Written by Tony Lee, Art by Pia Guerra
IDW, 146 pp.
Rating: Teens (13 +)
I dip my toes into the waters of the great and vast Doctor Who comic franchise with a look at Doctor Who: The Forgotten by Tony Lee and Pia Guerra. The Doctor and his companion Martha find themselves trapped in a museum culled from the long history of the Doctor and his various incarnations. With his memories fading and various enemies from his past pursuing him, the Doctor must unravel the mystery of how they got there and why before it’s too late.
The Forgotten follows something of a formula and sticks to it with each chapter. Some monster pops up and chases the Doctor while he flashes back to a previous incarnation, depicting short adventures from each one. Throughout this there’s the mystery of how he and Martha ended up in the museum, who brought them there and why. The eventual pay off is fraught with twists and turns and, like much of this book, calls back to adventures from the original TV series. It’s a perfectly acceptable, middle of the road adventure with tons of cameo’s and nods that are sure to appeal to long term Doctor Who fans. It’s a very dialogue heavy book, but I never felt this got in the way of my ability to enjoy it. Furthermore Tony Lee does a very good job at capturing David Tennant’s voice, the actor who portrayed the Tenth Doctor in three seasons of the TV series. He really nailed the rhythm and tone of the character. I didn’t feel that the voice of Freema Agyeman, the actress who portrayed Martha, faired quite as well though in fairness there’s an in story explanation for why that might be.
Pia Guerra does a good job at capturing the various likenesses of the different Doctors. With each face and costume looking accurate, but never quite crossing that line into photo realism which some comics using actors likenesses tend to cross. That’s a good thing as often times the faces becomes far more detailed than the surrounding art and is often stiff, lifeless and sticks out like a sore thumb. Unfortunately, while Guerra’s art is fantastic, clear and easy to follow, the process of putting it up on the Emanga e-reader renders it null and void in places. In several instances double page splash images or panel layouts stretching across two pages are broken up due to the organization of the pages in the e-reader. This really impacts the flow and ruins some of the impressive “wow” scenes. On more than one occasion I found myself having to jump back and forth between two pages in an attempt to follow dialogue or a panel-to-panel sequence, something that really hurts the flow of the story. On a related note I ran into a bit of a problem with the lettering. Often times the text was so small that it was difficult to read without enlarging the page considerably. This in turn affects the flow as it requires a lot of moving pages up and down, side to side and such to make out what’s being said.
In the end I found Doctor Who: The Forgotten to be a fun little read that didn’t really add a whole lot to the mythos but at the same time honored it nicely. It’s not required reading for fans of the franchise by any stretch of the imagination, but it is undeniably fun to see all Ten incarnations of the Doctor appearing in one story.
Original Concept by Stan Lee, Story and Art by Hiroyuki Takei, Inked by Daigo and Painted Colors by Bob
From the minds of comics legend Stan Lee and the creator of Shaman King Hiroyuki Takei comes Karakuridoji Ultimo! Yamato is your typical teenager, crushing on a girl and attending classes until he encounters the mechanical puppet known as Ultimo in an antique shop… Except that’s not where the story begins. It actually begins in feudal Japan where Yamato first encounters the mechanical puppet Ultimo. Karakuridoji Ultimo is a saga that spans lives and centuries about the clash between good and evil and what those terms mean.
As mentioned above Ultimo seems to be an epic that spans time and space, jumping back and forth between the past and the present to tell it’s rather grand tale about the clash between the forces of good and evil. In this case the forces are represented by a set of mechanical boys, Ultimo (good) and Vice (evil), created by the mysterious man known only as Dunstan. We quickly learn, however, that they were just the beginning as it’s soon revealed that he’s created more puppets beyond the original two, all apparently for the purpose of finding out which is more powerful, good or evil. Each puppet is bond to a master who it obeys and studies in the hopes of learning more about the nature of good and evil. Of course this complicates matters as the various masters concepts about what’s good and what’s evil varies. For Yamato good seems to hinge upon his desire to protect his friends and loved ones, but what about the other good puppets and their masters? It’s a question raised only briefly in the first two volumes, but is one that feels like it will becoming more important as time goes on. While the idea of someone studying the concept of good and evil is hardly new, nor is the idea of battles involving a master/pet (ala. Pokemon or even Zatch Bell) Ultimo combines the two with enough style and twists that you end up with a surprisingly entertaining whole. The further idea of reincarnation and how the masters in the present may be reincarnations from the past further opens the door a variety of interesting spins. There’s no reason entire arcs or volumes couldn’t be dedicated towards exploring the exploits of the dolls in the past, or for that matter the idea of introducing new masters who have no history with the dolls.
Hiroyuki Takei’s artwork is sharp and stylish. His character designs, especially for the puppets, are interesting while maintaining a certain unified feel connecting them all together visually. They all look incredibly thin with huge gauntleted hands. It’s striking and the cover colors make them look even more fantastic. Sadly when it comes to action sequences the awkwardness of the thin arms and huge gauntlets, not to mention a few transformation sequences into bizarrely skinny and angular robots, sometimes results in confusing and difficult to deciper moments. There’s a small issue with scale and size when Vice and Ultimo occasionally transform into giant forms. At one point Vice looks positively massive, with trees coming up to his knees, but in another shot he and Ultimo seem only a few stories tall at most. He does show a nice versatility when it comes to body shapes and faces outside of the dolls though. The puppet masters run the gamut from heavily scarred and scary looking thug types to old, hunched over elderly men and more.
I have to admit that I’ve been curious about this title since it was announced but at the same time a bit hesitant to actually pick it up. With a few rare exceptions Shonen Jump material doesn’t really do it for me. With the closing of Borders I took a chance and picked up the first two volumes and I’m rather glad I did as Ultimo is a surprisingly enjoyable read. It’s certainly not the greatest read of all time, but it was definitely a fun read that’s left me wanting to pick up the subsequent volumes to follow the various twists and turns in Yamato and company’s lives.
Karakuridoji Ultimo is available now from Viz Media.
By Makoto Tateno
DMP, 168 pp.
Rating: YA (16 +)
The second volume of Makoto Tateno’s Angelic Runes brings us revelations, new characters and more pretty boys. The journey of Sowil and his friends continues. This time around Sowil’s search for his place in this world brings him into contact with a spirit trapped in ice, a holy beast, his masters master and more.
Unfortunately all the long hair and revelations still aren’t enough to help this book. It’s a stiff an awkward read with a horribly bland lead and a boring antagonist as well. The supporting cast is equally as forgettable, again with the exception of the two twins though that’s mainly due to their constant quoting of actual demons, spirits and angels. They’re really the most fun in the series so far and it’s a constant game of “Where’s this demon/angel from?” with them. Sadly even that wears after a while. The last few pages of the book drop some major revelations that may cause the series to become far more interesting and entertaining, but given how quickly they’re rolled out and how little emotional impact they carry I’m not really holding my breath. Sowil’s just too boring for his quest of self discovery to move me or draw me in. He has a tendency to repeat his motivation in every chapter, and if he doesn’t do then chances are someone else will.
Sadly the visuals match the story. Everything takes place in a weird white space that’s sparsely populated by shrubbery and blobs of greytone. There’s no real sense of movement in the few action sequences and all the male characters tend to look alike, the only difference being their clothes and hair style. The lack of visuals for the setting reinforces the general lack of a solid background for the story and gives the whole thing the feeling of barely being thought out beyond the very basics of the story.
Angelic Runes continues to underwhelm me. The bland visuals and bland story combine to create a reading experience that’s instantly forgettable. While it’s fun to try and peg which world mythology certain creatures, demons and the like are from, it’s just not enough to hold the story together.
Angelic Runes, Vol. 2 is available now at Emanga.com. Digital review copy provided by the publisher.