Comics Review: Doctor Who: The Seventh Doctor


AuthorAndrew Cartmel
Illustrators: Christopher Jones, Marco Lesko
Contributor: Ben Aaronovitch
TitleDoctor Who: The Seventh Doctor
Publication Info: Titan (2018)
Summary/Review:

The three parts of this Titan comics miniseries include two different stories.  “Operation Volcano” takes up most of the pages with “Hill of Beans” filling out each volume.

“Operation Volcano” is set in 1967 when a hydrogen bomb exposes an alien craft in the Australian desert.  RAF Group Captain Gilmore – a character introduced in Aaronovitch’s Remembrance of the Daleks – calls in the Doctor and Ace to investigate. Subsequent issues reveal a horrifying snake-like species that can attach itself to humans and tap into their consciousness.  But all is not what appears and the Doctor knows more about these aliens than he lets on. Can his plan prevent the destruction of Earth by nuclear weapons, and how does Gilmore end up in the future with a snake on his back? There’s a strong UNIT/spy thriller feel and the artistry captures the 60s style (write up to the illustrator lovingly detailing the women’s breasts and short-shorts in the classic style).  This is faithful the Seventh Doctor stories as portrayed by Sylvester McCoy and the Virgin New Adventures and I could see it succeeding as a tv adaptation.

“Hill of Beans” catches up with Mags, the werewolf from The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, and the physic circus.  She’s under threat as her planet Vulpana is under fascist rule and rounding up werewolves and other noncomformists. Eerily, the villain looks like Donald Trump and says “fire and fury.” The art style is softer and works to capture an 80s aesthetic.  Being the shorter of the two stories, it is very bareboned, and everything gets resolved rather easily.   Again, though, it could be fleshed out into a tv show or book.

Rating: ***1/2

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Comics Review: Prisoners of Time by Scott Tipton and David Tipton


Author: Scott Tipton and David Tipton
TitlePrisoners of Time
Publication Info: London : Titan Comics, January 2016.
Artist: Simon Fraser
Colourist: Gary Caldwell
Letterer:  Tom B. Long
Summary/Review:

The 50th anniversary comic tells one story for each Doctor, One through Eleventh, with the inevitable team-up in the last issue.  The stories are generally good, albeit short and easily resolved leading up to the conclusion of each story where a mysterious figure kidnaps the Doctor’s companions.  It’s eventually revealed to be Adam of The Long Game from the Ninth Doctor’s season, which is a bit underwhelming. Still, I like how the artistic style is a bit different for each Doctor, and how they pay tribute to the history of Doctor Who comics through the appearance of Frobisher, who appeared first in comics, and the essays at the end of each issue.  It’s nothing spectacular but it checks off each box of what an anniversary, crossover comic should do.

Rating: ***

Comics Review: Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension 


Author: George Mann, Carl Scott, and Nick Abadzis
TitleDoctor Who: The Lost Dimension Vol.1
Publication Info: London : Titan Comics, 2018.
Illustrator: Rachael Stott
Colourist: Rod Fernandes
Letterer: Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
Summary/Review:

Another multi-Doctor story.  Unlike The Four Doctors, this one does a good job of having each Doctor’s story have a stand-alone aspect while adding to the overall story arc.  It also gives a good amount of time and agency to the supporting characters, the many companions and the Doctor’s Daughter, Jenny.  It also cleverly spins some history of  Galliferey and TARDISes without being overly fan-wankery.

Rating: ****


Author: Gordon Rennie
TitleDoctor Who: The Lost Dimension Vol.2
Illustrator: Ivan Rodriguez
Colourist: Thiago Ribeiro
Publication Info: London : Titan Comics, 2018.
Summary/Review:

The second part is not as strong as the predecessor.  Once the Doctors get together the writing lazily relies on Doctors bickering with themselves and being brilliant together.  The conclusion is also highly derivative of The Day of the Doctor.  Still a fun romp though

Rating: ***

Comics Review: Doctor Who: Four Doctors by Paul Cornell


Author:  Paul Cornell
TitleDoctor Who: Four Doctors
Artists: Neil Edwards
Colorist: Ivan Nunes
Letterer: Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
Publication Info: London : Titan Comics, 2016.
Summary/Review:

Paul Cornell is a legendary writer of Doctor Who books and television scripts for the new series, so I had high hopes for this comics’ outing.  It brings together the Tenth Doctor with his companion Gabby Gonzalez, the Eleventh Doctor and Alice Obiefune, and the Twelfth Doctor with Clara Oswald (whom the Eleventh Doctor does not yet know).  I’ve never seen Gabby or Alice before, and although they seem interesting, they don’t get to do much beyond generic companion stuff.  Clara is running the show as she initiates the story by trying to tell Gabby and Alice that a photo of the three Doctors on Marinus must not be allowed to become a reality.  Which of course it does.  And with all of space and time on the line, the three Doctors have to figure out how to stop the Voord and an alternate version of themselves.  It’s a complicated timey-wimey story with some good fantastical bits, but it seems a bit rushed and undercooked to me.

Rating: ***

Book Review: Dog Man by Dav Pilkey


Author: Dav Pilkey
Title: Dog Man
Publication Info: New York, NY : Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic, 2016.
Summary/Review:

From the creator of Captain Underpants, comes Dog Man, the adventures of a police officer with a dogs head (surgically joined together in the origin story).  Dog Man is present as a comic written by George and Harold of the Captain Underpants‘ books, and is equally crude (as in the drawings and the potty humor) and subversive as the previous series.  Dog Man fights against the evil cat Petey, and some of my favorite parts are when Petey erases all the books in the world and makes everyone dumb, as well as when he brings a crew of evil hot dogs to life.  I read this to my six-year-old; she was delighted.

Rating: ***

Book Review: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe by Ryan North and Erica Henderson


Author: Ryan North (Author), Erica Henderson (Illustrator)
TitleThe Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe
Publication Info: Marvel (2018)
Summary/Review:

The first Squirrel Girl graphic novel offers the same offbeat humor and upbeat positivity as the comics. Iron Man has a mysterious technology that accidentally traps Squirrel Girl and creates an identical twin.  Obviously in any story with cloning technology there has to be an “evil” twin, and Allene (as Doreen’s duplicate is named) inevitably plots to take over the world. The twist here is that Allene has good intentions, noting that humans are destroying the environment and killing squirrels with their cars, so her plan is to have squirrels rule the world in place of humans.  Thus begins a series of gags where Allene uses her wiles and acquired technology to beat up every Marvel superhero while Doreen tries to stop her.  It’s fun, but it’s also a one-note joke, and the story seems just a notch below the quality of the comic book story arcs.

Rating: ***1/2

Related posts:

Comic Book Reviews: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (2015-2018)


I’ve made a decision to update all my comic book reviews in the original post, but since you probably won’t see an update in your feed, here is a link to my Comic Book Reviews for the The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. I’ve reviewed four more volumes of this delightful series.

Book Review: Black Panther. Vol. 1, A Nation Under our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze, and Chris Sprouse


Author:Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze (Artist) and Chris Sprouse (Artist)
TitleBlack Panther. Vol. 1, A Nation Under our Feet
Publication Info: New York, NY : Marvel Worldwide, Inc., a subsidiary of Marvel Entertainment, LLC, [2017]
Summary/Review:

This collection includes the first four issues of this Black Panther series.  The illustrations are amazing, and Coates’ sparse, meditative text makes one thing.  I do find it hard to identify all the characters and keep up with the story, but that may just be a me problem with inexperience reading comics.  The collection also includes a reprint of Black Panther’s 1960s debut in a Fantastic Four comic when he apparently was a villain.

Rating: ***1/2

Movie Review: Iron Man (2008)


TitleIron Man
Release Date: May 2, 2008
Director: Jon Favreau
Production Company: Marvel Studios
Summary/Review:

This origin story of Iron Man begins with weapons manufacturing heir, billionaire, genius, libertine, and all-around a-hole Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) traveling to Afghanistan to demonstrate his latest weapon for the US military.  His convoy is attacked and Stark is wounded and captured by an organization of international warlords called The Ten Rings. They force Stark to build them a weapon, but instead he builds a prototype of the Iron Man suit which he uses to escape.  Stark returns to the United States and announces that his company will no longer be producing weapons, and instead he dedicates his life to building…. a powerful weapon: a new Iron Man suit.

This movie is heavy on jingoism, militarism, and boosting the repellent, but popular, myth that the world will be saved by “wealthy geniuses” (see also: Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Bloomberg, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, et al).  This movie was made in 2008, a time when many Americans were aware of the lies and corruption behind the Bush Administration’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  But Tony Stark never objects that the US military is using his weapons against innocents, or the US government has directed the military into unjust wars.  Iraq isn’t even mentioned. There is one evil white American character – Stark’s business partner Obadiah Stane (a comically bad one-note performance by Jeff Bridges) – who is shown personally selling weapons to The Ten Rings, but otherwise the good and pure characters and the evil villain characters are purely drawn along ethnic lines.

The movie is well-produced, with clean and entertaining action sequences, and good performances from Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, and Shaun Toub.  But it makes it all the more repellent that “liberal Hollywood” put their best effort and resources behind a right-wing propaganda film. Even worse, it’s the cornerstone on which the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe was built.

Rating: *

Podcasts of the Week Ending December 9th


99% Invisible :: The Nut Behind the Wheel

A history of how the auto industry and road engineers avoided including safety measures in their designs in their cars and highways leading to countless deaths, and how they blamed everything on the driver.  Yes this should make you think of firearms manufacturers.

Fresh Air :: The Golden Age of Comics

An interview with Cullen Murphy who took over writing “Prince Valiant” from his father in the 1980s.  Murphy remembers how special the full-color Sunday comics section was for children, and the community of comic artists in Fairfield County, CT.  Not mentioned in the interview, Murphy and I went to the same high school, albeit he attended well before I did.

Hidden Brain :: What Can A Personality Test Tell Us About Who We Are?

Hidden Brain examines personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs.  Scientific or a glorified form of astrology?  Worse still, how employers are misusing these tests in personnel decisions.

Fresh Air :: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner

Daniel Ellsberg discusses “The Pentagon Papers” and top secret plans for nuclear war that he discovered as a national security analyst in the 1960s but was not able to reveal to the public at the time.  A chilling look into the United States’ militaristic past and present.

Hub History :: Boston and Halifax, a lasting bond

One hundred years ago, a collision in Halifax Harbor caused a munitions ship to explode, devastating the city and causing thousands of deaths and injuries.  Boston responded by sending a train with medical personnel and supplies to help the survivors.  To this day, Nova Scotia continues to thank Boston by providing a Christmas tree every year.

60 Second Science :: Yeti Claims Don’t Bear Up

Science disappoints us again by showing that evidence of the Yeti is genetically just a bear.  Well, not “just,” because bears are important to, and these studies tell us more about them.

The Bernie Sanders Show :: Our Budget Priorities with Elizabeth Warren

Two of our few remaining sensible Senators discuss important things that make sense.

Decode DC :: The Changing Race of Immigration in America

A history of immigration to America focusing on who was allowed to “become American” and who was excluded, and the government’s role in all of this.

Book Review: The Walking Dead Vol. 27: The Whisperer War by Robert Kirkman


Author: Robert Kirkman
Title:The Walking Dead Vol. 27: The Whisperer War
Publication Info: Image Comics (2017)
Summary/Review:

In the repeated plot that occurs about every 4-5 volumes of The Walking Dead, the survivors go to war.  Things go wrong, people die, there is infighting, blah, blah, blah.  Meanwhile, Negan is playing a long game, or is truly reformed?  It’s a possibly interesting plot.

Rating: **

Book Review: Frozen: The Cinestory by Robert Simpson


Author: Robert Simpson
TitleFrozen: The Cinestory
Publication Info: Joe Books Inc. (2014)
Summary/Review:

I read this adaptation of the Disney musical Frozen with my daughter over the course of several bedtimes.  It’s essentially scenes from the film arranged in a comic book format.  Strangely enough, none of the lyrics to the songs that made this musical famous are included in the book.  Instead the same basic ideas are related in the dialogue.  I don’t know if this is a licensing issue or if they just thought it would work better in comic form without the songs.  Nevertheless, if you and your children enjoy Frozen, this is an enjoyable read.

Rating: ***

Book Review: The Walking Dead Vol. 26: Call To Arms by Robert Kirkman


AuthorRobert Kirkman
TitleThe Walking Dead Vol. 26: Call To Arms
Publication Info: Image Comics (2016)
Summary/Review:

I’ve never been much too impressed with the character of Negan, so color me surprised that in this story of Negan escaping and joining The Whisperers, I find him funny, interesting, and even a voice of conscience!  It’s the little surprises like this that keep me reading when this series often seems to just retread that same things again and again.  Plus there’s quite a cliffhanger at the end, but Negan isn’t necessarily a reliable narrator so who knows where it will lead to next.

Rating: ***

Book Review: The Walking Dead Vol. 25: No Turning Back by Robert Kirkman


AuthorRobert Kirkman
TitleThe Walking Dead Vol. 25: No Turning Back
Publication Info: Image Comics (2016)
Summary/Review:

It seems not that long ago Rick Grimes decided that the way forward was to stop fighting and to work together to create a new society among the dead.  Well, since the creators of The Walking Dead seem only about to work with one or two ideas (while tantalizingly dancing around something more brilliant) we’re back to all out war as the central narrative of the ongoing zombie story.  Rick gets advice from Negan of all people and takes on an authoritarian leadership role to channel the Alexandrians rage at against the Whisperers.  Plus ça change…

Rating: **

Book Review: Hark! : a Vagrant by Kate Beaton


AuthorKate Beaton
TitleHark! : a Vagrant
Publication Info: Drawn and Quarterly (2011), Edition
Previously read by the same authorStep Aside, Pops!
Summary/Review:

This is the first collection of the hilarious webcomics on historical and literary themes from the brilliant Kate Beaton.  I was going to post links to my favorites but I lost the file so you’ll just have to find the book and read.  And laugh.  And then say, “hmm…yes, I’ve learned something.”  Cuz they’re that good.

Rating: ****

Book Review: Bitch Planet. Volume 1 Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro, Robert Wilson, and Taki Soma


AuthorKelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro (Artist.), Robert Wilson (Artist.), Taki Soma (Artist.)
TitleBitch Planet. Volume 1 Extraordinary Machine
Publication Info: Berkeley : Image Comics, 2015.
Summary/Review:

Writer Phillip Sandifer stated that this comic series is “most unapologetically social justice oriented book on the stands” so I thought I’d give it a try.  Bitch Planet is set in a future dystopia where noncompliant women are sent to a prison on another planet.  “Noncompliance” in this society is basically anything that doesn’t please men, so women who are angry, opinionated, independent, unattractive or overweight and attempt to control their sexual selves are the ones incarcerated.  In a lot of ways it builds on a tradition of feminist dystopia from The Stepford Wives to The Handmaid’s Tale.  The comic draws on the aesthetic of 1970s prison exploitation films and it is unsettling in its graphic depiction of violence.  It takes me a while to connect with characters in comics, but one who stands out is Penny.  Shortly after I finished reading this volume this comic was published in Unshelved which is a good introduction to the story.
Rating: ***

Webcomics


If you’re my age or older, you’ll remember the anticipation of getting the Sunday newspaper, fighting with your sibling for first dibs, and the joy of laying out the full-color comics section (a.k.a – the Funny Pages) and reading your favorite comics.  I feel that I grew up in the last golden age of newspaper comics with The Far Side, Bloom County, and Calvin and Hobbes all making  their debuts in the 1980s.  Older comics like Peanuts, For Better or Worse, and Doonesbury were also still fun to read.

Newspapers have gone into a steady decline and newspaper comics have gone down with them.  Of course, there are still newspaper comics and I read the Comics Curmudgeon daily to see them lovingly lampooned by Josh Fruhlinger.  I think even today newspaper comics could be brilliant but publishers these days have focused on keeping the limited space for comics occupied by legacy comics of deceased cartoonists that have long past their freshness date. Large format comics with artistry and provocative topics might even draw some readers back to newspaper, but we won’t ever know in this extremely risk averse climate.

And so today I turn to the internet for my comic joy.  A number of comic artists have been brilliantly innovative in the web format and I’ve listed below the comics I read regularly.  They can also get to be very specific to certain topics, as you’ll note I have multiple comics about biking and libraries.  My list is arranged in reverse alphabetical order.

Yehuda Moon and Kickstand Cyclery – Set in a fictional Cleveland-area bike shop, this comic focus on the joys and challenges of the American bicyclist

Wondermark – This comic repurposes 19th-century illustrations to create quirky commentaries on popular culture and bad puns. I’ve been accused of writing for Watermark, so close is creator David Malki’s sense of humor to my own.

XKCD – The stick figure comic features clever jokes about science, math and computing as well as some creative large format works that use web technologies to their full advantage. The strip can be arcane so it’s handy to check out Explain XKCD when you just don’t get it.

Unshelved – Set in a public library, this comic has jokes that library and information professionals appreciate, but it’s broad enough to be appreciated by a general audience.

Shelf Check – Another library comic, which may be a bit more inside jokey, but also addresses issues of representation and equality in libraries.

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal – Another comic that usually has some science or philosophy underlying the joke although it has no set theme and focuses on lots of different issues.

Medium Large – A joke-a-day comic with a few recurring characters that focuses on pop culture arcana. Creator Francesco Marciuliano also writes for the newspaper comic Sally Forth (and mocks in Medium Large).

Lunarbaboon – The comic depicts a fathers view on parenting and children. Another comic that seems to have been drawn from the thoughts within my mind.

Leftycartoons – Infrequently published satirical comics about politics from a left-wing perspective.

Jen Sorensen – Another editorial comic with a slightly less left-wing perspective than Leftycartoons.

Hark! A Vagrant – Oddball humor inspired by historical events and literature. I previously wrote a review of a volume collecting these comics.

Dustinland – An autobiographical weekly comic that’s basically whatever is on the mind of artist Dustin Glick each week. When I first started reading this years ago, it was about dating, dead-end jobs, and social lives of young adults. These days it alternates between comics about raising a young child and political commentary.

Dinosaur Comics – This is the opposite of artistically adventurous as every single comic is the same six panels repeated, but with different text every time. And yet it somehow stays fresh seeing a new joke in the same formula over and over.

Derangement and Description – Can’t have library comics without an archives comic too. The jokes here are brilliant but probably aren’t going to be understood outside of the field.

Bikeyface – A Boston bike commuter’s commentary on why she bikes and all the problems of a city hostile to biking.

What webcomics do you read?

 

Comic Book Review: Black Panther #1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze, and Laura Martin


Author: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze, and Laura Martin
TitleBlack Panther #1
Publication Info: Marvel (2016)
Summary/Review:

I’m one of many people who don’t usually buy comics who picked up this issue of Black Panther because Coates is writing comics for the first time.  It picks up the ongoing story of T’Challa – ceremoniously known as Black Panther – the ruler of the African nation of Wakanda, which is the most technologically-advanced country in the world due to the minerals extracted from a meteorite.  In this issue T’Challa returns home to find dissidents attempting to foment chaos in Wakanda.

The art work is striking although it does have that comic book problem of women’s clothing and bodies defying gravity and reality. It’s all good, but essentially nothing happens in this issue. It’s all exposition and a very thin issue at that. I look forward to getting the whole story bundled together in a single volume. There is a nice feature at the end where Stelfreeze and Martin discuss their artwork which is very interesting.
Rating: ***

Book Review: Attack of the Cheetah by Jane B. Mason


Author: Jane B. Mason
Title: Attack of the Cheetah
Publication Info: Mankato, Minn. : Stone Arch Books, 2010.
Summary/Review:

This Wonder Woman story for kids is about cheetahs.  And a villain named the Cheetah.  And a zoo with cheetahs who are kidnapped by Cheetah and replaced with Cheetah’s cheetahs.  What a cheetah, er cheater!  I think I liked this more than my daughter.

Rating: ***

Book Review: Lumberjanes Volume 2 by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke A. Allen


AuthorNoelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke A. Allen
TitleLumberjanes Volume 2
Publication Info: Los Angeles : Boom!, 2015.
Previously Read by Same AuthorsLumberjanes
Summary/Review:

A great followup on the adventures of the Roanoke cabin scouts at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types.  This time they discover the strange goings-on are due to a sibling battle between Artemis and Apollo. Scout-leader Jen is brought into confidence and has the challenge of adapting to the less by-the-rules activities of her troop.  Great fun!

Rating: ***1/2