On Things I’ve Been Reading

Some recent comic book purchases…

Doctor Who: The Whispering Gallery
IDW Publishing
Written by Leah Moore & John Reppion
Art by Ben Templesmith

For about a year and a half now, IDW Publishing has been publishing original Doctor Who comics for the American audience, completely different than the eight-page strips found in Doctor Who Magazine.

And, for about a year and a half now, IDW has completely cocked up publishing original Doctor Who comics.

So, it’s with some surprise that Doctor Who: The Whispering Gallery is actually good.

It’s a one-and-done, which is something IDW hasn’t yet done.

It’s mid-season three, probably right around the time in “Blink” where we see the Doctor and Martha running around with bows and arrows. Martha needs milk for her tea, the TARDIS lands not in a shop but in a museum. They’re not on Earth. It’s a planet where the people restrain their emotions, and they are memorialized in a museum where the paintings of the dead reveal their unvoiced feelings.

Initially, I was reminded of James Bow‘s Trenchcoat Doctor Who story, “Pictures at an Exhibition.” (Which is very good, by the way, and I recommend it if you don’t mind an alternate-eighth Doctor.)

Then the story goes in some unexpected places. The Doctor discovers a personal connection to the museum. He confronts one of his personal failings, while Martha finds herself lost amidst the whispers of the dead. And it comes to a not-entirely-unexpected, though emotionally moving ending.

The story breaks down into three acts, each roughly eight pages in length. (So, think of this as the rough equivalent of the three-part comic strip in Doctor Who Magazine.) There are moments of pure creepiness, and it’s sold both through the dialogue and the narration. One thing that I think Moore and Reppion get right that Tony Lee got wrong in The Forgotten is that the Doctor is manic and babbley, but he never verges into self-parody. There’s a certain quality to David Tennant’s portrayal that must be hell to capture in prose or in comics, and Moore and Reppion don’t over-egg the pudding there. Then the final page packs a rather unexpected (and major) emotional punch. The story, despite its brevity, never feels slight.

Overall, I’d recommend it. It’s a solid one-and-done. Ben Templesmith’s artwork takes some getting used to; it’s evocative, you can tell what things are, and sometimes the likenesses are dead-on and sometimes they’re only suggestive. It’s not “The Land of Happy Endings” or “The Time of My Life,” but like those stories this is a tale about how the Doctor affects people for the better, and like those it carries some surprising emotional weight.

IDW is following this one-shot with a series of other one-shots until Tony Lee’s monthly series begins this summer. While they all sound interesting, the one I’m looking forward to the most is Autopia, written by John Ostrander and drawn by Kelly Yates, which will feature the tenth Doctor and Donna.

Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade
DC Comics
Written by Landry Walker
Art by Eric Jones

Sometimes, I read off-beat stuff that’s just completely not aimed at me. For instance, I’ve sung the praises of Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane not just once, but twice. 🙂

Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade is a lot like that. This is one of DC’s “Johnny DC” books, designed for an all-ages audience. No continuity with anything else DC has done. Just a story that you can give to a kid and not worry about it.

The premise here? Kara Zor-El ran away from home on a rocket heading to Earth. She can’t go back to Argo City, so her cousin Superman gives her a secret identity — Linda Lee — and she goes to boarding school as a normal eighth grader where she rooms with a girl named Lena who has an older brother in jail named Lex. And over the course of the first four issues, Kara/Linda has had all sorts of comic misadventures. She doesn’t do a great job being a hero, she has to keep her identity secret, and she has no idea that if her best friend/roomie Lena knew who she really was that Lena would hate her guts.

In this issue, Streaky the Super-Cat comes to Earth, takes the school kids hostage, and Supergirl and Lena (in her battlesuit, just like the one Lex Luthor wore in pre-Crisis continuity) have to defeat Streaky and save the school.

It’s completely harmless fun. There’s nothing profound here. The artwork has that stylized look that’s rather common these days (see Penny Arcade, for instance). But it’s all fun. The banter is great, the book is genuinely funny.

If you have kids you want to get hooked on comics, give Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade a try. I did, and I really like it. 🙂

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