Tony Fyler goes back to 2009.
We at WarpedFactor came in to the Tenth Doctor’s new adventures in the world of Titan Comics with the Weeping Angels of Mons, by which time the Doctor had a new companion named Gabby Gonzalez. We didn’t think much about it – the Doctor in comic-book form or annual strip form was always picking up random people. You accept that that’s what he does, and you learn the character from their actions in the strips you see.
If you joined the story at the same point we did though, this collection will be invaluable to you. It tells the story of Gabby Gonzalez’s first two adventures with the Doctor, and gives a real grounding in why the Doctor would choose to pick her out of her life and take him along with him.
Revolutions of Terrror, despite the fairly naff title, (Good Vibrations was in copyright, perhaps? Bad Vibes sounded too hippy, maybe?) is a story with a lot to recommend it. Writer Nick Abadzis knows his Tenth Doctor, and confidently nails this story into the timeline of the TV show in the aftermath of the DoctorDonna, and the run-up to The End of Time. This Doctor delivers the combination of enthusiasm, regret and occasional, sudden sadness of the year of the Specials, and that era is explicitly referenced several times – the Doctor having a Stuff detector that resolutely doesn’t go ding, for instance. The story, without spoilering the new arrivals, stakes a claim on another new species of Earthling, and one that would be a sweet and elegant explanation for a lot of things. The grim alien threat is embodied in these creatures’ evil twins who ain’t from round here, and the plot rattles along with the inevitability and pacing of, say, Planet of the Dead. There happens to be a planet of the dead here too, which allows the Doctor to do a bit of classic Ten grandstanding, then get back down off his high horse and offer a way out. While it’s the Doctor who stands between the alien meanies and the whole planet Earth, there’s also plenty for Gabby Gonzalez to get her teeth into, to prove to readers she deserves her place on the Tardis.
Gabby’s one of the second-generation daughters in a New York Mexican family, expected to help the family with its businesses, and be a good girl. In the traditions of Rose and Martha, Donna and later Amy, the story takes its time bedding her family into the drama, so we get to meet them all, a range of personalities sketched with an economic if sometimes slightly clichéd pen. Almost desperate to escape the strictures of her family’s expectations, but loving most of the actual people in her circle, she again has a lot in common with all the Tenth Doctor’s on-screen female companions, so she slips quite easily into our consciousness alongside the skinny Doctor. There’s a healthy shot of Latina spitfire spirit in her character too, which means she takes no nonsense and reminds us sharply of Donna, but with more natural flair. As soon as she stops feeling sorry for herself, prompted by a bigger emergency than any in her day to day life, we like her.
Setting the story in modern-day New York, and particularly in the city’s Mexican community, allows the story to feel fresh, and both the villains and the additional Earthlings would be difficult to render on screen without taking the CGI-budget and setting about it with a flamethrower. Behold the power of the comic-book medium. The moral, such as it is, is pleasantly anodyne and karmic – what you put out is what comes back to you, essentially, and if it’s not as demanding or spiky as the morals we’re coming to expect from the Twelfth Doctor, it does give a true representation of the Tenth Doctor’s time and its essential smiling ‘Allons-y’ spirit.
There’s some good artwork here from Elena Casagrande and Michele Pasta – three panels that deliver the story’s denouement in a kind of explosion are superb, and it’s good to see the Tenth Doctor’s Tardis rendered in a faithful way – but overall, there’s an impressionistic style to the characters here which seems to be a storytelling decision, as though by having, say, figures that actually look like David Tennant it will draw our eyes and stop us from reading his ‘dialogue’ with the necessary speed that characterizes the Tenth Doctor. Titan’s artists do seem to favour this impressionistic style – but only when dealing with the Tenth Doctor’s story, so perhaps it really is to focus us on the story. Generally in Revolutions of Terror, that’s no bad thing, because the story does rattle along and deliver a satisfying sense of a Doctor with a destiny, but one who just can’t stop himself rolling the dice one more time and having one more set of adventures with somebody new.
The second, unnamed story, is much more interesting from an artistic point of view, being told in an inventive comic-book narration through the medium of a letter from Gabby to her sister, complete with handwritten text and Gabby’s ‘own,’ more Disney, sketches of some of the people and things she’s met. It dips into strict comic-book panel form only gradually, and then tells a story of art, mathematics, experience and temperament while name-checking block transfer computation from 1981’s Logopolis along the way. The moral is more deeply embedded here – artistic creativity as a source of self-conflict - but it feels like a much more ‘makeable’ story, were it to be realized on TV. The impressionistic, slightly flat, slightly sketchy feeling to the strip artwork continues, but again, some set-piece art is truly gorgeous – a room of time and an infinite staircase falling away being the stand-outs, with an extra special nod to a page where Gabby goes on an artistic ‘trip.’
This collection delivers two strong stories, with the first being more compellingly written and the second being more strikingly drawn. There’s even a kind of ‘easter egg’ describing the real world building and delivery of Gabby Gonzalez – who she is, how she dresses and so on. Whether you came in late to the Titan Comics, as we did, or whether you got them all from issue #1, this is the equivalent of buying the first ‘box set’ – it’s a must-have piece of comic-book. For the most part, the motive for the must-have is Abadzis’ scripts, which capture both the mood and the tone of the Tenth Doctor excellently and give the reader a tantalizing glimpse into what else the Doctor did between the DoctorDonna and the End of Time. They’re very different stories, but with a coherent theme of the power of the mind and how we express what’s in it. The artwork for the most part doesn’t hold the reader up, but given the more distinctive renderings of the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors in their respective outings for Titan, and the manic, chatterbox persona of the Tenth, it would undoubtedly be a mistake to put that down to lack of skill. Perhaps with a performance dialed all the way up, as Tennant’s was, all the artwork can afford to do is try to keep up and not get in the way.
The Tenth Doctor Collection, Volume 1 is out soon. It’s the thing your comic-shelf has been waiting for, so go get it. If you’re flush, get it on both electronic and hard-copy formats (the downloadable version is available significantly earlier…just sayin’). Prepare to pop back in time with ‘Sandshoes’ and welcome Gabby Gonzalez to the Tardis in your mind.
The Tenth Doctor Collection, Volume 1 will be released on March 25th 2015. Three pages of preview art are featured below. To find out more visit the Titan Comics website.
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