I’ve loved stories from all the Panini volumes of collected DWM comics and remember the sunny days when I actually sent in an application to work in Tunbridge Wells as the assistant editor of DWM! How cool would that have been? Oh well, I’m sure I wasn’t qualified. Anyway, The Betrothal of Sontar covers 2006, David Tennant’s first year on the job and Billie Piper’s second. John Thomlinson and Nick Abadzis acknowledge that all they really knew of the Tenth Doctor when they wrote the title story were the Children in Need special of 2005 and the teeth line from “Parting of the Ways.” There is a sort of stiffness to this Doctor, but on the whole, I love the title story. Surely, only Ten would mention that losing a bet with Oliver Reed required him to swim the English Channel naked. That make me laugh. Ten and Four might equally bring up Stockholm Syndrome while being placed in the stocks in Sontaran base headquarters. Both writers love the Sontarans and saw fit to bring them back a good 2 years before the TV series attempted it. I like the insights their writing brings to the idea of clones bred for different functions. In setting, the title story presages the Shackleton story with Ten and Martha from 2007—all barren Hoth-like wasteland. There are Sontarans with facial hair (!), and the art from Mike Collins is lovely.
Betrothal of Sontar has two superb stories (so good they would go on my best Doctor Who comics of all time list), and they both involve Mickey! Considering Noel Clarke just won the Orange Rising Star Award, I find that very apt. Anyway, the first is “The Lodger” by the inimitable Gareth Roberts. In tone, it’s a bit like Winner Takes All by Jacqueline Rayner, set entirely on Catford Estate—er, Powell Estate. Unlike Winner Takes All, however, Ten manages to win at video games by not killing the other characters—whereas Rose had to lift an eyebrow when Nine mentioned he was good at video game violence. Sigh, I expect Ten is even good at Guitar Hero. Not only did Ten take Rose away, he’s so affable he even steals Mickey’s best mates—to top it all off, he convinces Gina, the girl Mickey is about to cheat on Rose with, that she needs to be doing stuff with her life. It’s comical and sweet, like all the best Mickey stories are.
“F.A.Q.” by Tony Lee and Mike Collins is big, bold, and true to the scope of the New Adventures—too much for TV. For some reason it reminds me of The Day After Tomorrow; perhaps a more apt corollary is “Silence in the Library.” On the same page the Doctor drives an ice cream truck/lorry and expresses a love of comics. It’s “The Invisible Enemy” meets Christmas Carol in one section where the Doctor shows the troubled young Craig—the same sort of character as the protagonist of Dalek, I Love You on BBC7—several different futures, one as a homeless drug addict, one as a geek stuck in a deadend corporate job, dead before 30, a rock star, as a family man, etc.
That Mike Collins is a talented bloke, as he contributes the wonderfully plotted “Futurists,” which sees a collision between 1930s pre-Fascist Italy and the Roman Empire in Britain (Caerlon, to be exact). (In fact, it seems, that every story in this collection presages series 4 somehow. Hmm.) Fun chance for Rose to wear flapper clothes, and Collins to draw and write the Silurians (as in a tribe of Britons) as a cross between King Arthur and Astérix and Obélix. Lovely stuff, and very funny. Rose enacts a slave rebellion of women with Somerset accents (no doubt) using the psychic paper. The alien bad guys look like the ones I had in mind for St Valentine’s Day. This is a fun one, and I love how smushing the two historical periods creates something entirely new. Collins did his research as well, so it’s not just a pastiche.
“Interstellar Overdrive” feels very Jonathan Morris somehow—it’s even got chronic hysterosis in it, so the deaths of band members get replayed several times, including the reanimated soul of a very dead guitarist (who saves Rose’s life). Also from Morris, this time drawn by the great Martin Geraghty, is “Opera of Doom.” This cute little tale reminds me of one of my favorite Sixth Doctor comics, I’m sure you remember, it was “The Gift,” for the part music plays in it.
Roger Langridge’s drawing style hasn’t always been my favorite, but it’s perfect for the absolutely hilarious “Green-Eyed Monster” by Nev Fountain. We laugh and poke fun at Ten, Rose, Jackie, Mickey, Jeremy Kyle, etc, but as Fountain makes clear, he’s also poking fun at critics of the first and second series who were offended by Rose’s family’s “chav-ness,” and possibly were just offended by Rose’s family in general! It probably also pokes fun at Rose/Doctor shippers and more specifically readers who might fancy Ten anyway (me on both counts, then). If you can’t take some good-natured elbow jabs, you’re not a real fan as far as I’m considered, and Rose has the mickey taken out of her here—as the Doctor snogs Jackie, Rose prevents a bunch of Amazons from taking the Doctor into the TARDIS sauna room, and one of the Amazons getting great pleasure out of licking Mickey’s ear!
Geraghty back at the helm, with Alan Barnes, for the so-good “Warkeeper’s Crown,” which sees the return of the Brigadier quite a bit before his adventures with Sarah Jane. The highly Tolkien-esque backdrop of Harpies and constant war pales before the glory of the Brig and Ten working together; the Brig, having bypassed Nine altogether, sees in Ten the effect of the Time War, and it’s a bit of common ground for them. There’s the very funny appearance of Mike Yates (not that Mike Yates!), and the Brig gets some wonderful moments, like when hundreds of his clones take on the evil forces and save the Doctor (“Splendid chaps, all of him!” comments the Doctor).
A really excellent volume, and in color too!