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Graphic Novel Review
When Cindy, the Doctor and Gabby battle an ancient Nocturne in New Orleans at the height of the Jazz Age, Cindy faces a deadly challenge that will leave her forever changed! And before they have a chance to digest the fallout from that encounter, the Tenth Doctor TARDIS team are pulled back to face the wrath of Anubis, who’s becoming more like his father, Sutekh, every day…! Join the Doctor, Gabby and Cindy for more adventures in space, time – and even love! Nick Abadzis (Laika) and incredible artists Giorgia Sposito (Wonderland, Charmed) and Eleonora Carlini (Grimm Tales of Terror) navigate the TARDIS through this terrifying next chapter in the Doctor’s ongoing story…!
Breaking all the known laws of the universe – or at least the laws of Titan Doctor Who graphic novel compilations – this volume collects four rather than the usual five issues, bringing together #2.11 to 2.14 of Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor. This is because Ten’s second ‘year’ with Titan has been longer than usual, running to 17 issues rather than the usual 15.
Exhausted from their experience with the Wishing Well Witch and from the recent attack in the Vortex, in which Cindy was almost lost to another dimension, the TARDIS crew are taking a well-earned break. They have landed in New Orleans at the dawn of the Jazz Age. But while Gabby and Cindy are enjoying themselves, it’s not long before the Doctor is tracking down the source of the Nocturnes – twisted memetic creatures who ride music and use it as a weapon. Can the TARDIS team change the Nocturnes’ tune before they infect all life on Earth…?!
The book begins with The Jazz Monster, a two-part rematch with the Nocturnes, sound-based monsters that were originally encountered by the Doctor and Gabby on the planet Wupatki two volumes ago in The Endless Song.
In the 1920s (not 1978, as the synopses for some of the individual comics led us to believe), Gabby is enjoying the music of the era and Cindy is experiencing the highs and lows of a holiday romance, but the Doctor has hardly left the TARDIS since they landed. Gabby worries that the Time Lord is depressed following their encounter with the Wishing Well Witch in the previous volume, which poignantly reminded him of his own lost people.
He is indeed unusually still and quiet compared to the Tenth Doctor’s typical hyperactive, motormouth nature. He soon finds something to get animated about, though unfortunately for him and for planet Earth, it’s of the old enemy variety rather than something fun. Along the way, there’s a rare admission from this usually happy-go-lucky Doctor. “Sometimes there are no good choices,” he tells Gabby. Contrary to her assumption, he doesn’t always win. “I watched my own world burn.” This sets things up for a downbeat ending, as someone pays the ultimate price and the turn of events hits the TARDIS crew hard.
Artist Giorgia Sposito is new to this title, but proves to be a good fit, providing clean lines and highly expressive faces, just as we are used to from series regulars Elena Casagrande and Eleonora Carlini. I am happy to report that she comes back for an encore.
The Doctor, Gabby and Cindy return to New York City to take stock, following their latest shocking trip in the TARDIS. But while Cindy and Gabby reflect on the passing of someone close to them, and what their travels mean to them both, the Doctor must face a growing threat… Anubis is back, and the TARDIS team are nowhere near ready for what this ancient being is about to throw at them! With the universe fraying at the seams, the son of Sutekh propels them on a trip into the deep, deep past – when the laws of reality were still new…!
The next two episodes are from the storyline Old Girl, which Titan has described as “the endgame of Year Two” of the Tenth Doctor’s comic-book adventures. Things start to come to a head as Ten finally makes good on his promise to help Anubis ascend to a higher plane – in such a way that won’t destroy the universe in the process! So, following a quick breather in Sunset Park (during which time the Doctor gets along with Gabby’s mom a heck of a lot better that he usually does with his companions’ parents), the Time Lord, Gabby and Cindy are off back to the Osiran’s mother ship, the Shining Horizon.
In my review of the previous volume, I complained that The Infinite Corridor felt like a mere filler, but that episode’s brief interaction with unstable pocket universes pays off here, as we see that Osiran science involves the study of alternate, potential realities in order to determine the best course of action. Both Cindy Wu and the half-human half-Osiran Dorothy Bell are disturbed by what they see and hear in some of these dimensional bubbles. Cindy also wonders how she can be sure that she wasn’t trapped in a bottle universe on that past occasion, and that the Doctor rescuing her wasn’t just an illusion. The fact is that she can’t!
The beautifully detailed art of Giorgia Sposito continues to fit the bill splendidly, and as if to prove the point, this time she shares the art duties with Eleonora Carlini. In contrast to some previous collaborations, it is almost impossible to see where one illustrator’s work ends and the other begins, providing us with a cohesive comics universe.
The second phase of Old Girl spends very little time developing the threat discovered during the first by Gabby and Dorothy. Instead, most of the pages of this episode are devoted to the Doctor and Cindy’s trip in the TARDIS “off the chart”, as the other two women remain aboard the Shining Horizon. That’s no bad thing, though, as the planet the TARDIS ends up on is a very exciting planet indeed! I don’t want to say too much about it, as that would spoil the surprise, but there are things here that will thrill fans of the new series and old-school readers of Doctor Who Magazine alike! As the Doctor himself says: “I’ve seen something like this before. Long time ago…” It also follows up on a major revelation from the previous graphic novel, and along the way Cindy proves herself to be highly effective as a solo companion.
We do ultimately return to Gabby, Dorothy and Anubis – and things are not looking good for them as the endgame of Year Two approaches critical mass… However, we must wait until the next graphic novel for the conclusion of this five-part arc.
The Tenth Doctor, Gabby and Cindy in the Roman Empire, 111 AD; the Eleventh Doctor and Alice in Philadelphia on July 1st 1789; and the Twelfth Doctor at a comic convention in the present day all help a stranded alien who’s been trapped on Earth for a very long time…
This volume also includes a 12-page bonus strip, The Long Con, which was originally published in Doctor Who: 2016 Convention Special #1, released exclusively at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con. This is not only a Tenth Doctor story (drawn by Leandro Casco and coloured by Rod Fernandes), but also an Eleventh Doctor story (drawn by Simon Fraser and coloured by Gary Caldwell) and a Twelfth Doctor story (drawn by Walter Giovanni) as well. Each incarnation appears in four pages of the strip.
The adventures experienced by the earlier two Doctors in Andrew James’s hectic plot prove to be mere window dressing for the underlying theme of the piece, and are not resolved within the strip. The reader is told, by way of Ten’s assertion that, “I’ve just had a brilliant idea…”, to simply assume that the Doctor and his companions will get out of their respective scrapes somehow – rather like the end of The Italian Job. As such, The Long Con is more subliminal than sublime.
It does at least add a note of finality to this graphic novel, offsetting the fact that the main Anubis plot is left very much up in the air for the next compilation…