November: Doctor Who: Oblivion, by Scott Gray and Martin Geraghty, Lee Sullivan, John Ross, Robin Smith & Adrian Salmon

The Eighth Doctor and Izzy Sinclair are back in a series of exciting adventures with intestinal jungles, Frida Kahlo, the Daleks… Wait, Izzy who? Well, herein lies a tale:
Doctor Who Magazine, the official, er, magazine, has been running Who strips since it was Doctor Who Weekly in 1979. When Paul McGann became the Doctor and there was no TV series or (at the start) book series using him, the Magazine leapt at the chance to have their ‘own’ Doctor to do things with. This is the third of four weighty graphic novels detailing his strip adventures, and the third with comic companion Izzy Sinclair, a teenaged sci-fi geek whose first response to the Tardis was disappointment that it wasn’t techy enough.
It’s also the first ever! run of DWM strips in colour, and the first strip of Oblivion is all about playing with that, as the Tardis is eaten by a huge outer-space snake robot who has a fleet of ships and feral, utterly implausible alien packs running around in its intestinal jungle. Scott Gray is a writer looking back to the 60s Who-related strips, the mad ones with Quarks wielding armies of robot maids and Giant Wasps and the Doctor meeting Father Christmas, as well as Silver Age Marvels. Like the best of such writers, he takes the visual splendour and madcap invention of those days and supports them with clever plotting, humour, and a lot of heart and emotion. Emotion, in fact, will play a large part: the seemingly harmless adventures and encounter with action-star fish-girl Destrii take a sharp, nasty turn near the end, and Izzy is left in a very dark place that the Doctor may not be able to solve. Not that this will stop him…
‘I’m not scared of monsters. They’re scared of me.’
While two trades come before this, Oblivion is very new reader friendly: an earlier character, Fey Truscott-Sade, may be the main point of confusion but all her details are explained in-strip (WW2 British spy, bonded with an alien superbeing) and is also the better collection: there’s one story running through the whole thing, overseen by one writer, with a firm and powerful ending. It also comes with an array of behind-the-scenes data on the writing and a nine-page strip where the Master battles Victorian literary supervillains in the Land of Fiction (no, really). It’s also got the strongest showing for female characters: Izzy and Fey both get a lot of meaty scenes and are distinct characters, and the supporting cast also includes historical artist Frida Kahlo in an important role.
And if you want more, Eccleston/Tennant era showrunner Russell T Davies was such a big fan of the Gray strips that he not only sent in fan-mail (one of them gets quoted in the backmatter), they were offered the chance to do the canonical regeneration into the Ninth Doctor, as detailed in the fourth trade. That’s right, this stuff is canon: so now you have to buy it, right?
Violence: Frequent, but sci-fi/fantasy violence (zapping rays and ‘splode) rather than anything graphic. Exceptions are a WW2 flashback, which implies real-world gun violence, and a combat scene in the final story Oblivion.
Sexualized Violence: The Doctor gets pinned down and kissed against his will by a female antagonist (mainly to piss him off)
Gender: Fairly mixed, with three leading female roles of different temperament; Frida Kahlo as an important supporting character in one serial; two female villains; female tertiary ally in the Dalek story; multiple female antagonists with differing agendas
The Bechdel-Wallace Test: Constantly passing: female characters talk about culture, home lives, reasons for exploration, dealing with disability, science experiments, threats, the monster plots…
Minorities: Half the strips involve human cast rather than aliens: one of these is set in Mexico with an entirely Mexican cast (bar the Doctor, Izzy, and the monsters); a human sub-base captain in the Dalek story is a black male, with several non-white crew; . Both Izzy and Fey are gay (Izzy closeted).
Parents May Wish to Be Aware: One or two swear words in the strips, some ruder; child abuse themes in the final strip (but in sci-fi/fantasy terms).
Review by Charles RB