THESE STORIES TAKE
PLACE BETWEEN THE
COMIC STRIP "THE
AND THE NOVELLA
"MADE OF STEEL."
JOSE MARIA BEROY,
STEFANO MARTINO &
IDW GRAPHIC NOVEL
RELEASED IN AUGUST
2008 (NORTH AMERICA
The Doctor, the last
of the Time Lords AND
survivor of a Great
Time War, along with
his loyal friend and
Jones from London,
darkness and evil
out the galaxies.
They’re also on the
hunt for the best milkshake in the
and while they track
that down, someone
else has the Doctor
in their sights. As the
very last Time Lord
out there, he’s highly
collectable, to the
I love Doctor Who. And I love comics. So it should come as no surprise that the news of a new Doctor Who comic series from IDW Publishing fills me with happy feelings. However, what with IDW being an American company, and what with their agreement with the BBC having some peculiar copyright clauses, I’ve had to wait several months to get a chance to read this new series. The comic itself is pretty much unattainable here in the UK, so it’s a good thing that now the trade paperback version has been released, under the umbrella title Agent Provocateur.
The stalwart Gary Russell writes these first six issues. Mr
Russell has provided us with some fantastic stories in the
past, and a good few clunkers too, but here he gives us a
thoroughly enjoyable ride through time and space. Reading
it in anthology form is, in this case, a bit of a hindrance; these
comic strips are so clearly written to be read one at a time,
providing short bursts of excitement with hints of an over-
arching plot that only really comes together towards the end.
On the other hand, the plot is rather confusing – muddles by
hops through time and a healthy dose of double-crossing and
back-stabbing – so reading all in one go undoubtedly makes
things clearly than my might have been. Russell’s writing here
is swift, fun and full of witty asides, not to mention the odd fan-
pleasing continuity hint (nothing that’ll get in the way of newer,
less geeky fans).
Nick Roche provides the artwork for the first instalment, as well as the cover art. His
Doctor is rather fantastic, capturing Tennant’s cheeky charm and manic energy (and as Roche himself said, the man’s practically a cartoon anyway!) I’m not so pleased with his version of Martha – her fun-loving side is captured well, but the cartoony style doesn’t fit
her as well as it does the Doctor; and, of course, Freema Agyeman is perfect and can
never be done justice on paper. The first episode is fun, if throwaway, revolving around Martha’s quest for the ultimate chocolate milkshake, and ending with the Doctor defeating
a vindictive Sycorax. Full marks to Roche for his mean Sycorax, but the character is pretty dense and feeble, never coming off as a real threat. Still, the Doctor’s intriguing line about humans and Sycorax being two of the three species that will survive to the end of the Universe is intriguing; I can’t help but wonder who the third is…
Jose Berdy provides the pencils for
Part 2; he portrays the chilling threat
of people being transformed into sand
statues well, and his Doctor bold, fun
and fluid. However, his Martha looks
like a different person every other frame,
and none of them are Freema. Still, the
1970s setting allows some fun playing
with outfits, including the Doctor briefly
dressing as his third self. The wider
picture comes into play here, with a godlike alien, Bubastion, identified with the Egyptian
god Bast (who was actually a goddess, I’ll have you know, Russell), being the force behind
events. Interesting, exciting stuff, although the giant cat monster just screams Goody-Goody-
Part 3 takes us to New Savannah, homeworld of the Catkind.
It’s the eve of year Five Billion, upon which date the planet will
be ceded to the New Earth Empire. However, insurgent forces
are at work, and the handover isn’t going as planned. What’s
more, Bubastion and his Pantheon have a hand in affairs.
Stefano Martino provides exciting artwork here, with proud
Cats and a suitably hot Martha Jones; his giant robot cats
are pretty awesome too. It’s nice to see the Doctor back in a
waistcoat, too. This episode is a welcome exploration of the
new series’ mythology, a further exploration of the world of
Five Billion, and hopefully not the last we’ll see of this time
Throughout the story, planets have been subject to some
mysterious force, which snatches away all but one of the
indigenous inhabitants. The Doctor and Martha arrive on
one such planet, the marvellously named Omphalos. Mirco
Pierfederici provides gorgeous, bold artwork in this and the
following part. Omphalos is a beautiful world of robots, the Doctor and Martha are realistic and engaging, and there’s a wonderful variety of alien life forms on display. Unsurprisingly,
it turns out that the Omphalan survivor, Tharlot, is behind the strange disappearances. The guy has villain written all over him, and it’s here that the politics of the situation become a little confusing. Everyone’s been manipulating each other, with the Doctor placed on Omph-alos at just the right moment to rescue events from catastrophe. Unfortunately, Tharlot nicks the TARDIS and blasts him and Martha to 1950s England.
So on to Part 5, with our dynamic duo landing with a crash
on the Cumbrian coast. It’s not long before they’re inside
a mysterious institution, and I don’t mind admitting that the
involvement of this faction left me feeling a tad confused.
Still, it’s all rollicking fun, as Tharlot is set to rip open a rift in
the Universe to let in an evil cosmic force. There are some
nice images here, such as a baffling space-time machine,
and the devastating alignment of planets (I wonder whether
this or The Stolen Earth was written first?).
Part 6 sees Martino return to the artist’s chair, and there he
certainly impresses, with vistas of warring aliens, marching
killer robots, an all-seeing alien gods and a giant red demon
erupting from a rift in space. This is what comic books are all
about! Admittedly, it’s all over way to suddenly – the battle
doesn’t last long enough to feel as cataclysmic as it should,
and the Doctor defeats the monster by turning the baddie’s big gun on him. All over, end of story. Still, the end is upbeat, and the Pantheon is a fine addition to the series’ mythology that I expect we’ll see again some day. All in all, great fun, not the world’s best opening, but promising good things for the future.
Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2008
Daniel Tessier has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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