel with the fate of England hanging in the balance, well… he’ll figure a way out. He always does.

    This third story is once again a good mix of humor and action. The characters are more one dimensional here but the artwork by Mark Buckingham is decent and the plot both amusing and reasonably suspenseful. There’s a touching moment where The Doctor makes clear to Rory his loyalty to Amy and he both, and while there’s less science fiction here than in most stories, there’s enough reasonably compelling drama to hold out attention. Not the high point of the collection but a fine single issue story.

    Our fourth tale, When World’s Collide, takes The Doctor and his companions to the Wild West where he and Rory are goofing around with a faux showdown. From here a being called Rok Soo’Gar materializes and he tries to sell them on his ability to provide his clients with custom made worlds of their own. He takes them to the sixties, then the Roman Empire and then the age of dinosaurs where they meet a T-Rex named Kevin. It’s all fun and games until an alien ship shows up unannounced with a distress beacon requesting help. It turns out to be a Sontaran war ship with Major Drak in command. They agree to let them land until the Major tells them that the problem with their ship is that its leaking Fluronic Gas – when this is discovered Rok renegs on his ok to land because that gas can cause problems with the time stream but the Sontarans won’t take no for an answer, they care not about the vacationers on the planet nor causalities of war. When the Sontarans learn that The Doctor is on the planet they figure he’ll put up a good fight and make a good trophy. While the Time Lord tries to save the planet, the invading Sontarans look forward to a noble death while Rory’s decision to dress as Billy The Kid comes back to haunt him, The Doctor realizes how seriously Kevin takes his role and Amy winds up serving beers to Nazis.

    The art by Matthew Dow Smith in this three part story is reminiscent of Kevin Nolan and Mike Mignola in that it shows good use of heavy line art and little concern for realism while simultaneously avoiding gross visual exaggerations. The story moves quickly and it does a good job of bringing the different time fames that it plays out in into one cohesive story while paying tribute to the TV series’ past by bringing in the Sontaran menace as the lynch pin for all of this. A fun three issue block that’s well worth reading.

    The fifth story in the collection, Space Squid, picks up where the last one left off with Kevin travelling inside the TARDIS but after he experiences new worlds he falls into a slump and tells Rory that he worries that he really has no important role in life. From here we cut to a space station Commander Katic and her right hand man Fillion discuss the threat of The Acolytes Of The Holy Space Squid and their end of days mantra. As some of these followers inhabit the station, they pay some attention to them despite not necessarily subscribing to the same belief system. The Doctor and his crew materialize just as a ship with some relics for the Acolytes starts to cause some unrest. Kevin stops the riot but when the squid god himself shows up, it starts to get messy for everyone involved. The High Priest starts exerting his control over the station’s population and then The Ponds leaving only The Doctor and a giant dinosaur to save the day.

    This single issue is silly, even by the admittedly often times very silly standards of the show, but it does give Kevin a purpose before it’s all over and done with and on that level it’s actually kind of sweet. The art by Josh Adams is decent enough, it won’t floor you but it gets the characters close enough to how they appear in real life to work and at the same time adds its own illustrative style to things. It takes its concept a bit too far but even if it isn’t the best story in the tome, it’s decent enough. Not a classic, but worth a read for fans.

    Up next is Body Snatched, the sixth story in the massive book that begins with The Doctor bringing Amy and Rory to a 45th Century post office – it seems he needs to get his mail, except that he hasn’t set anything up yet. And yet, there’s a letter there for him from The Horse Lord Of Khan that was sent to him two hundred years ago. He’s stuck on an asteroid and needs help, and so soon enough the TARDIS is off and we follow them to a planet that is not at all unlike an insane asylum where the inmates are the resource that the planet needs to survive. A Doctor Rubin is in charge but he’s surprisingly keen on letting the three newcomers perform an audit. And so with the help of a nurse, they do. And they discover just how dire the situation is here for the inmates, referred to as biogrowers. When it turns out that one of these biogrowers was Khan and that he’s not particularly happy with how all of this has played out, we find The Doctor having to choose between Rubin’s legitimately helpful medical advances and the rights that the biogrowers have to live their own lives.

    This two parter gets about as political as a Doctor Who story is likely to get, making some interesting statements that serve as a fairly obvious metaphor for things like stem cell research and cloning, procedures that certainly can help the greater good but which obviously carry with them some controversy. The artwork, once again provided by Matthew Dow Smith, is appropriately dark when it needs to be, which is the bulk of the story. It starts off with some humor and of course offers up some quips and one liners throughout but manages to succeed as one of the more serious tales in this collection, and also one of the best. It is well paced, nicely illustrated and would have translated to television very nicely.
    The seventh story is Silent Knight and it finds The Doctor exiting the TARDIS and wandering a snowy wasteland where he sees Santa Claus accosted by some robot thugs. He helps him battle them and befriends a reindeer but the robots make it off with Santa’s sack of toys. The Doctor and Santa give chase in his sled, but the robots have guns and aren’t afraid to use them, but The Doctor has his sonic screwdriver. Will Santa get his sack back and if he does, will he get the toys out on time? Well, given that The Doctor has a TARDIS, you can probably figure that out on your own.

    This one is… cute. It’s genuinely cute. There’s no dialogue here, no word balloons (well, almost none), just solid sequential storytelling in the Holiday spirit, something that has long been a part of Doctor Who. It ends on a refreshingly humanitarian note and accentuates the importance of the ‘better to give than to receive’ spirit that Christmas should be (but sadly doesn’t seem to be) all about. The art by Paul Grist suits the story nicely and has some cool style to it, sort of a rough cartoonish look but one that keeps in synch with the tone of the story.

    As Time Goes By, that’d be story number eight, sees The Doctor and The Ponds show up in WWII era Casablanca. Rory is promptly arrested but The Doctor seems more interested in shopping for a new fez. In order to spring Rory, The Doctor has to find and talk to The Captain, a man who holds court in a night club. Rory gets tossed in the clink and Amy and The Doctor are talked into a night out on the town with the Captain, a man who obviously has a thing for tall, leggy redheads. As The Doctor and Amy meet a familiar looking American man at the café, Rory meets his cell mate, a man who tells him that he should not expect to ever leave that place he has been incarcerated in. He knows that The Captain pans to kill Rory and frame him for it, but are the real culprits here Nazis… or are they Silurian aliens?

    This four part story obviously plays off of the mythology of Casablanca but never puts it on so thick as to distract from the story at hand. The most poignant aspect of the story here is how Amy and Rory so really do care for one another. Of course Amy’s relationship with The Doctor is tricky but her love for her husband becomes a prime factor in how all of this plays out while he at one point really sees her as his sole reason for going through with all of the wild rides that they go on with The Doctor. He is her protector whether she realizes it or not. Once again the artwork from Matthew Dow Smith does a great job of shifting from light to dark depending on the requests of the story. Realism is not as important as expressionism but when it works as well as it does here, that hardly matters. The Casablanca references lay the groundwork for an interesting tale that, like a lot of the more heart felt episodes of the TV series, really emphasizes the positive aspects of mankind over the much easier to document negatives. It’s a feel good story that never seems too corny or forced but which is instead quite well plotted and also fairly clever in how it works in bits and pieces of WWII history and a certain classic movie. This is, I’m not ashamed to write, a tear jerker in the best possible manner.

    Chapter nine, titled Run Doctor Run, sees The Doctor saunter out of the TARDIS only to get zapped into a strange world inhabited by blob-like creatures that accuse him of ruining their art and, gasp, standing upside down! They chase him through a landscape inspired by Escher and after all of that he learns he’s been accused of killing Fariah Jazbloom! To make his way back to the TARDIS and escape he must think in terms of variable density, but they want to bring him to justice regardless.

    This is a quick single issue run with an emphasis on weird science and humor. The art has a style to it that is both lighter and a bit more realistic, playing up Matt Smith’s hokey charm and penchant for mugging for the camera but at the same time, never overdoing it. Short, sweet and to the point this is an enjoyably breezy story that lightens the mood after the heavier four parter that came before it. Blair Shedd’s art is pretty good, this one works and it works will.

    Story number ten finds an older man named Harold wandering about the small village he lives in only to find The Doctor waiting for him at home. The Doctor knows he is an alien and he wants to know what he’s up to in this quaint village and why. We learn how Harold’s alien race battled the Zorians and how The Doctor materialized in the middle of that war to stop it. Harold’s ship was damaged and he landed on Earth and for the last half a century he’s been rebuilding his Trylonian star fighter ship. Though this ship, almost entirely functional, would allow him to take over the planet or return home, Harold feels Earth is home now and he’s really only rebuilt the ship because he loves to fly. He and The Doctor, using the perception filter, go for a joyride and they simply talk about his status on Earth.

    This is another nice single issue story. There’s not a whole lot of suspense here, it’s pretty much completely a character piece but it has some depth to it and what it lacks in action, suspense and excitement it makes up for in, dare I say it, sweetness. We get to see the understanding and caring side of The Doctor, an important part of his character and one that is often overshadowed by the wisecracking world saver. The artwork is appropriately realistic looking and nicely detailed and all in all, this is a fine little footnote of an issue, maybe not one that blows you out the door but one that certainly brings a smile to your face. Mitch Gerards handles penciling duties here and it’s good stuff.

    Coming to a close, the eleventh story begins when The Doctor is being held captive by Sir Reginald Troupe, a man with a fancy outfit and a monocle who plans to take over England and then the world. He manages to contact Amy from within his cell but she’s battling giant wolf creatures on another planet while Rory is in another time stream about to be crowned the King Of England until Reginald shows up with some of those weird wolf creatures backing him. Amy helps The Doctor escape only to see him chased down by guards on the Rock of Gibraltar but of course he gets to the TARDIS and makes his way to Rory just in time. Amy, on the other hand, is in the middle of a full scale war, one that she manages to get on top of and use to the advantage of both she, her husband and in turn, The Doctor.

    Framed in a hand written letter Amy is sending to her parents trying to explain to them just what she’s been up to as of late, this is a fast paced and fairly superficial story that puts the emphasis on action rather than character development. It works, there’s room for stories like this in the Whoniverse, but it lacks the elements that make for a classic Who tale. The artwork from Dan McDaid is solid, if a bit on the sketch side, and it uses thick line work to create a cartoony style, one very much in keeping with the slam bang boom pace and everything but the kitchen sink mentality of the tale being told.

    All in all, a solid collection of stories that stand alongside and sometimes nicely compliment the stories told in the television series. There are a few too many times where the jokes depend on the whole 'X is cool' gag made popular by The Doctor's love of bowties and a few too many times where we're reminded that the TARDIS is, in fact, bigger on the inside but outside of those minor cliche ridden complaints, things shape up well here. Rarely does the art not appropriately compliment the story and the mix of artists gathered together to work their magic on the different characters showcased here results in a compilation that is fresh, fun and great to look at as well as to read.