Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Review: Endgame (Graphic Novel)

(Originally posted May 31, 2006 at the Doctor Who Ratings Guide.)

"Why, yes," he said afterwards. "That was quite fun."

The first collection of Eighth Doctor adventures from DWM (Endgame, The Keep, Fire and Brimstone, Tooth and Claw, The Final Chapter, and Wormwood, with bonus strips A Life of Matter and Death and By Hook or By Crook) are basically, in sum, a mad romp of action-oriented stories that go for scope over substance, never letting the chance to pull off a big cliffhanger or huge visual concept pass them by. This is a lot more fun than it sounds on paper, primarily because this is what comics work best at: "And then space turned all white," doesn't sound great on paper, but when you can actually see it happening as the leader of the Threshold gestures to it, it's pretty freaking cool.

And Endgame is full of these moments. Reading these strips, for the first time I actually understood why someone thought Alan Barnes could write Doctor Who stories (something I'll admit I never got from Storm Warning, Neverland or Zagreus): these are stories suited to his style, big huge concepts that splash out over the page and make you want to gasp. Plus, he writes a heroic Doctor who does heroic things and is the prime motivator of the story (and wins at the end), which I have to give him props for, having ripped previous DWM comic writers for not doing so in the past (and previous other Doctor Who writers as well). But the name-dropping thing has to go. Please.

Izzy is... unfortunate. I think she worked better in concept than she ever did in the strip, the idea of someone climbing onto the TARDIS who's an actual sci-fi fan and familiar with all the tropes of the worlds the Doctor will encounter... in practice, she just seems to be a sci-fi quote generator stuck onto Generic Companion Template #1, The Plucky Young Lass Who Tries To Help. Fey is interesting, but gets substantially more so by the end of the story.

About which I honestly don't want to say too much, other than to say, if you've come at this through the graphic novels, you'll be really surprised at how far the stories have come since The Iron Legion in terms of integrating their storylines together into a coherent, planned work. Stories like The Keep deliberately set up things in Fire and Brimstone, elements dropped into Fire and Brimstone set up important plot points in Wormwood, and there's a huge twist in The Final Chapter that then gets another huge twist added onto it in Wormwood to great effect. (Although it would have been even better if they'd not put it on a right-hand page. It's something you should have to turn the page to see. But oh well. Layout is too complex for me to quibble over.) The Tides of Time did some stuff like this, but this book really does take it to a whole other level. (Plus, the Threshold get their comeuppance, which is nice for me because I really, really, really hated the story where they killed Ace.)

The art, by the by, is nice: not flashy, but clear and simple, a definite virtue for these stories.

On the whole, possibly my favorite collection yet, and I'm certainly looking forward to The Glorious Dead.

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