Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Crimson Hand

After some delays caused by the definition of “graphic novel”, the final DWM Tenth Doctor comics collection has arrived. It’s so delayed it has the Eleventh Doctor logo on it, but this is a minor niggle.

After Rose, Martha and very briefly Donna got their turns (but alas not Wilf) the Specials “gap year” brings a return to a comics-only companion for the first time since the Eighth Doctor headed off into the sunset with Destrii.

Majenta Pryce reminds me of Destrii in a few other ways too, the truncated arc she had (discussed in The Flood) partially applying to her, as well as her running from her background, perception filter necklace and sense of style. She’s a less extreme design (a pointy-eared green Amanda Holden) but still stands out when surrounded by humans and next to a Time Lord.

All the stories here (except Storybook reprint Space Vikings! by Jonathan Morris) are written by Dan McDaid, who apparently got his first writing gig with a genuine blind submission, which is... so... very... tempting...

Not having all but the last couple of these, I’m very glad the collection finally came out, and to have it. Now, how about the second Seventh Doctor book...?

It’s essentially a standalone series, designed to “echo the pacing and structure of the typical Doctor Who season” as McDaid notes, so let’s look at it like a series-ful of plots...

Hotel Historia kicks things off, a one-part McDaid-illustrated “fast-paced romp” with a neat plot hook you could borrow quite readily, even if you don’t want to pick up the whole arc. Time travel tourism is a familiar enough idea (see Ray Bradbury’s A Sound Of Thunder) but the details of running it so very badly makes the story stand out. I could see it expanded to episode/adventure length and running rather like Partners In Crime in tone.

Thinktwice is a prison break! In a 2000AD-style space prison! It also sets Majenta up as a companion, and puts a big question mark over who and what she really is. Lots of threats and monsters, some inspired by this charming children's novelty, plenty of danger and sneaking around, and a mystery to solve.

The Stockbridge Child is a small-scale Secret Invasion as well as a Big Emotional Episode for Max Edison, resident of the most paranormally-troubled village in comic Whodom.

Mortal Beloved starts off as a romp but turns into a bit of a Big Emotional Episode as well, despite funny robots and a horror-comedy setting, an example of a story shifting between themes and genres.

The Age Of Ice is described in the book’s commentary as “a tentpole mid-season epic” - a Big Two-Parter complete with returning villains and UNIT.

The Deep Hereafter and Onomatopoeia are format-benders, one a pastiche on two levels, the other a high-concept and tricky-to-do-in-an-RPG silent episode. It may even go as far as Format, Schmormat, the commentary referencing Buffy classic Hush as well as the Marvel Comics “Nuff Said” issues. Do you dare follow? If you do, you might want to consider something more playable.

Ghosts Of The Northern Line is a bit of a Behind The Sofa which again plays with the theme of memory.

The Crimson Hand, finally, is a big space opera of a season finale. The mystery revealed, the universe in peril, our heroes right in the thick of it.

And from the bonus material, ideas that never quite happened. Some are as long as my description, while a few have a bit more detail and even art. So there’s almost another series-ful of plots to pick out, making this double-good value for those looking for adventure hooks.

Mr MacGuffin - a sample strip, two pages out of eight shown (albeit small) in the commentary, with the Doctor chasing a knight through the Medieval History section of a library.

Stage Fright - a visit to a planet full of actors.

Lavender Rising - alien OAPs in a care home in space. Some may have filtered through to the more conventional space prison Thinktwice?

The Witness - Max tries astral projection and stumbles into witnessing a murder on the other side of the galaxy - and the murderer detects his presence and follows back to Earth...

The Many Deaths Of Max Edison - Max stumbles on a device for visiting (controlling?) parallel universes, and another Max wants it...

Forever England - Stockbridge in the 1950s, and young Max investigating monster sightings caused by a mayor fearful of another war using alien technology to create an army.

The Nobel Prize For Crime - time-scooped villains being awarded a prize by jaded future sensation-seekers, and naturally one of them steals their time technology...

Stormlight - a time-travelling vicar, storm creatures, a glass robot and three cyborg sisters who combine into a battle form.

Ravenous - the galaxy’s greatest chef is the last of his kind, and tries to turn his customers into his species, with disastrous consequences.

Home - before The Crimson Hand, Majenta’s secret was that she was the only member of a generation from her world not given over as slaves to buy off the world-murdering Maggedus...

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