The Doctor is in (comics)! And he’s brought Rory and Amy Pond — er, Williams — along for the fun. Traveling through time and space, the three will face down Jack the Ripper, Viking invaders, Sontarans, a giant space squid, and, of course, Nazis. All in a day’s work for the eleventh incarnation of the Doctor.
And if none of the sentences in that paragraph made sense to you, then you are not the target audience for IDW’s second series of comics based on the BBC’s long-running science fiction show Doctor Who. If you are a fan, or if you have fans at your library, then Doctor Who, Series 2 is definitely a suggested purchase, if not quite a must-have. Volumes 1 and 4 can be read by themselves, but one character from volume 2 crosses over to volume 3, tying them together. Interestingly enough, those two volumes are the strongest of the set, avoiding the sophomore slump suffered by many series.
Volume 1: The Ripper starts off with a quick little story about Rory accidentally downloading spam holograms into the TARDIS when he tries to check his email. It’s cute, if rather forgettable. The volume then moves into the main story, with the Doctor and his companions in Victorian London caught in the middle of the search for Jack the Ripper. Lee’s story is typical Doctor Who, meaning aliens appear where they seem least likely to be. Unfortunately, it sinks beneath the weight of Rayner, Domingues, and Hamilton’s art. The images are painted, rather than drawn, and are too bland and blurry to work, though their moody quality seems appropriate for dank and dirty Victorian London. On top of that, Phil Elliott’s colors are muddy, weighing down the drawings and distracting from the fun of the story.
Luckily, fans don’t have to have read The Ripper to dive into volume 2: When Worlds Collide and volume 3: It Came from Outer Space. When Worlds Collide also, like The Ripper, opens with a short story – this one about the trio attempting to watch a soccer game, but accidentally ending up in the middle of a Viking invasion – before moving onto a longer main story. Buckingham’s art doesn’t try as hard to be realistic, like the artists seemed to be attempting in The Ripper, and because of that, it is more enjoyable. The characters are still recognizable as themselves, but the pace of the comic flows better. Readers may be startled when the volume switches to the main story and Smith takes over art duties, but hopefully it’s a pleasant surprise. Smith has a sharp-edged, jagged, empty-eyed style found most prominently in the Hellboy comics from Dark Horse (which Smith has worked on). The less-than-realistic art works for this fun and slightly cheesy story about a multi-dimensional theme park accidentally blown up by a Sontaran ship. The explosion results in duplicates of our heroes, which leads to both jokes and desperate sacrifices.
During the craziness of that adventure, the TARDIS picks up an additional passenger, a dinosaur (sort of) named Kevin. His misadventures with the Doctor and Amy and Rory kick off the first story in volume 3: It Came from Outer Space. Lee seems to have hit his stride in the first two stories of this collection, playing up the cheesy nature of Doctor Who in “Space Squid” before getting serious again in “Body Snatched,” not that he neglects the humor there, too. The rest of the volume is a mix of stories, as the Doctor helps out Santa, lands on a planet where cardinal directions are not as cut and dry as they should be, and meets a unique man living in a very average town. The collection ends with Amy writing a letter home to her mom, trying to make an average day not sound quite so…explody. I’m a sucker for anthologies, comic or otherwise, so I loved the random nature of this volume even more than the sharper focused companion volumes. Part of the joy lay in seeing such a wide variety of comic art, some more cartoonish, some more realistic, all beautifully colored.
The final collection of Series 2, volume 4: As Time Goes By, returns to a single story, as the Doctor, Amy, and Rory travel to Casablanca for what they think will be a vacation, only to run afoul of both Nazis and hidden Silurian warriors. Fialkov definitely has the flavor of Doctor Who and includes lots of action, with just the right amount of humor, dire warnings, and “I am the Doctor; you should do what I say” speeches. Smith’s angular art is a perfect match for the lizard-esc Silurians and for Amy at her no-nonsense best.
All of the volumes contain action and there are a few deaths, though the Doctor is quick to reject the use of guns and to mourn any lost lives. Appropriately for a comic based on a family science-fiction show, there is no nudity, only a few slightly sexy jokes, and several kisses (though Amy will probably forgive her husband Rory for that one time he accidentally kissed the Doctor). Teens and adults who love the show will gobble these up and likely ask for more, though adults are the most likely to get the jokes referencing Young Guns, Casablanca, Castle, and Microsoft’s Office Assistant.
Doctor Who, Series 2, Volumes 1-4
Doctor Who: The Ripper (Series 2, Volume 1)
Written by Tony Lee
Art by Andrew Cline, Richard Piers Rayner, Horacio Domingues, and Tim Hamilton
Doctor Who: When World Collide (Series 2, Volume 2)
Written by Tony Lee
Art by Mark Buckingham and Matthew Dow Smith
Doctor Who: It Came from Outer Space (Series 2, Volume 3)
Written by Tony Lee, Joshua Hale Fiakov, Matthew Dow Smith, and Dan McDaid
Art by Josh Adams, Matthew Dow Smith, Paul Grist, Blair Shedd, Mitch Gerads, and Dan McDaid
Doctor Who: As Time Goes By (Series 2, Volume 4)
Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov
Art by Matthew Dow Smith