It’s difficult to quantify Doctor Who. The series has stretched through multiple generations, soft reboots, and spinoffs. While some folks might love one iteration of the character, they may find another less compelling. Doctor Who: Seventh Doctor #1: Operation Volcano naturally follows the 7th version of the iconic character, famously played by Sylvester McCoy in the TV series.
Doctor Who follows an enigmatic alien called The Doctor with the ability to travel through space and time. This alien’s defining ability is that he (or she, as the case may be) is capable of regenerating their entire body upon death, transforming into a new body with a new personality. This allows for potentially any actor of any age or background to take on the mantle of The Doctor.
Several decades and a whole lot of doctors later, you get Doctor Who: Seventh Doctor #1: Operation Volcano, the first part in the Operation Volcano miniseries. It’s hard to review the first part of a storyline, because you’re really just answering the question, “Did this opening grip me enough to keep reading?” In that regard, I think Seventh Doctor #1 does a pretty good job, but I do have a few nitpicks.
Overall, the story is a standard science fiction plot: Two scientists in Australia are examining the site of a nuclear test, only to discover a massive, insect-like ship. The scientists contact Ian Gilmore, a member of the Royal Air Force and ally of The Doctor, in the hopes of getting The Doctor to investigate the situation.
Most of the main cast wer likeable, but no one really managed to stand out, short of Gilmore and The Doctor’s current companion, Ace. Most of the cast consists of generic military officers dressed in similar uniforms, and I found myself getting confused about who was talking in some scenes.
My biggest complaint, however, is how little The Doctor has to do with the story. The intention seems to be to establish all of the other characters and then let the more established Doctor come center stage in later issues, but having the titular character barely interact felt very strange. I, like most people, get attached to The Doctor and the way s/he views the universe, so without he or she, the story felt like just a standard science fiction tale.
The artwork in the story is great overall but has a few minor issues that hold it back. The backgrounds are heavily detailed, the line art is very strong, and I like the coloring that feels a little more vibrant that most comics of this style. Unfortunately, the characters aren’t so gorgeous. They’re drawn in a realistic style, most likely to attempt to capture the persona of Sylvester McCoy. The characters’ faces fall pretty heavily into the uncanny valley, especially when characters are meant to look happy. Everyone looks and feels a little stiff. I would’ve preferred a little sacrifice in the realism for a more stylized, natural-looking style for the characters.
Doctor Who: Seventh Doctor #1: Operation Volcano didn’t blow me away, but as I said earlier, you can’t view the start of a series the same way you’d view a completed piece. Maybe all of the disparate pieces will come together in the story, and maybe The Doctor will play a bigger role. I think the question is, “Did this book convince me to keep reading the Operation Volcano series?” And yes, it did. I like Gilmore, Ace, and The Doctor, and the mystery is compelling enough that I want to know how it resolves. If you love Doctor Who or science fiction, then Doctor Who: Seventh Doctor #1: Operation Volcano is a safe buy. If you’re a little shaky on the genre or the show, you’re probably safe to give this one a pass.
Creative Team: Andrew Cartmel (Writer), Christopher Jones (Artist), Marco Lesko (Colorist), Ben Aaronovitch (Executive Producer), Richard Starkings (Letters), Jimmy Betancourt (Letters)
Publisher: Titan Comics
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