Doctor Who: Comicbook review The Widow’s Curse

doctor-who-the-widows-curse

By Will Barber- Taylor

Strip One: The Woman Who Sold The World.

The Doctor and Martha receive a distress call  and trace it back to the planet Loam, where the whole planet is being repossessed by the planet’s debters.   Can The Doctor and Martha save the planet Loam from destruction? The story of a planet’s destruction, because of debt, is too similar to the first Hitchhiker’s Book.  This makes it weaker than some of the other strips in the collection.

Most of the characters in this first strip are two dimensional and therefore we really do not care what happens to them.  However, Martha Jones’ introduction and characterisation are spot on. For instance, when Martha is trying to persuade Sugarpea not to sacrifice herself, we truly believe that she is Martha Jones from the television series.

The artwork in the strip isn’t spectacular, with the exception of the demolition scenes which are realistic and gritty. You can almost taste the sand in your mouth as you see the destruction of a whole planet.

5/10

Strip Two: Bus Stop!

Using a red double- decker bus and the help of someone who thinks the Doctor is a lunatic, The Doctor helps Martha survive on Mars.  All this takes place whilst dodging a group of mutated time assassins from the future that have travelled back in time to kill the Mayor of London!

Bus Stop! is one of the highlights of this book.   The story is successfully told through the eyes of a minor character that doesn’t have name.  His namelessness portrays the idea of an ordinary person.  Consequently, the man represents the impression an everyday person might get of The Doctor – simply that he is mad.  Switching between Mars of the far future and present day London, the story is told in a short space of time with humour and grace.

The characterization of The Doctor, Martha, the nameless man and DI Moloch is brilliant.  DI Moloch, an alien from the far future, effectively expresses the characterization of a modern day policeman and feels as realistic as the nameless man.

The excellent artwork of the story is from John Ross.  (Doctor Who Adventures)   His DWA type illustrative approach to the story is excellent and works better than if the story had been done in the style of the four part DWM strips.

10/10

Strip Three: The First.

September 12th 1915.  Ernest Shackleton is about to abandon his Trans Atlantic expedition. Suddenly, two things happen.  One of Shackleton’s crew is attacked by a creature. He is soon infected with a strange and terrible disease.  The second strange event is a Doctor John Smith and a Doctor Jones appear out of nowhere, claiming to be from The Society.  Suddenly, the Earth is in danger of becoming an icy husk hanging in space.  Can The Doctor and Martha, with the help of Shackleton and his crew, avert the disaster?

The First is one of the best strips in this collection. It starts off with Shackleton’s crew talking photographs on the ice.  Just before The Doctor and Martha arrive (claiming to be Doctor Smith and Doctor Jones from The Society) a giant ice monster appears and infects one of Shackleton’s crew, Clark with a strange and hideous disease.  Soon, the whole story turns into a boy’s own type adventure with The Doctor, Martha and Shackleton going in search of the creature that attacked them.  Eventually, they meet The Skith (intergalactic explorers) who capture creatures and then wire them up to their Matrix databank which steals memories.   After rewiring the matrix and sending the Skith ship into the sun, The Doctor and Martha leave Shackleton and history to go on their normal path.

The characterization of The Doctor, Martha and Shackleton are excellent. Shackelton, in particular feels very much like the real, historical Shackleton: angry, determined and very intelligent.

The astounding artwork of the Skith looks like a mix between Snowmen, Zygons and Cybermen.   The ice caves and Shackleton’s ship are also exquisitely drawn. Martin Geraghty should pat himself on the back.

10/10

Strip Four: Sun Screen

The Doctor and Martha land on a space station which is orbiting Earth. The space station has been put in place to control Earth’s climate change.  The station comes under attack from a group of alien scavengers. The Doctor manages to beat off the creatures but the space station isn’t what they are after. They are going to Earth.

This story sounds great, but it isn’t. Originally created for the 2008 Storybook and included in the collection, this strip is the runt of the litter. There is one major thing wrong with this story – the length.  The idea of the story is so big that it doesn’t work as a single part; it needs to be elaborated upon with more detail.  The other one parters in this book, (Bus Stop! , Death To The Doctor , The Immortal Emperor and The Time Of My Life!) all suit their one part length, this doesn’t. The story would be much better and could make the read more exciting if it was say a two or maybe three part story. Sadly it isn’t and so the story doesn’t fulfil its full potential.

The artwork in this story is bland and uninteresting. Nothing leaps out from the insipidity because the whole of it is totally uninspiring.

4/10

Strip Five: Death To The Doctor!

A group of aliens who have been defeated by the Doctor meet at the research base Truno. They have decided to group together to destroy their common enemy- The Doctor!  Before the leader of the group Kraanrn of the Kraagaaron can revile his master plan, his is suddenly killed. The group soon decide only one person can be behind this assassination – The Doctor!

This story is one of the greatest Doctor Who strips of all time.  The Doctor and Martha only appear at the very end of the story.  Whereas, Johnny Morris’s main cast are the villains themselves who turn out to be so bad at villainy that it is comic.     The use of flashbacks in the strip make it feel almost unique.

It is worth reading simply for the astounding artwork which makes The Mentor look like a cartoon version of the Master.

10/10

Strip Six: Universal Monsters

The Doctor and Martha land in a creepy old village where the locals fear for their lives.   A creature comes in the night and takes their friends.   Consequently, some are found dead and some become infected with serious diseases.  Martha is captured by the creature.  Can The Doctor get to the Thanes Castle before Martha becomes the next victim?

This story is very much like Hammer Horror meets Doctor Who: a village terrified by a strange monster; a local lord who keeps himself to himself;  etc… The story is flawed.   It starts off well but loses its way during the course of the three parts. It is too long for the plot.   Subsequently, there is a quite a bit of padding in it.  For instance, the scenes in the village are extraneous quilting; they neither move the plot along or add to the characterisation.  Therefore, they should be deleted. This story should have been a two parter rather than a three parter.  It could also have been an excellent one parter if properly done.

The character of Thane is flawed as we are introduced to him as a mad scientist, a two dimensional stereotype in other words.  When the character is later developed and supposedly becomes benign and wants to help the villagers, we don’t believe it as the stereotype is too deeply ingrained into our imaginations.  It could be argued then that the original two dimensional character works – I will leave that for readers to quandary over.

The artwork in the story is brilliant.  (Hence the good mark at the bottom.)  The gothic, paint like way the story is done gives it a creepy edge and fits the story like a glove.   Adrian Salmon’s work is beautiful in its complexity.

8/10

Strip Seven: The Widow’s Curse

The Doctor and Donna arrive on the island Shadow Cay, even though The Doctor insists that the island does not exist.  They soon discover, however, that the islanders are dead tourists and that the island is a Scyorax spaceship.  These Sycorax are the widows of the Sycorax the Doctor encountered on Christmas day.  They want their revenge for what happened to their men. With the help of some of the tourists they meet on the boat, The Doctor and Donna must save Earth from The Widow’s Curse.

The Widow’s Curse is a fantastic story as there is a strong moral dilemma at the heart of it.   The Doctor does not want to destroy the Sycorax.  However, the Sycorax are going to decimate the earth.  The Doctor has to explore his alternatives and finally chooses to save the planet Earth.

Using the Caribbean as a back drop is inspired.  The setting is Paradise destined to become Hell.

It is a story with interesting ideas.  For instance, Lee is a dead man trapped in someone else’s body.  It is only revenge for his wife which drives him on.

Donna is also very good as we see a heroic side to the character which is rarely seen in the TV series.

The artwork is magical, particularly the bit when The Doctor and Lee are walking through the field of the dead.

10/10

Strip Eight: The Immortal Emperor

The Doctor and Donna arrive in Ancient China, during the dying days of the first Emperor.  Captured by Meng Tian (the Emperor’s most trusted advisor),  they soon discover that the Terra Cotta army is in fact an army of robots; The Emperor is a cyborg puppet and that Meng Tian is an alien!   Can The Doctor and Donna stop Meng Tian from activating the Terra Cotta army and wreaking his revenge on the galaxy?

The Immortal Emperor is taken from the 2009 storybook.  Unlike Sun Screen, this is an excellent story. Using Ancient China’s history as a backdrop the story re imagines the purpose of the Terra Cotta army in an intelligent way.

Meng Tian is an interesting character who pretends to serve the emperor but instead uses him as a puppet.

The artwork in the story is excellent, especially the true lizard like form of Meng Tian which is quite spookily brilliant.

7/10

 

 

 

Strip Nine: The Time Of My Life!

Whilst remembering his time with Donna Noble, an automatic message appears. – Donna’s final goodbye to The Doctor.

This is not really a story, more a stream of consciousness which is all about Donna Noble in the Doctor’s mind.  The whole point of this strip is to say goodbye to Donna and imagine all the adventures she had with The Doctor that we never saw. This strip in a way sums up the whole collection, magical, brilliant, amazing, heart warming, funny, flawed, unique and wonderful

9/10

.

Overall Mark for this book:

83/90

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