Tying in with their new Doctor Who comics featuring the Tenth Doctor, IDW Publishing is releasing Doctor Who Classics, newly colored reprints of the black-and-white strips that ran in the magazine Doctor Who Weekly. These adventures were first printed in 1979 and feature the Fourth Doctor. Canonically, they are set between seasons 17 and 18 of the series.
The creative team has an impressive resume. Writers Pat Mills and John Wagner are given credit for revitalizing British comics in the 1970s. They, along with artist Dave Gibbons, worked on the science fiction comic 2000 AD, which is mostly noted for its Judge Dredd stories. Gibbons would later work on Alan Moore’s Watchman, which alongside Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, is the most important in terms of raising the credibility of the art form, and influential — both good and bad — comic book series.
Issue #1 of DWC features the first five chapters of “Iron Legion” and Issue #2 has the concluding three chapters and the first two chapters of “City of the Damned.” “Iron Legion” finds The Doctor on an alternate Earth where Rome never fell because they were given robot technology by an alien race. The story starts off interesting, but the resolution is a tad silly, almost out of a Bugs Bunny Cartoon.
“City of the Damned” is a very familiar science fiction story: a society has outlawed emotion because it is the root of all crime and kills those citizens who are imperfect. The Doctor naturally interferes as one citizen tries to wipe her mind of sadness when she learns her husband has been sentenced to die when a hereditary malfunction of his heart is discovered. The Doctor is taken prisoner and just as he is about to have his mind cleansed, a rebel group breaks into the laboratory.
While the stories are interesting and the art very good, I don’t know if the individual comics are worth $3.99 a piece. The first story had a poor ending, and the pacing for both is bad as each chapter is only four to five pages. They may be good enough for a serious Who collector who can’t find the previous editions, but I would prefer the entire series or at least a few complete stories presented in a trade paperback, which will be happening in some form with the release of Doctor Who Classics, Volume 1 on July 25, 2008.