This review doesn’t come with a trigger warning, that just happens to be the name of Neil Gaiman’s newest short story collection, which was released in early February. As usual, Gaiman delivers a unique cavalcade of stories marching in a variety of different formats. Stories in the first and third person, stories told as one half of an interview transcript, and stories that may read traditionally, but always don a twist. There is truly a wide variety of fiction here, for which Gaiman apologizes in his own introduction.
“I firmly believe that short story collections should be the same sort of thing all the way through. They should not, hodgepodge and willy-nilly, assemble stories that were obviously not intended to sit between the same covers… This collection fails that test. For this failure, as for so much, I request your indulgence and forgiveness…”
Trigger Warning amasses a collection of stories that were not meant to live in the same world, some of which were already given worlds of their own. “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains” and “The Sleeper and the Spindle” already have their own bona-fide illustrated versions. “A Calendar of Tales” assembles all of the material that Gaiman wrote with the help of Twitter and BlackBerry. “Feminine Endings” has been around for ages, and any Gaiman fan has probably been aware of it since Neil first hooked up with Amanda Palmer back in 2009.
Still, there is a character to Gaiman’s writing that remains consistent. An oddness, a strange frankness about the world, that ties these disparate stories together. They are all so very Gaiman-y, which means, in some strange way, that they are all very much ours.
The stories twist and turn and surprise you, in their own way. Some of them are surprisingly funny, like “Orange,” the story of a girl answering questions about her sister turning into a god. [This happens to be one of my personal favorites from the collection]. There are the takes on classic horror (“Click-Clack the Rattlebag”), a Doctor Who story (featuring the 11th Doctor and Amy, so what’s not to love?), a Sherlock story, and a tale following the American Gods hero, Shadow. Then there are the heart-breaking new characters, making their first and only appearance in this book.
It is a worthwhile collection that possesses the ability to turn any short-story naysayer around.
Comics Review: Doctor Who: Skyjacks Vol. 3 by various
Review by: Prof. Jenn
This is a fun TARDIS-dimension-loop story which are enjoyable because of how timey-wimey they get. This is an 11th Doctor/Clara story, and we get more about the Time War, information and fun images re: the various rooms in the TARDIS, and get to hobnob with some valiant WWII soldiery. There are various references to the previous Hypothetical Gentleman storyline, but not so much they’ll get in your way if you’ve missed it.
There’s an extra, unrelated story attached to this volume called “In-Fez-Station”, which is an 11th Doctor/Amy & Rory tale which involves the Slitheen, and mind-controlling fezes. Yes, you heard me, the fezes are evil. Or at least tools for such. Really bouncy and light-hearted fun after the epic, timey-wimey feel of the longer Skyjacks story.
Bottom Line: recommended, especially for fans of the 11th Doctor.
Bonus Review: Dead Man’s Hand #3 by various
Now I haven’t had the pleasure of catching the first two in the Dead Man’s Hand story, so admittedly I was a tetch lost re: who’s who and what’s happening. What I can say is that this is a fun romp in the Wild West with a meta twist, referencing Westerns all over the place. It does get a tad long-winded, as all the Doctors explain his philosophy to Sondrah. But oo, look: the War Doctor actually makes an appearance!
Bottom Line: definitely only if you’ve been following the story till now. But I do recommend it.
Comics Review: Doctor Who Prisoners of Time #9-12 by various
Review by: Prof. Jenn
The Prisoners of Time storyline that continues with the recent Doctors and concludes pre-Capaldi with a twelfth issue is a fitting and compelling cap to the story up till now. What has been highly entertaining about the whole series is the dedication of one “episode” each per Doctor, with a thrilling, classic episode-like throughline for the whole thing. In general, the stories are varied enough yet coherent to the throughline that it reads like an actual series you’d find on TV. The art is also varied as per each artist, yet maintains a high quality we’ve come to expect from the Who comics and again makes us almost think we’re watching favorite episodes on TV.
#9 is of course starring the 9th Doctor (and Rose). It’s a fun megalomanaiacal villain who captures Rose both as a selfish romantic interest, and to trap the Doctor. (Incidentally, is it me or are you sick of Rose as a romantic interest?) The art is very Lichtenstein, very cinematic.
#10 stars the 10th doctor and Martha, and is a charming story set in 1950s Hollywood, where Martha is recruited as an actress. Lovely cute moments, including one where Martha declares: “I’m acquainted with Shakespeare.” Ha! Of course, it’s an alien invasion of Earth. Because you can’t have too many of those.
#11 centers around the 11th Doctor’s climactic attempts to stop Adam’s machinations through time. At this point, Adam has captured all of the Doctor’s companions and it’s finally time to put a stop to it. Wonderfully dramatic moment when the villain pontificates (as Doctor Who villains are wont to do) on why he hates the Doctor so, and poof! Who’s he in league with? The Master! Thanks to the artists for making him the Delgado Master, too.
#12 is the conclusion to the whole story, which I won’t spoil, other than in #11 the Doctor was posed with a moral conundrum and in this concluding issue must solve it. What I will say, though, is that this is the Three/Five Doctors episode all Whovians fantasize about, that could never happen on television: all 11 Doctors and *all* companions facing the evil Master in an over-the-top, dramatic showdown. All of them, that is, as we knew them on TV. In comics, apparently, one can time-travel just a little better than on TV.
Bottom Line: I recommend this whole storyline, but especially had fun with the conclusion.
Comics Review: Dr. Who Classics Vol. 9 [by various and sundry]
Review by: Prof. Jenn
The ninth collection of Classic Who comics are all centered on the 7th Doctor, which is a lot of fun, as he’s not one that often gets his own spotlight in fandom or on TV these days. Many of the selections are light, comedic, and sometimes downright silly, and all read like a good classic episode, which is really what you want out of a volume like this. In general, the art is bold and colorful, the characters well drawn–it’s a matter of finding the balance between representing a fictional character and having a good dose of the actor’s likeness who played him. Some of the time this illustrated Doctor doesn’t look much at all like Sylvester McCoy, but the overall light-hearted ness of the collection makes this not such a big deal. In general, I’d recommend this collection for any classic Who fan. Here are some notes on the individual stories within vol. 9:
“Time and Tide”
This one is a very Star Trek TNG style plot: do you interfere with the clues aliens to save them, or do you leave them to their fate? It’s a sweet little tale with a lovely ending, and it’s the kind of story I’m glad is illustrated instead of on live tv, as the aliens are allowed to look really weird without the jarring effect of a dude in a rubber suit (or CGI).
“Follow that TARDIS”
A futuristic world in which there are stereotypical ’40s gangsters and Sinatra is president? Yes, please. This is such a slapstick-silly romp: what happens when two hilariously inept gangsters hijack the Doctor and his TARDIS to chase a monk through time? And one of them has a hand-held nuke? Hijinks, that’s what.
“Invaders From Gantac”
The poor Doctor just can’t seem to find Maruthea. Poor guy. This one centers around an alternate 1992 dystopia, wherein aliens have invaded London. But the aliens have got the wrong planet, and it’s up to the Doctor to convince them of this. We have an endearing hobo character in Leapy, and his function does end up being quite important, but I’m just not sure about his effectiveness as a character. He seems more of a punch line.
“Nemesis of the Daleks”
I’ve already reviewed one of the issues in this story, and my opinion of the whole rains the same, after it’s resolution, etc. so. Yeah.
“Stairway to Heaven”
Hm. This one falls short. It’s too much a redone “Carnival of Monsters” but without the suspense.
“Hunger from the Ends of Time”
The art in this one is much sketchier in the outlines than the rest, and it’s very pleasing to the eye. Also, you gotta love a giant library/giant bookworm plot! I mean, this is no Vashta Nerada, but it’s still an exciting one-off monster tale of huge proportions. “Sainted geeks preserve us” is something I will say from now on.
Yay Sarah Jane! Oo and we have a terror-on-a-train story, with squicky bug-like aliens! So very fun!
Bottom Line: this is a fun, rollicking collection. Definitely recommended.
Review: Doctor Who Prisoners of Time Vol.2 by Tipton, Tipton, Bond, Ridgway, Hopgood, Langridge, et. al
Review by: Prof. Jenn
This newest collection follows a mysterious cloaked figure as he ports himself through time to snatch the companions of the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Doctors for some nefarious purpose known only to him. It’s a gripping opening sequence as we are walked through several panels of earlier companions, trapped and apparently sleeping, behind glass and fear for the upcoming companions’ fate while waxing nostalgic about the earlier Doctors.
The art in this collection varies widely between the various artists, as you’d imagine, but they’re all equally high quality in both story and art. Well, except for the last one in the collection.
I was delighted to see a story featuring the 8th Doctor–he doesn’t get nearly the attention he deserves in the expanded Who canon, and it was neat to see him pop up after 5-7, right in order. But the art quality of this one was too cartoony without being charming (especially after having enjoyed the previous selections), and the storyline was so cliched as to be eye-rolling.
Bottom line: It’s a great collection, the last story notwithstanding. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
Book Review: About Time 7 by Tat Wood / Dorothy Ail
Review by: Prof. Jenn
The About Time series claims to be “the most comprehensive, wide-ranging, and at times almost unnervingly detailed handbook to Doctor Who that you might ever conceivably need” (p.5). This claim is absolutely true–it’s exhaustive in its detail, backstory, commentary, critical analysis, and etc. of episode by episode. If you’re a Doctor Who fan, these are a way to bolster your nerdly knowledge (or at least solve arguments as a reference).
Volume 7 of About Time covers the very beginning of the new Who: years 2005-2006, Series 1&2. Each episode is gone through with a fine-toothed comb, one by one, with such discussion categories as: Which One Is This?, Catchphrase Counter, History, Deus ex Machina, Analysis, Continuity, and Things that Don’t Make Sense, among many others. There are also essays interspersed with the episode sections, which honestly got into a slightly annoying flip-back-and-forth-between-pieces like a magazine. It’s enlightening to know not only the TV production culture surrounding the creation of these eps, but also the actors’ backgrounds, combined with the connection of the stories and characters to the old Who. It’s a particularly nerdily useful thing when the author refers back to previous volumes so one can flip back and forth to see how monsters recur and evolve, how the Doctor has changed and yet stayed the same, between the old series and the new.
Bottom Line: I highly recommend the About Time series in general, and volume 7 is stellar in its detail.
A few hours ago, The BBC announced who the 12th Doctor will be in the hit series, Doctor Who. So that means at this point that the entire internet knows. In case you’re new to the ‘Who, however, here’s a little info to clue you in. The 50th anniversary episode is coming up around Christmas time (that’s not 50 episodes, just for clarity, that’s 50 years since the series started), and current front-runner, Matt Smith, announced about two months ago that he was leaving the show at that time. If you listened carefully in that moment, you would have heard the thud of millions of Whovian hearts breaking a little bit, in unison.
However, that is the nature of the story: Timelords regenerate, and the story goes on. Today, we are welcoming Peter Capaldi as the twelfth Doctor to grace the series. Capaldi has had a long, celebrated career, and is welcomed with open arms by many fans. Just in case you need a little convincing, or are having trouble placing him, here are a just a couple roles you’re likely to remember him from.
John Frobisher was the Permanent Secretary to the Home Office and Torchwood Three’s liaison to the British government. (TV: Children of Earth: Day Two) He was later appointed informal ambassador to the 456. Passionate and driven, his job became increasingly difficult when all around him began to shirk any responsibility for the disaster that was unfolding.
This TV mini-series, based on the beautiful and brilliant novel by Neil Gaiman, aired in 1996, and also starred Gary Bakewell, Laura Fraser, and Clive Russell.
The band starred a young Peter Capaldi on vocals with an equally young Libby McArthur guesting on backing vocals (who was singer in, the pre His Latest Flame, Sophisticated Boom Boom with Jaqeuline Bradley). Temple Clark on Bass Guitar & Robert Livsey on Drums completed the line up. Trivia fact-Comedian Craig Ferguson had also played drums with The Dreamboys.
This little bit of trivia is just plain fun.
And, of course, like seemingly most British television actors at this point, Capaldi has already been in an episode of Doctor Who. Funny enough, it’s the same episode in which Karen Gillan first made her appearance on the show (as a cultist / soothsayer), long before she took on the role of Amy Pond.
Lucius Caecilius Iucundus was a man who lived in Pompeii before Vesuvius erupted in 79. Husband of Metella and father to Evelina and Quintus, Caecilius was a marble trader with political ambitions.
Of course, Capaldi has been in many, many other things throughout the course of his career, and even played the W.H.O. Doctor in the recent zombie flick, World War Z. I’m sure he will, no doubt, be a wonderful addition to the show. Still, it would have been nice to see a new face on the show, especially a less traditional one (I think we all considered Idris Elba at one point or another, right?).
Although, while I anxiously await Capaldi’s Doctor portrayal, personally, I really would have like to have seen Damien Molony take on the role.
I guess we’ll just have to see how things go with the Christmas Special on November 23rd.
Happy Sunday, everyone.
Comics Review: Two of Doctor Who
Skyjacks #2 by Diggle, Robson, Kuhn, etc.
Dr. Who Classics: “Nemesis of the Daleks” #s 1-3 by Starkings, Tomlinson, Sullivan, etc.
Review by: Prof. Jenn
This is a fun and exciting installment in the 11th Doctor comic series–we begin with the Doctor returning from a years-long mystery trip and it’s up to him and Clara to figure out what the heck is going on. There are friendly military to help (giving yours truly a fond nostalgic think-back to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), and you can’t deny a giant flying robotic pterodactyl. You just can’t.
The art is minimalist, with very thick outlines and a bare minimum of shading, etc. which is quite appealing and effective for the tight storyline.
Bottom Line: Recommended. Actually, I can’t wait to see what happens next!
I do enjoy the classic Doctor quite a bit, as the Old School versions are ones I grew up with, and thereby they hold a special place in my heart. The 7th doctor isn’t one of those in my childhood canon, though I do appreciate those eps in the TV series. “Nemesis of the Daleks” has an interesting premise, as we meet an enemy of the Daleks that could potentially be deadlier to the Daleks than even the Doctor. Absalom Daak is supposed to be charming rogue with a passionate goal of revenge, but he falls way flat as a character. His torrid backstory is cliched and his interaction with the Doctor is like a much less interesting 4th Doctor/Leela dynamic, with the Doctor attempting to make Daak more civilised and not violently impulsive, and Daak insisting his rough-and-tumble ways are best. I just didn’t find the story all that compelling.
The artwork is quite good–a mild Mignola-esque flavor and interesting fight scenes. The 7th Doctor looks enough like the actor that we know who it is, without it being a series of actor portraits, but character illustration instead. The art didn’t save the story, however.
Bottom Line: Skip this one, unless you are the kind of collector that is a completist.
Review: Queers Dig Time Lords, ed. by Sigrid Ellis and Michael Damian Thomas
Review by: Prof. Jenn
Now, when I get a book to review, I always make an effort to read it in its entirety before composing my review. This is because a) I’m thankfully a fast reader, and b) I feel that if I don’t read the entire book, I can’t really make a fair judgment on the book. So I read these in as close to one sitting as I possibly can. Maybe this habit stems from acting school, where my professors insisted we read the entire play from which we took our scenes and monologues. But I digress.
Queers Dig Time Lords is not the kind of book you want to read like this. It’s a collection of essays by various and sundry authors, spanning topics from how Doctor Who is gay-friendly, to how its fan-base is gay-friendly, to memoir-like musing on how the show helped the author through coming out, through queer character-analysis (especially a repeated celebration of Jack Harkness) and comparisons of the geek closet to the homosexual closet. But if you sit down with this book and read all the essays one after the other, it does start to get too repetitive for maximum enjoyment.
But that’s okay–this is the kind of book to come back to in short bursts time and time again, for scholarly reference, warm and fuzzy memoir enjoyment, and geek celebration. It’s a stellar collection, and anyone who’s interested in social studies, sexuality/gender studies, or just loves Doctor Who will welcome this book on their school or geek-themed book shelf.
Bottom Line: Highly recommended.
Comics review: Dr. Who Prisoners of Time #4 by Tipton, Tipton, Erskine and Kirchoff & Dr. Who #8 Space Oddity Part 2 by Fialkov, Domingues, Ponce, Gonzalez and Salmon
Review by Prof.
Part 2 takes up where we left off, with the Vashta Nerada having stolen the TARDIS. This can’t be good. But the Doctor always has a plan. Or at least, he thinks really well off the cuff.
This issue is a tighly-paced, exciting story with a fun Doctor-changes-history-slightly conclusion with all the fun 11th-Doctor quips and action you want out of a comic. And the moral that violence is never the answer.
The art is colorful and comicky, which is perfect for an action-packed plot like this one. The Doctor is rendered close enough to Matt Smith that we recognize him, without having to be a faithful portrait of the actor, but more an illustration of the character.
Bottom line: Recommended, especially for Dr. Who fans.
Prisoners of Time
What a treat, to see “my” Doctor rendered in comic form! I haven’t kept up with any of the comics featuring the classic Who regenerations, and this issue makes me want to start.
This is a classic 4th Doctor tale, with Leela and K-9 helping him solve the mystery of the problems found on a planet they landed on by mistake. And there’s Judoon, which is cool.
I would actually make the same comment about this art as above: the character portrayal, the bright colors, the tight pace matching the writing…
Bottom line: Highly recommended. It’s like watching a good old ep.