Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Doctor Who: Empire of the Wolf #1 (Titan, December 2021)

Doctor Who fen also have a plethora of transmedia options available to them. Regardless of whether it's the ongoing television show -- with Jodie Whittaker's stint as the 13th Doctor coming to an end this year -- earlier series streaming on Pluto TV, the monthly magazine, Big Finish's audio dramas, media tie-in novels, or the comic books published by Titan Comics, Doctor Who fen have plenty of outlets to choose from. DOCTOR WHO: EMPIRE OF THE WOLF is a fine recent example of non-TV approaches to the Doctor Who franchise. DOCTOR WHO: EMPIRE OF THE WOLF #1 (Titan, December 2021) features the Eighth Doctor (modeled after Paul McGann) and Eleventh Doctor (modeled after Matt Smith, who recently starred in the excellent LAST NIGHT IN SOHO), Rose Tyler, and a human regeneration of the Tenth Doctor (modeled after David Tennant). So it's a bit of a mash up -- written by Jody Houser and drawn by Roberta Ingranata -- sure to please fen of multiple Doctors and seasons. The gambit of the series is that Tyler is stuck in an alternate timeline, happily married to a human regeneration of the Tenth Doctor (named John Smith) -- and a mother. After having an intense vision, she disappears and wakes up on an unknown shore. Meanwhile, Empress Rose, "glorified as the Bad Wolf Empress" in an alternate timeline and in need of assistance, sends D'Pau to find the Doctor. The Eighth Doctor arrives in the Tardis in 20th century London, where he encounters a group of Sontarans. "That's not right," he says, before leaving and meeting Tyler, whom he doesn't remember because "things in my life can happen in an odd sort of order." The Eleventh Doctor, then, is on holiday, where he also sees a group of Sontarans about to engage in battle -- and is found by D'Pau, to be brought to Empress Rose. There's a lot going on, and it's all setting up the storyline, but there's plenty to work with: a case of mistaken identity, disappearing armies, old friends meeting anew, and a world in danger. To be honest, DOCTOR WHO: EMPIRE OF THE WOLF would be a bit of a mess of a read if the characters weren't so familiar and the new pairings -- a human regeneration of the Tenth Doctor, father to Tyler's child? -- so much fun. It'll be even more of a hoot when the two Doctors come together, as portrayed on David Buisan's cover. The issue ends with a Reader's Guide offering thumbnails of collections featuring the Ninth through Thirteenth Doctors. There's plenty to dive in to; why not start with DOCTOR WHO: EMPIRE OF THE WOLF?

Dejah Thoris Versus John Carter #5 (Dynamite, November 2021)

Fen of the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs have been able to enjoy quite a number of ERB-related comic book series and titles thanks to Dynamite Entertainment in recent years. The recent DEJAH THORIS VERUS JOHN CARTER series that publishing company's penchant for tie-in series that build on and expand ERB's writing. DEJAH THORIS VERUS JOHN CARTER #5 (Dynamite, November 2021) is no exception. Written by skilled tie-in scribe Dan Abnett and drawn by Alessandro Miracolo, the series pairs Carter and Thoris rather than positions them against each other. The issue opens with a bang, "sociopathic mastermind" Rotak Gall conferring with "primordial entities from outside time known as the Longhorn" via ancient arcanotech. The two-page spread featuring the sheer scale of the Longborn reminded this reader of Jack Kirby character design, even if not artwork. The gist of the story is that the Longhorn seek to colonize Barsoom and are manipulating Gall, an expert in cloning, to procure host bodies. Meanwhile, Carter and Thoris are searching for Gall in his palace -- a veritable maze in time, with each chamber located in a different age of the locale -- to obtain the key needed to get out. They encounter what might be a Tyrannosaurus Rex, portrayed on a delightful full page, as Gall embodies the Longhorn in two of his standard clone bodies, which begin to decay more quickly than expected, rather than Carter's hardier body (due to his superhuman genetics). Carter and Thoris battle the dinosaur over the course of several pages before encountering a new clone of Gall, who wants vengeance after his betrayal at the hands of the Longborn. Carter presses the attack to the Longborn, and the issue ends with him realizing that he, himself has also been cloned -- setting up the events of the next edition. Abnett's writing doesn't quite capture the tenor and tone of ERB's original stories, but that's not the point here: Continued adventures of much-loved characters. Miracolo's artwork is well done, and the issue is worth getting for the two-page spread of the Longborn in their original form, as well as the dinosaur. This issue of DEJAH THORIS VERUS JOHN CARTER also includes house ads for Dynamite's VAMPIRELLA/DRACULA: UNHOLY, EVIL ERNIE, and SHEENA: QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE series, giving the reader a sense of what else the publisher has in the works. Recommended for ERB fans.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Deep Beyond #10 (Image, November 2021)

If you enjoy aquatic and kaiju-adjacent stories such as THE SHAPE OF WATER and CLOVERFIELD, be sure to check out the Image comics series DEEP BEYOND. I recently read DEEP BEYOND #10 (Image, November 2021), and the storyline -- even though it's near the end of its 12-issue run -- is quite promising. Written by Mirka Andolfo and David Goy, and drawn by Andrea Broccardo, DEEP BEYOND details a world in which there's a deadly contagion, monsters, various factions and autonomous groups as people try to reconstitute a working society, an underwater element (though much of the tale takes place on terra firma), and perhaps even clandestine aliens. The primary conflict is between the Trans-Colonial Council, the newly reformed government, and the Defeatists -- deemed by some terrorists -- who don't want to live underneath protective domes. (But whose politics are otherwise unclear.) The issue largely focuses on a character named Clover, ex-girlfriend of Trent, who now leads the rebel forces and is infected, his life sustained by machines. With a group of friends, rescued by an older man in a submarine, she intends to locate the mysterious B-34 Colony, determine whether the Council is hiding amphibious aliens and a gateway to another world, and rescue her friend Paul -- as well as one of the aliens. Highlights of DEEP BEYOND include the threat of monstrous creatures -- of which the reader sees only glimpses in this ish -- the contagion, which was probably explained in previous issues; and the high technology, some of it alien. But this late in the series, those aspects mostly serve as window dressing as the storyline comes near its conclusion. The writing is impressive -- the comic book is chock full of ideas -- and Broccardo's artwork ably captures the utopian and dystopian aspects of the emergent society. DEEP BEYOND is a good read. The first six issues were collected in a trade paperback last September, and the second volume is expected in March 2022. I'd expect it's a great read all in a row, if not just in longer spans.