Written by George Mann | Art by Ian Rodriguez | Published by Titan Comics
Before I get stuck into the review in earnest, cards on the table time. I didn’t enjoy the Christmas special that inspired this 4 part mini-series. The Return of Dr Mysterio appeared on our screens Christmas 2016, and seems to have been very well liked by most. That should have included me, as it featured Dr Who of course, and something of an affectionate nod to comic books and superheroes, which have been a part of my life for 4 decades. I appreciated the intent, it just didn’t work for me. This mini-series was designed to build on from the events in that TV special, and I do have an interest in that, to see where Grant and Lucy have been since we last saw them.
For those that never saw the Christmas Special, the Twelfth Doctor was essentially responsible for creating the world’s first superhero. Grant Gordon, then a young boy, ended up with a reality altering gem that, rather like rubbing Aladdin’s lamp, granted him his most wished for desire. For Grant, that was to have the powers of his favourite comic book superheroes. He grew up to have the costumed identity of The Ghost. The TV special dealt with him helping The Doctor thwart an alien invasion, what else, and revealing his identity to Lucy Fletcher, a girl he had fancied from his school days. Like a twee Clark and Lois. Grant, though, decided to effectively retire. So here we are, seven years later…
Well, The Doctor’s back in town and he needs Grant’s help. Grant and Lucy are now married, and Grant is trying to have as normal a family life as he can for the sake of stepdaughter Jennifer. The Doctor, of course, needs to whisk him across the galaxy to help with something rather urgent. The Doctor needs to locate the three other reality altering gems, to stop them falling into the wrong hands, and Grant’s gem can lead him to the sister gems. Jennifer doesn’t want Grant to go. The only solution? Everyone goes. So The Doctor shepherds them all into the TARDIS, and there’s a nice little sequence where he’s a little bit miffed that young Jennifer is not in awe of the TARDIS being bigger on the inside.
‘My stepdad is a superhero. Nothing surprises me.’ Fair point.
As The Doctor said, this would be a nice and simple turn up and collect type of assignment. If you believe that…Their first port of call is a post apocalyptic New York in the future. That’s bad enough, but as The Doctor says, it’s a future that should not exist. Not bad enough still? How about a flying super villain, apparently called The Smoke, appearing and informing them they will be punished for breaking curfew. Some fisticuffs later, it appears that Grant’s costume symbol still has an effect in the future, as The Smoke retreats. The group are then called over by Carrie, a woman who had witnessed the fight, and she takes them underground to a community of dispossessed. The Doctor asks just what the heck happened?
Turns out The Smoke was a superhero that went bad. Inspired by Grant’s adventures centuries earlier, Ethan Hall used technology to grant him powers to fight crime. He took it to extremes though, and ended up fighting the military and enforcing a stricter and stricter form of justice. The Doctor realises the ‘technology’ that gives him his powers is in fact a reality gem, The Arquess, which has ultimately corrupted him. George Mann in essence gives us two sides to Superman; the meek, Clark Kent like Grant, and the omnipotent enforcer The Smoke. A nice way to use superhero standard motifs just as the show did.
Mann does a good job throughout, taking a pretty standard plot and story and trying to inject a little oomph into it. The Doctor is as authentic as usual, and the art throughout by Ivan Rodriguez is nicely suited to the superhero stuff. Crisp, clean, and nicely animated action panels. Good stuff.
Enjoyable and very readable first issue. Very promising start to the series.
Doctor Who: Ghost Stories #1 is out now from Titan Comics