Hugo Reading Progress

2024 Hugo Awards Progress
30 / 57 items read/watched (52.63%)
3375 / 7751 pages read (43.54%)
495 / 1360 minutes watched (36.40%)

15 May 2024

The White Dragon (From Stockbridge to Beyond Segonus: A Doctor Who Magazine Comics Marathon, Part 52)

The White Dragon: Collected comic strips from the pages of Doctor Who Magazine
by Martin Geraghty, Scott Gray, Russ Leach, Jacqueline Rayner, and David A Roach

Collection published: 2024
Contents originally published: 2020-22
Acquired and read: March 2024

It's finally here... but one can't help being disappointed. While The Mistress of Chaos gave us eighteen months' worth of comics, which came out to eighteen strips, The White Dragon is over two years of comics... yet only fifteen strips. The factors involved are no one's fault, of course, but it's disappointing that Jodie Whittaker was the incumbent Doctor for four years yet received the smallest run of strips since Eccleston; it's also disappointing that these volumes have been getting progressively slimmer since The Crimson Hand and that this one couldn't extend to collecting all of Jodie's run.

I have read all of this before, but distribution of DWM in America was particularly erratic during this era, and I read many of these stories stretched out over months or even out of sequence; I think I got one of the later issues of Hydra's Gate before the first. In particular, I was pleased to get to read The White Dragon in one go.

The Piggybackers, from Doctor Who Magazine #549-552 (Apr.-July 2020)
story by Scott Gray, pencil art by Martin Geraghty, inks by David A Roach, colours by James Offredi, lettering by Roger Langridge
The Doctor and the fam land in America during the Cuban Missile Crisis; aliens are of course afoot. You can always count on Scott Gray for a decently put together story with interesting visuals and nice moments, and marry him to Martin Geraghty, and of course it's a recipe for success. I enjoyed this story, particularly the titular piggybackers and how they looked. Geraghty does some great work throughout (right from the first page, with the "Duck and Cover" riff), but I did feel like it didn't totally come together; there's an attempt to subvert expectations that kind of left it fizzling out at the end when it ought to have been exploding. The climax is over very quickly. I do like how careful Gray is to give everyone something to do; not to spend all my time ragging on the show, but it was rarely so deliberate during this era.
from Doctor Who Magazine #560
The White Dragon, from Doctor Who Magazine #559-62 (Jan.-Apr. 2021)
story & art by Scott Gray, colour art by James Offredi, lettering by Roger Langridge
Scott Gray bows out of DWM with the third story that he both wrote and illustrated; I enjoyed both of his previous goes, but this is the best of them, and it's a good way to bow out. No big torturous epic involving the history of Gallifrey; just a sharply done celebrity historical in an interesting location with a cool guest star and a bunch of nice moments for Ryan. (Ryan spent a lot of The Piggybackers mute, so it's good to see him get a meaty part here to balance things out.) This to me is pure DWM, one of those stories I find it hard to comment on because it doesn't do anything flashy but it does everything right. A story of kung fu is perfect for Gray's cartoony dynamism, and this story has a lot of great visuals and good beats. If the tv show ever did a Bruce Lee episode, we would be lucky if it was half this good.
from Doctor Who Magazine #571
The Forest Bride / It's Behind You!, from Doctor Who Magazine #570-72 (Dec. 2021–Jan. 2022)
story by Jacqueline Rayner, art by Russ Leach, coloring by Pippa Bowland and Mike Summers, lettering by Roger Langridge
I get that the strip is working under constraints here. As Rayner spells out in the extras, there had to be fewer pages, fewer panels per page, and even fewer words per panel! (The last one surprised me; does that let them pay Roger Langridge less?) But whatever the reason, I found these weird, unenjoyable stories. The writing clearly struggles with the space alloted; in The Forest Bride, the Doctor knows all about someone's daughter, but going over and back over the strip, I can't figure out where she actually learned this. The conclusion is too cursory and quick to work. Similarly, I didn't really get what It's Behind You! was going for; there's just a bunch of scrambling about and then the story's over. Even though it's a premise clearly tailor-made for jokes about pantomime, there are almost no jokes about pantomime, just fairly pointless action. And if you've heard Oh No It Isn't!, you'll know this isn't because Jac Rayner doesn't know how to makes jokes about panto.

I don't think Russ Leach's art is quite supporting what Rayner's writing is doing. In the notes, Rayner talks about the creepy vibe she wanted for The Forest Bride, but I didn't think the art gave it that, especially the coloring, which is all too bright and cheerful. (On part two, the coloring is credited to Pippa Bowland, but there is no credited colorist for part one.)
from Doctor Who Magazine #575
Hydra's Gate, from Doctor Who Magazine #574-77 (Mar.-June 2022)
story by Jacqueline Rayner, art by Russ Leach, colour by Mike Summers, lettering by Roger Langridge
Unfortunately, giving Rayner and Leach a bigger canvas doesn't result in better work. This four-part story is a bit of a jumpy struggle; I think they're trying to make it all work with economic storytelling, but too often it's just confusing. "Yaz has found the Legionary!" Hang on, was she looking for one? Since when? It's not just the writing, but also the art; I had to reread a sequence on the last page of part one several times to figure who was speaking and where a kid had come from, and in part four there's a bit where a robot loses its head but the Doctor catches it in a net I kept going back over to puzzle out. Again, things seemed terribly underexplained, and the climax rushed, introducing a new jeopardy only to resolve it instantly more than once. Reading Rayner's notes in the back, I think there's a good story here, but it probably needed eight pages per installment and a lot more panels per page to tell it.
Stray Observations:
  • Liberation of the Daleks didn't say "Doctor Who Magazine Graphic Novel" in its indicia, and that this is #32 to The Age of Chaos's #31 indicates Liberation doesn't count. But in this era of triple dipping (the Abslom Daak strips have appeared in Nemesis of the Daleks, Daleks: The Ultimate Comic Strip Collection, and soon Return of the Daleks), I can't help but worry this means someday we're going to get a "Doctor Who Magazine Graphic Novel" that does have Liberation in it...
  • For some reason, part two of The Piggybackers is six pages instead of the usual eight. I don't think we can blame COVID for this, based on the dates.
  • We'll never know (well, hopefully we will someday, but I imagine not in the short term) what plans Gray might have had had he stayed on the strip: who was Mother G? Rereading The Piggybackers, I feel like he was setting up some stuff here too. The US's Brideport is compared to the UK's Stockbridge, and the story ends with the Doctor making a comment about how Abner Endicott was going to keep watch over the town, which felt unusually significant. Was this all going somewhere? Anyway, my bonkers theory is that Mother G was Mother Goose!
  • If you read the extras hoping for some insight into Gray's departure from the strip, you won't find it here. But I suppose we've got one more graphic novel with his content forthcoming, whenever Monstrous Beauty ends up being reprinted, so he's not done yet.
  • The departure of Ryan and Graham (between The White Dragon and The Forest Bride) gives them 26 strips as main companions, which ties them with Peri and Fey for eighth-longest run. (Yaz's run, which will top out at forty when she finally leaves after The Everlasting Summer, puts her in third, behind only Izzy and Clara!)
  • Russ Leach's comments on Hydra's Gate actually cover his entire run on the strip, so I imagine we won't be hearing from him in future volumes.
  • Martin Geraghty mentions in his notes that it's January 2024 as he writes them, which seems like an astonishingly quick turnaround for a book that was shipped by the end of February!
  • This volume gives almost every contributor cover credit, even the inker and two colourists. Interestingly, it does so in alphabetical order, as opposed to the usual precedence/prominence technique used on previous volumes. This makes it one of few DWM graphic novels to give first billing to a non-writer on the cover, and the first to do so in a very long time. (The others, fact fans: The Iron Legion, Dragon's Claw, The Tides of Time [all Dave Gibbons], Voyager, The World Shapers [both John Ridgway], and End Game [Martin Geraghty]).
  • I didn't notice until I shelved it, but even though this collection doesn't have the cover design the graphic novels have used since 2012, it does (unlike Liberation) maintain the spine design.

This post is the fifty-second in a series about the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip and Marvel UK. The next installment covers Return of the Daleks. Previous installments are listed below:

  1. The Iron Legion
  2. Dragon's Claw 
  3. The Transformers Classics UK, Volume One
  4. The Tides of Time
  5. The Transformers Classics UK, Volume Two
  6. Voyager
  7. The Transformers Classics UK, Volume Three
  8. The World Shapers
  9. The Transformers Classics UK, Volume Four
  10. The Age of Chaos
  11. The Transformers Classics UK, Volume Five
  12. A Cold Day in Hell!
  13. Death's Head: Freelance Peacekeeping Agent (part 1)
  14. Nemesis of the Daleks
  15. Death's Head: Freelance Peacekeeping Agent (part 2)
  16. The Good Soldier
  17. The Incomplete Death's Head
  18. Evening's Empire
  19. The Daleks
  20. Emperor of the Daleks
  21. The Sleeze Brothers File
  22. The Age of Chaos
  23. Land of the Blind
  24. Ground Zero
  25. End Game
  26. The Glorious Dead
  27. Oblivion
  28. Transformers: Time Wars and Other Stories
  29. The Flood
  30. The Cruel Sea 
  31. The Betrothal of Sontar
  32. The Widow's Curse
  33. The Crimson Hand
  34. The Child of Time
  35. The Chains of Olympus
  36. Hunters of the Burning Stone
  37. The Blood of Azrael
  38. The Eye of Torment
  39. The Highgate Horror
  40. Doorway to Hell
  41. Daleks: The Ultimate Comic Strip Collection, Volume 1
  42. The Phantom Piper
  43. Daleks: The Ultimate Comic Strip Collection, Volume 2
  44. The Clockwise War
  45. Death's Head: Clone Drive / Revolutionary War
  46. Skywatch-7
  47. Mistress of Chaos
  48. Transformers: Aspects of Evil! and Other Stories
  49. Transformers: ...Perchance to Dream and Other Stories
  50. Cybermen: The Ultimate Comic Strip Collection
  51. Liberation of the Daleks

No comments:

Post a Comment