Doctor Who Vol. 25: Doorway To Hell by Mark Wright (graphic novel review).

May 21, 2018 | By | Reply More

There was a certain ‘old school’ feeling to Peter Capaldi’s portrayal of the Doctor. Eschewing the youthful air of his recent predecessors, Capaldi was a throwback to the gruff air of William Hartnell alongside the genuine ‘alien-ness’ of Tom Baker. This collection of ‘Doctor Who Monthly’ comicstrips, published just after the strip and the TV show said goodbye to Clara, is also something of a throwback, not only utilising the history of the ‘Doctor Who’ comicstrip but also bringing back memories of the ‘UNIT’ era of the show.

In ‘The Pestilent Heart’, the Doctor finds himself in 1972 London hoping to catch a gig. But what would the Doctor be without some sort of alien menace to interrupt his concert going plans. Meeting up with Jessica, who the Doctor first met in DWM strip ‘The Highgate Horror’ (www.sfcrowsnest.info/doctor-who-the-highgate-horror-by-mark-wright-jonathan-morris-steve-lyons-roger-langridge-scott-gray-etc-graphic-novel-review/), the duo find themselves in the London Underground where there are more than rats lurking in the shadows. This is a fine piece, with a good sense of latter era Capaldi who drifts between being harsh and delivering pointed wisecracks and also a nice chemistry between the Doctor and temporary companion, Jessica. The 70s London location oozes authenticity, thanks both to the fact that writer Mark Wright lived in Brixton for a while and artist Mike Collins did some great historical research. Yes, automatic ticket gates existed on tube stations as early as 1972 and there is an undoubted influence of classic ‘Doctor Who’ story ‘The Web Of Fear’ in the Underground set sequences. Add in some well-thought out action sequences and this three-parter is a very enjoyable slice of Time Lord comic-strip adventure.

‘Moving In’ sees the Doctor forced to stay in 1972 London, relying on the hospitality of the Collins family. This one shot is reminiscent of ‘Doctor Who’ episode ‘The Lodger’, which itself was based on a DWM comic strip of the same name, as we see the Doctor trying to live a normal, everyday life. There are plenty of nice moments like the Doctor discusses the merits of Captain America over Batman and re-asserts his prowess as a cook and this is a gentle but fun little addition to the ‘Who’ canon.

We’re back to action in ‘Bloodsport’ as aliens come to Earth in order to indulge their love of hunting, something abhorred on their own home planet. Needless to say, they find themselves opposed by the Doctor, Jess and her brother, Max. This is a quick-paced affair that leaves little room for subtlety as Staz Johnson’s kinetic art bring some of the verve and energy of 70s cop shows and there’s even a chance for the Doctor to do an interrogation. There’s also an eminently evil villain in Skadi, who is almost pantomime evil is sometimes exactly what you need.

There’s another one shot with ‘Be Forgot’, an emotional Christmas story which plays with the notion that trouble and alien beings always seem to follow the Doctor. When Jess and the Doctor deliver Christmas cards to the street, neighbour Walter seems to be quite off. Is there a terrible secret that he’s hiding? Just what can the Doctor do about it? This is unafraid to enter some dark and dour territory as it’s a reminder of the reality that exists next to the Doctor’s whirlwind of space, travel and aliens. It’s done quite well, with artists Mike Collins and David Roach giving everything a moody atmosphere reminiscent of the great US horror comics of the 50s. There’s also a hint of the classic John Constantine story ‘Hold Me’, written by Neil Gaiman, as it juxtaposes the ethereal with the achingly human. The story does end on an upbeat note and it makes a clever little story.

We end with the epic ‘Doorway To Hell’ in which Roger Delgado’s take on the Master is given another chance to meet his old foe and show that, for all his suavity and charm, he really was something of an evil cove. While the Doctor finds himself on the hunt for a mysterious creature that turns people to glass, the Collins family are abducted by the Master who sends them to a mysterious dimension in which they must fight for their lives. When the Doctor realises his adoptive family have been taken, he must confront his old enemy in a battle to the death. There’s a real sense of the epic with this story, with some emotional stakes and a dark undercurrent of impending doom. This is helped by Staz Johnson’s art, bringing a red and hellish tint to an inhospitable world that might as well be the end of the universe. It blends this darkness with the more irreverent sensibilities of the Pertwee era and there are plenty of in-jokes abound. The mixture works well, not only harking back to the past but also emphasising how, even with the relative humour of his tenth and eleventh incarnations, the post-Time War Doctor is still someone who carries around a lot of anger that he’s unafraid to use. The strip also takes the time to showcase a pivotal scene in ‘Doctor Who’ lore that the TV show never got to do.

Unlike many collections of ‘Doctor Who’ strips, the fact that all these stories are linked and all written by Mark Wright provide a nice sense of continuity and they provide a nice little interlude before the Doctor wends his way into a new life and gender.

Laurence Boyce

May 2018

(pub: Marvel/Panini. 148 page graphic novel softcover. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84653-834-6)

check out website: www.paninicomics.co.uk/

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Category: Comics, Doctor Who

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About the Author ()

Laurence Boyce is a film journalist who likes Bond, Batman and Doctor Who (just to prove the things he enjoys things that don't just start with a 'B'). He is also a film programmer for various film festivals in the UK and abroad.

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