DW: Arena of Fear Review

DW AoF

I know I said “occasional dip into Titan comics Trade Paper Backs”, but I didn’t mean for it to be quite THIS occasional! I guess that’s what happens when so many family members visit during August. ANYWHO, the 10th Doctor “Year 2” comics continue with Arena of Fear, featuring three stories (Arena of Fear, The Wishing Well Witch and The Infinite Corridor) across five issues. Let’s take a closer look!

Official Synopsis:

The Tenth Doctor’s star-crossed epic continues, as allies become enemies in an interstellar arena! Plus – the Doctor, Gabby and Cindy face off against the terror of the Wishing Well Witch: Gabby and Cindy’s first trip to the UK turns deadly in a small, superstitious town, as an ancient evil is resurrected!

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

DW AoF 4

Great looking spread, sadly the non-Captain Jack in the bottom right ruins it slightly…

The Doctor (David Tennant) – The Doctor found himself captured, but soon managed to resist the control of Mister Ebonite. He now searches for his friends, while protecting those who he found first…

Gabby Gonzalez – Gabby can’t remember her old life… she has gained great power, but seemingly lost her soul in the process, working for Mister Ebonite to boot…

Cindy Wu – Cindy can’t remember her life before wandering the wilderness with Captain Jack, Cleo and others. All she knows is that someone is out there who can help her, and that she must keep a hold of a particular sketch book…

Mr. Ebonite – A dark agent who trades in alien technology. He has his eye on Gabby’s notebook, and is willing to put everyone through hell to get his hands on it once and for all…

Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) – Former head of Torchwood and lacking the ability to die, Captain Jack is suffering from the same memory loss as everyone else, but knows deep down that if he could just find a certain someone…

Plus many more!

The Good:

DW AoF 1

Classic “Doctor saves companion” moment!

The Wishing Well Witch was a nice change of pace from the companion and continuity heavy Arena of Fear. It’s good old fashioned Who, with a mystery in an old gothic place, in this case a witch in a well that takes people’s souls, and makes it real, before the inevitable “it was an alien / science thing”. Cindy, now a companion, is having trouble fitting in, and her good old friend Gabby isn’t making this easier. It’s an interesting companion dynamic, though it does seem to have been sorted already by the time the story ends…

The Infinite Corridor is another one of those “companion trapped walking around the endless TARDIS” stories that have become popular in recent years. Cindy is fun and sarcastic here, and it is nice to see The Doctor so concerned after frankly playing favourites with Gabby due to their prior travels together. There is a nice little twist with parallel dimensions here, and a nice tease for more Osiran trouble in the future…

Although I had problem with it, Arena of Fear did at least keep Mister Ebonite, who I do love purely due to how cartoony and evil he is. He’d never work in the TV series, but it’s great fun here…

The Bad:

DW AoF 2

Will the machine help Aiiiiii, though? Will it?!

For the most part Arena of Fear is too much of a continuity-fest. Captain Jack and pretty much every character introduced in the 10th Doctor Titan comics are all running around a miniaturised “arena” being over-looked by Mister Ebonite and more Monaxi, also from previous 10th Doctor stuff. It has some nice scenes now and again, and seeing Cindy as an evil powerful witch-type only to be saved was cheesy but good, but on the whole it was a bit of a mess to read. I was very glad that by the end everyone headed off and the next story with just The Doctor and his now two companions.

While the art is still nice and bright and there are some good scenes, a lot of the drawing is a bit off, especially with The Doctor and Captain Jack, given they’re based on actual actors. Jack is the worst, I don’t think he looks like John Barrowman in any panel of the story…

The Continuity:

DW AoF 3

An unsettling sight…

With the exception of the previous story, Medicine Man, leading directly into this, and the over-arching storyline involving the Osirans, there isn’t much to speak of. Captain Jack gets plenty of Torchwood references, and Ebonite references the Game of Rassilon on Gallifrey (introduced in “The Five Doctors” TV special) as an example of gladiatorial battle arenas. The latter two stories only feature references to prior 10th Doctor comic stories.

The miniaturised arena is similar, technology-wise, to the miniscope from Third Doctor TV Story Carnival of Monsters.

Overall Thoughts:

Arena of Fear, the actual story, is a bit of a mess, and only hammers home the problem of these 10th Doctor Titan stories, that being too many new characters and simultaneous plot threads. Thankfully the latter two, while very plain tales, bring the series back to you basic Who set up. Hopefully the latter continues and we get a bit of an updraft in quality…

Story 1 “Arena of Fear”:

2 Star Read

Story 2 “The Wishing Well Witch” and 3 “The Infinite Corridor”:

3 Star Read

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