25 July 2014

Review: Doctor Who: Tesseract by Tony Lee, Al Davison, & Blair Shedd

Comic PDF eBook, 134 pages
Published 2010 (contents: 2009-10)
Acquired May 2014
Read July 2014
Doctor Who, Volume 2: Tesseract

Written by Tony Lee
Art by Al Davison & Blair Shedd
Colors by Lovern Kindzierski & Charlie Kirchoff
Lettering by Neil Uyetake & Robbie Robbins

What's with the dreary covers on these collections? Anyway, it was a preview of the first issue collected here that back in the day convinced me I was right about my decision to skip the IDW ongoing. And on reading it in context, it's still awful. Though Al Davison's art in Fugitive was good, his characters are just ugly here, especially his David Tennant and his Matthew (even though he invented Matthew's appearance!). The dialogue is unnatural and awkward, and there are random, forced continuity references.

So, Tesseract completely squanders all the potential I saw being built up in Fugitive. We find out what the deal of the Shadow Advocate is, but it's just not satisfying: when Finch killed her, she was actually flung back into the Time War and she witnessed its final moments over and over again before escaping. Having seen what the Doctor did, she wants to kill him. But the only reason she got flung into the Time War is because after she escaped, she told Finch to send her back! Predestination paradoxes can sometimes drain the drama out of situations, and this is one of those cases: a writer can make a character do anything, no matter how implausible, on the pretext that they had to do it to maintain the loop. And though I kinda like the idea that someone seeing the Doctor use the Moment to wipe out the Time Lords and the Daleks would conclude that he's too dangerous to have around (the Doctor himself reaches that conclusion in "The Parting of the Ways," after all), she just acts like a generic scheming villain, using complicated plots to ensnare the Doctor for no readily apparent reason when she could just kill him multiple times. Also the plot requires a number of people who should know better (like UNIT) to trust the Shadow Advocate against all reason. What is it with the unlikeability of the new-series UNIT commanders? Until Kate Stewart, the show (and its spin-offs) seemed intent on giving us a series of assholes.

The new companions are not great, either. I liked them all right in Fugitive, but Tony Lee can't write them as people to save his life. I get what he's trying to do, but it doesn't work because it lacks all subtlety; Emily is all "I NEED A GUN TO FEEL SAFE" and Matthew is "I DON'T TRUST THE DOCTOR BECAUSE A WOMAN I JUST MET TOLD ME NOT TO." Why does Matthew listen to the Shadow Advocate? Who knows. The Doctor points out that the flaws in her story indicate she's manipulating him, and he basically goes, "She might be a manipulator, but she learned it from you, even though the only person who told me that was her, who we just established as an untrustworthy liar." I can't bring myself to care about either of these characters because there's nothing likeable or interesting about them. Also, Lee seems to keep forgetting they're from the 1920s, as Matthew explains he was too busy to read The Lord of the Rings (and not, perhaps, too from-the-past), and Emily does the "the TARDIS doesn't look like a proper spaceship" bit seemingly obligatory for new-series companions, but I'm not sure really makes sense for someone from the 1920s.

I haven't even talked about the stories here, but I didn't really like either of them. "Tesseract" is flimsy while "Don't Step on the Grass" is just an overcrowded mess of elements that don't work together.

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