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September 26, 2012

IDW Reviews: Doctor Who Special 2012

Doctor Who Special 2012

Publisher: IDW
Writers: Len Wein, Richard Dinnick, Tony Lee, Andy Diggle
Artists: Matthew Dow Smith, Josh Adams, Mich Gerads, Mark Buckingham

Preceding IDW’s release of Doctor Who #1 is Doctor Who Special 2012, featuring four unique stories from the eleventh Doctor by some of the industry’s most legendary and up-and-coming creators.

Fezzes are cool, right? Well, in the opening short, “In-FEZ-station,” by comics superstar Len Wein and artist Mathew Dow Smith, Fezzes are dangerous. When the Doctor and the Ponds arrive at a music festival, one of the Doctor’s most flatulent foes resurfaces. For an opener, this story was cute enough for a pass, but for anyone familiar with the best of Len Wein, it’s obvious he phone-boxed this one in. The struggle with shorts like these is not having enough time to flesh out a story, but Wein actually didn’t have that problem. It was really capturing the Doctor’s voice that I thought was lost in this story. The Doctor came off like a watered down version of himself.

Matthew Dow Smith’s art was decent for the most part, but I had one major issue: Amy Pond was ugly. Smith has his own unique style, which I can respect; it’s a sort of hard edged, simple art with some clunk to it. This works fine with characters like the Doctor and aliens who have exaggerated features, but with Amy Pond, a professional model, pure beauty should come first. Is that a nit-pick on my part? I don’t think so.

Len Wein’s experience saved him from his limited page number, but Richard Dinnick and Josh Adams weren’t so lucky. There’s a great classic Doctor Who spirit in “Time Fraud,” with weird new races, and a very basic human story, but the pacing was extremely rushed to the point of being sloppy. And there were a few liberties with Time Lords taken that I was confused by. And as far at Adams’s attempt to realistically recreate Matt Smith’s big nose and chin, he fell very short.

Tony Lee and Mitch Gerads’s “Escape into Alcatraz” was without a doubt my personal favorite story of the four. The story, like so many great episodes of Doctor Who, is so simple in its themes, but complex in its nature. The Doctor is, in his most basic form, a time traveler, and Tony Lee was not afraid to play with that. Though taking place only in Alcatraz, several time travel elements were used in fun ways, and we weren’t without the cheesy aliens we endear so much. Much like the famous prison itself, the art is very rough like concrete and steel, and the dull grays of the color pallet accentuated that vibe wonderfully.

Finally, Andy Diggle and Mark Buckingham finish off this issue, and they do a lot of things right, but with one dreadfully over used setting the Doctor can never quite get away from. “The Eagle of the Reich” is a wonderfully told classic Doctor story with that great mixture of human elements in sci-fi situations, and the art is the best in the book. Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and Arthur Darvill come to life beautifully. My big complaint as a Doctor Who fan is that it’s another story set in the World War II era. It’s such an over used period at this point, and I was disappointed that such a creative duo didn’t try something a bit more outside the blue box.

What I found most interesting about this book is that it showed us exactly how low and how high Doctor Who can exist in the comic book medium. That universe has a lot to offer by a lot of creative people, but, obviously, it’s going to take a lot more than some cute shorts and writers trying to emulate the genius of Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat to really satisfy the hardcore Whovians.

Andrew Hurst
andrewhurst@comicattack.net

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