Writers: Emma Beeby and Gordon Rennie
Artist: Brian Williamson
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt
Designer: Rob Farmer
Main Covers: Alice X. Zhang, Will Brooks, Brian Williamson, Jay Gunn, Matt Baxter, Ben Oliver, Blair Shedd and Simon Myers
(A number of special covers have also been generated for different comic shops)
The Comic: Titan continue their line of Doctor Who comics with a brand-new four-part story, which sees the Doctor and his companion, Sarah Jane Smith on a jaunt to Victorian London. After a visit to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, they’re plunged into an adventure featuring cyclopean aliens, a mysterious, veiled lady and a ‘gallery’ full of creepy statues!
The Review: I picked this up on a whim, having had my attention drawn to it by one of its variant covers while browsing in my local comic shop. This ‘Mad magazine’-esque cover by Matt Baxter shows the Doctor gleefully plucking a glowing, red jelly baby from a bag of its fellows while staring out at the reader.
The interior art is, however, by Brian Williamson rather than Baxter. This, to be honest, is a good thing. Despite the fact that I adore Baxter’s art, it would seem incongruous in a comic that takes its cues from the Gothic, grand guignol-stylings of the Fourth Doctor’s first few seasons. This story is far more Talons of Weng-Chiang than it is Warriors’ Gate, which is not necessarily a good or bad thing in itself; it just reflects an aesthetic choice that has been made by the comic’s creators.
Williamson’s art has a dynamic clarity that suits Gaze of the Medusa. He knows how to compose a page and how to make action flow. His figure-work, however, is still a little bit unpolished and there were times when it felt as though he had relied too heavily on photo-reference for his two leads; the result being that their facial features do, on occasion, have a fixed and stilted rather than truly expressive look. These are minor quibbles, however, and on the whole, Williamson does well. I particularly liked his treatment of the cyclopean aliens who end up in a tussle with the Doctor and Sarah Jane; statuesque figures whose height and physically imposing nature is emphasized by the compositional choices Williamson has made. In terms of conjuring up the Gothic milieu in which Gaze of the Medusa is set, the artist is ably assisted by colourist Hi-Fi, whose muted colour scheme serves the story well.
Williamson is fortunate, of course, to be working with two very talented writers in the form of Emma Beeby and Gordon Rennie. They’ve crafted a rip-roaring page-turner with lots of meaty visuals for the artist to get his creative teeth into, such as the aforementioned aliens and creepy ‘gallery’. The writers have also got the Doctor and Sarah Jane’s ‘voices’ right (an important detail in a comic whose core readership is bound, justifiably, to care about that kind of thing!)
(I should probably note at this point as I’m talking about the writing that if I’ve been a bit coy about the precise details of the story in this review, that’s because I don’t want to spoil for potential readers what is a thoroughly enjoyable romp.)
Gaze of the Medusa harks back to one of the most successful periods in Doctor Who’s history, when the show was riding high in terms of both its popularity and creative energy. It is to the credit of the team behind this new Fourth Doctor mini-series that they’ve crafted something that wouldn’t have seemed out of place as an ‘episode one’ during those halcyon days. Gaze of the Medusa, Part One is a fast-paced adventure with thrills, spills and a cracking cliffhanger that left this reader at least wanting much, much more.
• Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor #1: Gaze of the Medusa is on sale in all good comic shops now (and some run by Zygons). Check out many of the covers here on forbiddenplanet.com
Matt Badham is a freelance writer. His work has appeared in the Judge Dredd Megazine, 2000AD and Big Issue in the North.