The DWM Eighth Doctor comics continue to feature the titular Time Lord travelling alone (and continue to play hell with my thumbnail template…) as we reach the oh-so-familiar setting of Victorian London. Alongside this … Curious Tale we also have a one-shot that harkens back to the original 60s Comics that I’ve read about but never actually read (due to them never having been reprinted). Are either story worth your time?! Let’s have a look…
Synopsis (of “The Curious Tale of Spring-Heeled Jack”):
In London, a demonic figure is searching young ladies on his quest for Morjanus. The Eighth Doctor is also there, trying to enjoy London’s new night life, thriving with the invention of the gaslight. Something is hidden in London and the Doctor must find it before the city is consumed in fire…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
It’s actually funny but looking back the Doctor’s TARDIS interior very rarely featured in the DWM comics, which is a shame because it’s the one spin-off media that can really do it justice!
At three issues long “The Curious Tale of Spring-Heeled Jack” is a fun little read. The Doctor encounters a demonic figure blowing blue fire calling himself Spring-Heeled Jack as it tries to attack a local girl named Penny. The two of them drive it away, but not before the lady shows signs of being possessed. The pair but two-and-two together and head down to the local gasworks, where Penny is employed, and she soon reveals herself as “Morjanus” who had merely hypnotised herself into thinking she was human. She starts freeing her kind via the gaslamps and such before Jack turns up and the two battle, their races being at war and this being the reason Jack was terrorising local women: he was searching for her.
A fun little twist that makes the demon-esque Spring-Heeled Jack the good guy, and a tragic one as we find out the rest of his race had been wiped out. Jack and The Doctor manage to outsmart Morjanus and send her kind back into the void before the Spring-Heeled demon erases her mind, leaving only the fictional Penny behind. She goes to lead a normal life while The Doctor offers Jack a lift home, only for him to decline as he decides to live out the rest of his life in London “where people need him”. Like I said, for three issues it’s a fun enough story, and for such a generic looking character Jack was an interesting person to follow.
“The Land of Happy Endings” is a celebratory story (again!) this time in honour of 40 years of Doctor Who comics (not just DWM comics) and features John and Gillian, the two “grandchildren” of The Doctor that featured in the first few years of the TV Comic era of the strips. The artstyle too has changed to match that of the 60s adventures, and generally it shares those early strips’ simplicity and nativity. The Doctor, John and Gillian foil the plot of Wargonn, who had robbed his whole race of their imagination by removing their “Figments”. Our heroic trio eventually imprison Wargonn until he returns the Figments to his people, then we end with a rather nice shot of The Doctor sleeping in a chair in the TV Comic style, and then waking up in the modern artstyle, revealing it all to have been a dream, but a pleasant one. I love the art of The Doctor waking in his TARDIS and then giving a realistic smirk to himself, reflecting on a world where his adventures are so… lacking in death. In general it’s hard to complain about something so innocent and pleasant, especially at only one issue.
It has to be said that the artwork here might not be to your liking, but it achieves what it set out to do!
Not a lot really! Neither story is five-stars amazing, but neither are bad by any means. I guess the Victorian London setting is old hat, especially now in 2020, combined with the whole Russell T. Davies reusing the creatures living in the gasworks plotline means the story is very familiar feeling despite being it’s own thing in the main.
Creatures escaping from the gasworks of a Victorian city?! … How is it something so specific has been done twice?
Well, as already mentioned, creatures wanting to invade Earth via Victorian era gasworks was the main plot point of the Ninth Doctor story “The Unquiet Dead”, so that’s another case of Russell T. Davies’ fandom of the Eighth Doctor strips appearing in his TV work (even if that story was penned by Mark Gatiss, it was apparently heavily rewritten by RTD…)
Beyond that though, nothing much to say, unless I one day read the original TV Comic stories…
Just beautiful artwork (the expression in the final panel!) and lovely words and ideas. A properly great ending.
Both stories featured here are harmless adventures. “The Curious Tale of Spring-Heeled Jack” feels like one of those stand-alone stories from the modern era of the show, one where it has no major effect on anything, but it was very enjoyable. “The Land of Happy Endings” meanwhile was a charming love letter to a bygone era that at only one issue long is perfectly pleasant. No need to split the scores here then!