In Review: Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor #4

Fun story and visuals that will please anyone of any age from any time.

The covers: Rachael Stott & Hi-Fi are responsible for the A cover and it’s a great tease of what’s to be found within. Companion Josephine Day is tied to a circular cluster of vines as others seem to move towards her, while below the Doctor is in the same predicament, though unconscious. This image from Stott nicely creates several questions in a reader’s mind that will have them anxiously reading this book to see what Josie and the Doctor have gotten themselves into. The colors are also well done, with Hi-Fi using different shades of green that appropriately give his image an organic feel. The B cover is the Photo cover by Will Brooks which has the Doctor displaying his pocket watch to the reader before a Gothic looking staircase. I’m a huge fan of the eighth Doctor, so I always try to purchase those that show Paul McGann. The final cover, the C, is a head shot of the Doctor. It’s nicely done with the coloring really selling this. I like what Carolyn Edwards has done, but I wish that the image had been closer to the character or that there had been a background. Overall grades: A A, B A+, and C B

The story: The issue opens with a particular set of artifacts up for auction at an estate sale. The Doctor and Josie are there and the Doctor does something rash. This moment in the past gives way, with the turn of a page, to the present, which is 1932 at the Briarwood Estate, where the Doctor and his companion are greeted by butler Harris, and the spying eyes of young Bertie Bingham, before entering the party that’s occurring. The Doctor finds the extravagant scene reminiscent of an Agatha Christie novel and suggests that he and Josie separate for half an hour to see what possibly could have required their attendance. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Mr. Harris and Mrs. Tillsley state it’s time to complete the circle so that the Nixi shall rise. Their comments are followed by a view of other servants, sprouting vines from their necks and sleeves, who are gathered around a wooded tablet carved with strange runes. This is an ominous start by writer George Mann who then moves the story into classic Who mode: a dramatic reveal, several daring escapes, a seemingly mindless army, some misunderstood history, and a pair of surprising falls, before all is made right. The construction of this story resembles a shooting script from a “lost” episode of McGann’s era. There were some sensational lines in this issue, such as the banter on 7, the bottom of 16 (I smiled as I groaned at that perfectly horrible line), and the Doctor’s terse commentary on 22. Again, Mann is showing himself to be an outstanding Who chronicler. Overall grade: A+

The art: The time period of this tale provides a good opportunity for Emma Vieceli to work in a era that suits her style. The first page has her drawing an extremely pleasing alien, that has a terrific bit of character put into him because of the way Vieceli draws him. The opulent dining party scene on 3 matches the dialogue well. Before this formal scene is shown, Josie has three sensational panels on Page 2, with Bertie being introduced excellently. The look of joy on the Doctor’s face at the bottom of 3 shows the fun in his character that other lead characters from other books lack. Page 4 begins as a scene from Downton Abbey or Upstairs Downstairs, but becomes a “What the…?” moment in the final panel — with the joy on the characters’ faces adding to the mystery. When the vines begin to run amok on 6 and 7, Vieceli nicely has them writhing across the page, giving a sense of motion to their growth. However, once outside, the Nixi, on Page 8, are rough outlines of characters; in fact, the best drawing of one of these characters comes in the final panel of the issue. They could have been as cute as the Adipose, but come off as sketchy. Much better is the double paged spread of 10 and 11 that shows the history of the Nixi — this looks awesome! Things continue to look well done as the Doctor, Josie, and Bertie go on the run. It’s only the Nixi on that one page that have me shaking my head. Overall grade: A

The colors: Beautiful work throughout this issue by Hi-Fi. This group always puts an incredible amount of work into properly shading characters and settings; check out the bottom panel of the first page to see and excellent example of this. The work on Josie’s hair throughout the book is really well done. Page 8 has some strong use of violets, peaches, and blues to make things very warm. The flashback sequence on 10 and 11 is my favorite of the book: the use of grays and golds ages the visuals to create a sense of the past, but allows every element of the art to be seen clearly. Sound effects also pop really well on each page, making each noise strong. Hi-Fi continues to show they are masters of color. Overall grade: A+ 

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, whispers, sounds, yells, screams, and the “To Be Continued!” are by Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt. Their work is always outstanding and this issue shows their winning streak is continuing. There is one sound in the book that I don’t believe is theirs and that’s the CREAAAAAAK on Page 16. This looks nothing like their work I’ve seen in any other book, so I think it was done by Vielceli. It should have been done by Starkings or Betancourt. Overall grade: A+

The final line: This is the Who book I look forward to each month. Fun story and visuals that will please anyone of any age from any time. Overall grade: A

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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