THESE STORIES ALL
DRAMA "THE COMPANY
OF FRIENDS: IZZY'S
STORY" AND THE COMIC
STRIP ANTHOLOGY "THE
JOHN ROSS &
OFFICIAL PANINI BOOKS
GRAPHIC NOVEL (ISBN 1-
IN OCTOBER 2006.
THIS IS A GRAPHIC
NOVEL FEATURING THE
ADVENTURES OF THE
EIGHTH DOCTOR FROM
the pages of Doctor
Oblivion is the penultimate volume of the eighth Doctor’s comic strip adventures, and the first to be published in colour. In issue 300, Doctor Who Magazine decided that they could finally afford full colour strips. It seems strange now, with three – soon to be four – full colour Doctor Who comics on regular sale, that there was a time when black-and-white was the only affordable way. Colouring a comic strip not only increases the printing costs, it also requires an extra member of the creative team (very few comic strip artists colour their own work, mainly due to time constraints). However, wonderful though the classic monochrome art is, the move to colour is a very welcome one. The first strip in this collection, Ophidius, is a case in point. Designed specifically to show of the newly available palette, even the book’s commentary acknowledges that it went a little over the top.
But why not? Starting with a charming scene featuring Izzy trying various former companions’ costumes from the TARDIS wardrobe, then settling on a wild multicoloured coat (no, not that one), the story rushes headlong to a vast, crimson spacecraft – the eponymous Ophidius, so called for its serpentine shape. It’s a gorgeous and highly effective design. The interiors are even more spectacular; the biotech caverns are populated by three very different alien races – the impressive, fire-breathing, rock-like Mobox; the emaciated fling Seeonkaas; and the overseeing, feeble Ophidians. The plot is a standard one – TARDIS is dragged into danger, the Doctor defeats the villains, freeing the slaves, and they all escape, but it’s given a nice twist: the Ophidians are reducing the brain functions of their alien prisoners, with a view to inhabiting their bodies. All rather creepy, really.
However, the important part of the story is elsewhere, masquerading as B-plot. Izzy meets
a young alien girl, Primatrix Destriianatos – Destrii for short – a fabulous new character with
an outrageously flirty personality that somehow makes her sexy, even in a body that’s half-human, half-fish. Both being wide-eyed youngsters on the cusp of adulthood, both longing
for adventure, and both die-hard Star Trek fans, the two girls get on a storm. Destrii is not
to be trusted however; she’s on the run, and tricks Izzy into allowing her to use the Ophidian tech to swap bodies.
The Doctor’s far too canny to be taken in by the faux-Izzy, of course, but that’s of little help to Izzy herself; the unmasked Destrii is apparently vaporised by a Mobox, leaving the distraught Izzy stuck in her piscine alien body – setting up the story arc for the whole volume.
“No, Izzy, no… You don’t want to die… And you’ll never be ugly.”
Beautiful Freak is a single-part story that examines the effect of the above on Izzy’s psyche. It’s very well-written, with the Doctor having to force Izzy to immerse underwater for her own health, the catalyst for her beginning to accept her situation.
Izzy’s personal evolution continues
with The Way of All Flesh, notable
for its setting - 1940s Mexico, right
in the middle of the Day of the Dead celebrations. What a gift to a comic artist! It’s a fantastic period piece, featuring the Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. A beautiful but macabre character befriends Izzy,
further helping her to come to terms with her new appearance. Monster fans needn’t worry though; pretty soon to two of them
are being menaced by figures who step out of black-and-white photos. It’s all part of the perverse plan of alien artist, Susini of the Wasting Wall (based on an extreme caricature
of gothic goddess Christina Ricci). With a twisted desire to make art out of torture and disfigurement, Susini’s a genuinely nasty piece of work. She’s also brought along some rather fabulous demons, the Torajenn, creatures of glowing red plasma enrobing devilish skeletons. They’re very well realised by Geraghty’s art and Robin Smith’s colours, and it’s
a pity we don’t get to see them again.
Children of the Revolution starts with the Doctor taking Izzy for a swim on the planet Kyrol. Izzy takes to her new oceanic environment like a fish to water (sorry...), but the excitement begins when you-know-who turn up at the end of Part 1… yes, it’s underwater Daleks time. Zipping around on little submarine-skimmers, the Daleks are impressively realised by artist Lee Sullivan, taking over from the regular Marti Geraghty. The whole adventure is beautifully illustrated. These Daleks are the humanised renegades from The Evil of the Daleks; there is a whole civilisation of them now, hiding out under Kyrol’s ocean to avoid the scorn of the galaxy and wanting nothing more than to live in peace. Led by Alpha, the original humanised Dalek from the aforementioned serial, they worship the Doctor as their Saviour – something that he’s not altogether comfortable with.
All the characters are wonderfully portrayed – the regulars, Alpha, the crew of the submarine Argus, the villain of the piece. The serpent in the garden is well-spoken Lovecraftian horror Kata-Phobus, a monstrous beast, all eyeballs and tentacles. As well as almost killing Izzy, he stirs up hatred between the humans of the Argus and the Daleks, with the Doctor put in the unique position of having to defend the Skarosian mutants. In the end, Alpha and his Daleks sacrifice themselves to destroy Kataphobus, something that does little to soften the humans’ feelings against them. A disenchanted Doctor and Izzy walk back to the TARDIS, only to be ambushed by two glowing aliens, who promptly abduct Izzy, thinking her to be Destrii. The ongoing story twists again in a wholly unexpected direction…
There’s a short break from the Doctor’s adventures for the one-part Me and My Shadow. Those who’ve read the first eighth Doctor volume will know how part-time companion Fey Truscott-Sade became fused with Gallifreyan agent Shayde; those who haven’t may feel a little bewildered. Nevertheless, this little adventure is a winner, a wartime thriller which sees Fey what she does best – all-out action heroine – and giving a little ”Feyde” action too. John Ross takes over the art duties, and his depiction of Fey is absolutely perfect – hard-as-nails, yet still feminine somehow; not falling into the butch caricature that many similar characters do. Highlighting the difficulties in Fey and Shayde’s unique relationship – he’s a timeless being with a duty to preserve the pattern of history; she’s living through a hellish world war desperate to avoid needless deaths. It end w the pair being called by the Doctor, so they
nip of through the time vortex…
…to the next story, the four-part Uroborus. The Doctor’s back tracking the journey of Izzy’s abductors, finding that they’ve been following them for some time. So we arrive back with
the Ophidius, now trailed back to the Mobox homeworld, with the Ophidians the target of
a new Mobox junta. As well as expanding the Mobox from simply a cool alien to a broad civilisation, the closing portion of the arc begins as we’re finally reunited with Destrii. Yes,
of course she survived – she was transmatted not vaporised! Wearing Izzy’s body like it’s some kind of kinky costume, prancing around in next to nothing, firing arrows at Mobox, Ross gets to play hard. He has a real knack for making characters attractive – the always dashing eighth Doctor is at his most handsome yet! It’s a fine story, with the Doctor making
it very clear that he means business.
“You see, Destrii, I’m not scared of monsters… they’re scared of me.”
The final chapter of the story arrives with Oblivion itself. This is the name of Destrii’s own planet / dimension (it’s not entirely made clear) - a desolate place that she practically has
to be dragged back to. It’s not hard to see why; stuck in her body, Izzy’s been incarcerated by Destrii’s mum, the Primatrix. This ugly brute of a fish-person is queen of this grim realm, and Princess Destrii - sorry, Izzy – is lined up for an arranged marriage to a drooling orang-utan of a duke. Geraghty takes back the art duties, giving us a well-told tale with plenty of dramatic close-ups and thrilling fight scenes. Oblivion is a peculiar place, with the bestial nobles ruling over feral human peasants. Helios and Hasana, the godlike conjoined twins that brought Izzy back here are in the thrall of the Primatrix. So, when it all kicks off, with the girls switched back into their rightful bodies, and Destrii indulging in a bit of matricide, the twins aren’t best pleased. They call on their brothers and sisters – all ten billion of them…
Leaving the climax to the readers, I can say Oblivion is a tremendously exciting tale, one
that gives you no choice but to get to the end as quickly as you can. As well as giving us closure to the volume’s ongoing Izzy / Destrii plot thread, it introduces Destrii’s uncle, the leonine Jodafra. Blessed with both a sharp tongue and sharp teeth, Jodafra’s a charming rogue, but clearly not someone to trust. Heading off with his niece in the final part, it’s just
as clear that we’ve not seen the last of him – as the commentary confirms, he’s set up as a substitute for the Master.
The closing moments of the strip, like the rest of the story, and,
indeed, the rest of the book, belong to Izzy. This is her journey
we’re following. A mad-for-it sci-fi geek of End Game, bold
on the face of it, but cripplingly unsure of herself underneath,
her experiences with the Doctor and on Oblivion have forced
her to develop. With a new-found confidence, she wishes Fey
goodbye, the two of them sharing a tender, beautiful kiss. She
then asks the Doctor to take her home. It’s a most poignant
end, with Izzy Somebody accepting herself as Izzy Sinclair,
making peace with her adoptive parents and bravely coming
to terms with her sexuality. It’s a bitter-sweet goodbye to one
of the Doctor’s finest companions in any medium.
Before the volume’s conclusion, there are a couple of extra
treats. One is Character Assassin, an outing for the Master
in which he enters the Land of Fiction, going face to face with
such classic villains as Dracula, Mr Hyde, Dr Moreau and the
Masque of the Red Death. It’s an odd thing to include here – although it’s colour, it would
have seemed more at home in the previous volume, The Glorious Dead - that was the
Master storyline, after all. Nevertheless, it’s a fun romp, even if Gray did write it simply to
show that the Master could whip Moriarty’s ass.
Finally, we have the now traditional commentary. The author’s notes are all by Scott Gray
this time round, as he’s finally taken on sole responsibility of the strip. As well as giving us
a look at the process of designing such characters as Destrii and Jodafra, the commentary goes into great detail on the plans for Izzy’s character from her very beginning in the strip.
Of particular amusement is the mention of the single, angry American reader who cancelled his subscription in protest against the lesbian kiss, against the revelation that a certain Russell T Davies also wrote in, praising the creative team as “clever, pioneering bastards!”
Overall, though, this volume belongs to Scott Gray, a very talented writer indeed; and to Izzy Sinclair, a Time Lord’s best friend. Overlooked by so many fans, I truly believe that the DWM eighth Doctor strips are some of the finest Doctor Who ever produced.
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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