Tony Fyler is not on the side of the angels.
The Weeping Angels of Mons has been a winning story right from its very first panel. The grim, grey devastated look of a World War I battlefield is the perfect environment for the angels to be lurking in.
Episode 3 sees them in more aggressive mode though, the angels on the march and working together, much more akin to the Eleventh Doctor’s encounters with them than how they appeared in their silent skulking debut, Blink.
Writer Robbie Morrison has a really solid handle on his Tenth Doctor, and as these stories are set between the DoctorDonna and the End of Time, it’s a Doctor more scarred, more frightened and lonely, more aware that people die when they stand next to him that we see in The Weeping Angels of Mons. Gabby Gonzalez continues to prove herself a worthy member of the Tenth Doctor’s Tardis crew, although there are both semi-comic moments and a serious Tenth Doctor rant in this episode of the story where he seems unsure he should ever have taken her out of her family’s laundromat in modern-day New York.
There’s more here from the plucky Scottish soldier, Jamie, to the point where he’s even mentioned in the ‘Story So Far’ section as having ‘thrown in his lot with the Doctor,’ despite not having yet been introduced to the Tardis. It makes the reader wonder if for the second time in his history, the Time Lord is going to take a Scotsman out of battle and out into the universe. On the basis of the character’s portrayal so far, we rather hope so – he steps in to save Gabby from the world’s longest staring contest here, saving her life in the process, and, when faced with a creature made of stone, decides to see what happens if he puts a live grenade in its hand.
It goes boom, in case you were wondering, but not quite as effectively as you might like. Nevertheless, you have to respect a companion who’d conduct an experiment like that, it’s very much in the Leela/Ace mode of solid companioning. The Doctor may be all ‘man of science, talky talk talk,’ but occasionally as a reader, you do wonder what would happen if he just hit things with sticks instead. Having a companion like this new Jamie along for the ride allows us to at least see what the effect of that would be like.
Sadly, the Doctor interrupts a kiss between Gabby and Jamie in this episode, which probably means at least one of them is doomed to a fate very much like death before the story plays itself out. We can hope not, and we do, but the mechanics of storytelling would seem to be stacked against us. A happy ending on the way to The End of Time?
The artwork in this issue from Daniel Indro feels tighter, more definite than in previous Tenth Doctor issues, which have tended towards the impressionistic. Indro can certainly do impressionistic, and in fact uses the technique to great effect to sell one of this issue’s most chilling moments, but the Doctor and in particular the faces of the angels seem rather more precisely defined than before, which is helpful as, with the Doctor facing a more intensely challenging set of circumstances, he’s on less demented overdrive than usual, as he tries to make sure everybody lives till morning.
Clearly, he’s a little optimistic.
The battle scenes – and there are several in this issue, between soldiers and angels and, more depressingly, between soldiers and soldiers - don’t shirk the responsibility of showing that people don’t only go back in time and get to live to death. The Doctor’s original description of the Weeping Angels as ‘the only psychopaths in the universe to kill you nicely’ comes home when a shelling bombardment starts, and we’re forced to realise that we human beings are not that nice. We just kill you, and you die in muck and blood, bits of you inside out or leaking the last pretension to dignity away. The Battle of Mons happened just a hundred years ago, and while the location and the incident have been used to set a compelling Doctor Who story, it’s pitched just right on the tightrope of tone – neither disrespectful to those who fought and died in that battle or any battle, nor overly reverential. The humans we meet, the humans that live and die in this story, (and more of them die than live) feel like humans today.
That was a crucial thing for this story to get right, and it’s pleasing to be able to say that it did.
Within the story though, there are at least a couple of ‘past lives’ shown here of the soldiers who are touched by an angel, and in a way, one of them, if indeed not both of them, bring the angels right back to where they began in Blink – zapping you back into the past and letting you ‘live to death.’ Interestingly, Issue #7 showed how that could be a very, very bad thing. Issue #8 redresses the balance and shows us soldiers for whom the touch of an angel was actually the best thing that ever happened to them, as they found love, employment, family and a generally happy life at the other end of their temporal rainbow. But faced with a desperate army of weeping angels, the Doctor realises that what he’s up against is a philosophical conundrum that shames the human race – if the angels feed on time energy, and you kill a vast number of youths on your own behalf, you essentially take the angels’ place in the evolutionary tree – it’s you who robs the soldiers of their future, not the angels. And when you do that, you force the parasitic, predatory angels into desperate action against you. It’s the most bizarre twist that’s ever been thought of for them, but in a way, these really are Weeping Angels of peace.
Not that that stops them being the snarling terror-beasts of nightmare – not by a long way. Indro focuses on angel faces a lot in this issue, and in particular during the staring competition with Gabby, you really do get a shiver down the spine, looking into the face of comic-book malevolence. And as the Doctor, Gabby and Jamie hunt for the Tardis to Do Something Clever – or even just conceivably just to get out of Dodge given the high body-count of the story - there’s a twist which harks back again to Blink. If you have that T-shirt from that episode, you’ll love the final panel of this issue, for all it sets up philosophical questions of its own.
In simple terms, if you’ve read parts one and two of The Weeping Angels of Mons, you already know you’re going to buy part three, because – well, why wouldn’t you? It’s compelling and creepy and powerfully allegorical and it’s the Weeping Angels in World War I.
If you haven’t read parts one and two of The Weeping Angels of Mons, go and do that at once. You’re really, honestly missing out on some seriously good Who. And then, once you’ve done that, refer to the previous paragraph.
The Tenth Doctor adventures so far have all been highly competent stories. But somehow with The Weeping Angels of Mons something has clicked on a deeper level. We’re Whovians, we can’t help but make lists, it’s in the genes of the fandom, and if you were making lists of your favourite stories of a season, without in any way disparaging what’s come before it, The Weeping Angels of Mons would get a huge big tick alongside its name – it’s Who taken up to that next level.
Go, buy it, read it and revel in the darkness of the angels.
The Tenth Doctor #8 is released Wednesday March 4th. Check out a 3-page preview here.
To find your local comic store visit: http://www.comicshoplocator.com/
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk