STORY PLACEMENT

 THESE STORIES TAKE

 PLACE BETWEEN THE

 COMIC STRIP "THE

 WHISPERING GALLERY"

 AND THE NOVELLA

 "MADE OF STEEL." 

 

 WRITTEN BY

 GARY RUSSELL

 

 ILLUSTRATED BY

 NICK ROCHE,

 JOSE MARIA BEROY,

 STEFANO MARTINO &
 MIRCO PIERFEDERICI

 

 RECOMMENDED 

 PURCHASE

 IDW GRAPHIC NOVEL

 RELEASED IN AUGUST

 2008 (NORTH AMERICA

 ONLY).

 

CLICK TO ENLARGE

 

 BLURB

 The Doctor, the last

 of the Time Lords AND

 survivor of a Great

 Time War, along with

 his loyal friend and

 companion Martha

 Jones from London,

 stop oppression,

 darkness and evil

 spreading through-

 out the galaxies.

 Theyíre also on the

 hunt for the best  milkshake in the

 cosmosÖ

 

 and while they track

 that down, someone

 else has the Doctor

 in their sights. As the

 very last Time Lord

 out there, heís highly

 collectable, to the

 right people...

 

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AUGUST 2008

 

 

                                                       

 

 

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, Iíve 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 itís a good thing that now the trade paperback version has been released, under the umbrella title Agent Provocateur.

 

© IDW Publishing 2008. No copyright infringement is intended.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 Ė muddles by

hops through time and a healthy dose of double-crossing and

back-stabbing Ė so reading all in one go undoubtedly makes

things clearly than my might have been. Russellís writing here

is swift, fun and full of witty asides, not to mention the odd fan-

pleasing continuity hint (nothing thatíll 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 Tennantís cheeky charm and manic energy (and as Roche himself said, the manís practically a cartoon anyway!) Iím not so pleased with his version of Martha Ė her fun-loving side is captured well, but the cartoony style doesnít 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 Marthaís 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 Doctorís intriguing line about humans and Sycorax being two of the three species that will survive to the end of the Universe is intriguing; I canít help but wonder who the third isÖ

 

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, Iíll have you know, Russell), being the force behind

events. Interesting, exciting stuff, although the giant cat monster just screams Goody-Goody-

yum-yum!

 

© IDW Publishing 2008. No copyright infringement is intended.Part 3 takes us to New Savannah, homeworld of the Catkind.

Itís 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 isnít going as planned. Whatís

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. Itís nice to see the Doctor back in a

waistcoat, too. This episode is a welcome exploration of the

new seriesí mythology, a further exploration of the world of

Five Billion, and hopefully not the last weíll see of this time

period.

 

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 thereís 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 itís here that the politics of the situation become a little confusing. Everyoneís 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.

 

© IDW Publishing 2008. No copyright infringement is intended.So on to Part 5, with our dynamic duo landing with a crash

on the Cumbrian coast. Itís not long before theyíre inside

a mysterious institution, and I donít mind admitting that the

involvement of this faction left me feeling a tad confused.

Still, itís 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 artistís 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, itís all over way to suddenly Ė the battle

doesnít last long enough to feel as cataclysmic as it should,

and the Doctor defeats the monster by turning the baddieís big gun on him. All over, end of story. Still, the end is upbeat, and the Pantheon is a fine addition to the seriesí mythology that I expect weíll see again some day. All in all, great fun, not the worldís 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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