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Graphic Novel Review
The Ninth Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack continue their trip through the Universe! Someone is impersonating the Doctor – and has made him into a galactic celebrity! But something far more sinister is going on, as the trio are plunged into yet another shapeshifting civil war… The Slitheen are back! And just as the TARDIS crew think their day can’t get any worse, living gargoyles invade San Francisco and residents begin to fly… Writer Cavan Scott (Who-Ology, Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen) and artists Adriana Melo (Star Wars: Empire, Birds of Prey) and Cris Bolson (The Shadow) continue the all-new adventures of these beloved characters!
Following the success of Titan’s five-issue Ninth Doctor mini-series, Number Nine has been granted his own ongoing title, together with his popular companions Rose and Captain Jack. This graphic novel collects the first five issues of the new series.
I admit I had my reservations about the previous series, which I found to be rather slow-moving, with its single story stretched out across five instalments. Fortunately, returning writer Cavan Scott has addressed the problem, and this volume packs in two storylines, the three-issue Doctormania and the two-part The Transformed.
The adventures of the Ninth Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack continue, as they face a solar system wide conspiracy, an intergalactic crime family, and, more importantly, the return of an unexpected old foe in a hideous new guise! Those wily Raxacoricofallapatorians – always popping up when you least expect them, ready to tear your face off! But this time the shapeshifting ruse goes deeper than mere revenge – and the TARDIS team will be tested to their limits as they face an impossible planetary crisis…!
The events of the opening story unfold at breakneck speed. It begins with our heroes escaping from the jaws of a ravenous monster, only to be confronted by a mystery from Jack’s past, which in turn leads them to another puzzle, revolving around the Doctor, on the planet Gharusa Prime – all within the space of four pages! As the Time Lord himself puts it, “No hanging about.”
The art by incoming illustrator Adriana Melo is highly dynamic, involving lots of running and other dramatic poses. Perhaps we could call this style Melo-dramatic. Her likenesses of the regulars are good, without being slavishly dependent upon reference photographs.
There are shades of the episode Bad Wolf, as the Doctor finds that he has somehow become a television star. He is quickly recognised by the delightful new character of Yani, a purple-skinned, three-eyed alien who is nevertheless immediately recognisable as a squee-ing fangirl, beaming with adoration as she asks for a selfie. Unlike Bad Wolf, the cultural references here are a little ahead of their time for Series 1 – the word selfie was around in 2005, but it was not as widely known or used as it is today.
Amusingly out of place allusions to Doctor Who fandom and mythology abound, as Yani announces that she has been a member of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society “like for-ever”, new and more formidable versions of the Chumblies from Galaxy 4 arrive on the scene (well, they couldn’t have been any less formidable, could they?), and Gharusa Prime’s version of the Doctor pilots a flying car that will be very familiar to Third Doctor fans.
An on-screen clip of Gharusa Prime’s Doctor with his companion Penny cleverly echoes a pivotal moment of crisis from Genesis of the Daleks, though the stakes couldn’t be much lower. “We’re talking about your fans,” argues Penny, “the most important people in your life. You must sing for them. You must complete your concert for the fan club.” This speech mirrors the rhythm of Sarah’s plea to the Fourth Doctor in Genesis: “We’re talking about the Daleks, the most evil creatures ever invented. You must destroy them. You must complete your mission for the Time Lords.”
However, all of these blasts from the past are but warm-ups for the dramatic reappearance of the Slitheen! Rose wonders how a Slitheen can conceal itself inside a suit that is so skinny, when in Aliens of London / World War Three they were only able to masquerade as fat people. Clearly she has forgotten about the future Raxacoricofallapatorians she encountered in the novel The Monsters Inside, who had perfected more compact disguises. The Doctor similarly observes that the creatures have made improvements to their compression field technology.
Just as The Monsters Inside introduced the Blathereen, so Doctormania also gives us another family of Raxacoricofallapatorians: the Jinglatheen, who are out to bring the Slitheen to justice and restore peace to the troubled Raxas Alliance of worlds.
Once the Raxacoricofallapatorians hog the limelight and the action moves to another planet, we don’t get to see any more of the delightful alien fangirl Yani, though there’s a beautiful moment in which the Doctor pays tribute to her bravery. We also don’t get to see any creatures who look like Abzorbaloff from Love & Monsters among the members of the Raxas Alliance, even though his home planet, Clom (a neighbour of Raxacoricofallapatorius), is mentioned a few times. We do see some beaked beings with similar Mohawk hairstyles, so perhaps they are from the same place.
As Cavan Scott crams in the threat of interplanetary war, an inventive new use for Raxacoricofallapatorian skinsuits, a rather gruesome new application of their vulnerability to vinegar, and a dinosaur-like reptilian mount, the plot zooms past a little too quickly, if I’m honest. The villain’s scheme and motivation feel underdeveloped, and the reader is left with a sense of “Oh, is it over already?” However, the writer leaves some room at the end for a very exciting lead-in to the next story… Or to put it another way: squee!
Modern-day San Francisco sees the Doctor, Jack and Rose pulled into a city-wide civil war between strangely empowered citizens. But when they start mutating into horrendous monsters, the Doctor and friends find themselves out of their depth! Fighting side-by-side with a face from his future, can the Doctor restore normality to the city before it’s completely overrun? The two men must put aside their differences to save the ones they love – and avoid Rose crossing paths with an out-of-time Mickey Smith…!
It’s all very well having new adventures with the Doctor and his companions, but don’t you sometimes wonder what happened to the likes of Rose Tyler, Mickey Smith and Martha Jones (the latter two last seen battling a Sontaran at the end of The End of Time) after they parted company with the Time Lord? It is unlikely that these characters will ever be revisited in the television series, because they are creations of the previous showrunner, Russell T Davies, and the current production team has its own toys to play with.
That’s what’s so great about The Transformed. It not only features a 2016 version of Mickey, but we are also brought up to speed regarding the current status of his wife Martha. An opening recap, which features both the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, reminds us how much the Doctor and Mickey changed over just a few years, with Mickey transformed from inept zero to action hero.
We also get a more subtle foreshadowing of the TARDIS crew’s future as Rose gains glowing orange eyes and some dangerous new powers…
The style of guest artist Cris Bolson, who, together with stand-in colourist Marco Lesko, handles the first half of The Transformed, is very similar to the realism of Blair Shedd, who provided the artwork for Titan’s Ninth Doctor miniseries. Bolson provides good likenesses of the Doctor, Mickey and Rose. His Captain Jack, on the other hand, is merely not bad.
The second half of the story sees the return of Adriana Melo, so we also get to see her versions of all the characters and creatures. I appreciate that she and colourist Matheus Lopes are this title’s regular team, but it might have made for a more consistent result if Bolson and Lesko had stayed on to see the whole story through. Still, I shouldn’t grumble, because Melo gives us a very dynamic Ninth Doctor and Mickey, and a very sexy Rose – whose t-shirt seems to shrink between chapters! Melo also tackles a certain tentacled individual that we last saw rendered by Blair Shedd…
There’s a lovely in-joke reference to Chris Achilleos’s cover illustration for the novelisation Doctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion in the sound made by a flying monster encountered by the Doctor and Mickey: “KKLAK!” Now, that’s what I call taking the Mickey! In another blast from the past, Cavan Scott has Mickey briefly refer to the Forge alongside UNIT and Torchwood. A black-ops organisation (similar to Torchwood but predating it) that has appeared in several Doctor Who audio plays released by Big Finish, the Forge was co-created by Scott himself (with Mark Wright).
The Doctor’s business in San Francisco is wrapped up rather hastily. I think the story could have run for longer, but then that would have complicated matters for this graphic novel compilation. Fortunately, there are still a few loose ends left dangling. Not only has Jack yet to track down his missing memories (as a muttered aside from him reminds us), but a dimensional anomaly means that we can expect another excitingly anachronistic get-together next time…
This volume also includes behind-the-scenes roughs and uncoloured artwork by Adriana Melo, and the six-page strip Hacked from the 2016 Free Comic Book Day issue. Drawn by Mariano Laclaustra, who gives us the best likenesses in the book, Hacked sees the Ninth Doctor, Rose and Jack meet a planet-defacing artist – sort of like Banksy but on a global scale. There are fleeting, fan-pleasing references to the Daemons, the Osirans, the Eye of Orion, the Braxiatel Collection and the Shadow Proclamation, as well as a possible hint that the hacker may have been responsible for some of the peculiar geographical features encountered during the William Hartnell era.
As Penny and Sarah might have put it, we’re talking about a comic, one of the most exciting comics ever invented. You must read it. You must complete your collection from Titan!