Thursday, May 8, 2008

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 05/07/08

In which I say very little about the comics but say a good deal about the stories behind them. Do not read this if you haven't seen The Third Series of Doctor Who.

CONAN #50 - An awesome end to the series, though I find myself perplexed as to exactly why the book is starting over with a new #1 as Conan The Cimmerian. I can think of two reasons, though I can't guess if one is better than the other.

The first reason is that #1's tend to sell better and that Dark Horse just wanted to give one of their best titles a shot in the arm. This would seem likely, except that Conan hasn't really been suffering in sales.

The other reason that occurs to me is that Tim Truman - while doing a good job on the book since Kurt Busiek left - inherited a ton of running plot-elements that, by necessity, had to drive his own writing in order for the book to fit with Busiek's run in terms of pacing and tone. With this issue having neatly tied up the last of Busiek's threads and Conan sick of the Eastern Realns, this leaves Truman free to start fresh and begin telling his Conan stories, freed somewhat from the yoke of what came before.

Either way, this is a good time for new readers to jump on this wonderful book.

DOCTOR WHO #4 - So, how soon before the comics catch up with the show and we lose Martha for Donna?

Don't get me wrong - I think Martha Jones had the potential to be a great character. But I think most of that potential got wasted as the writers of The Third Season of Doctor Who - in an effort to soothe the Rose Tyler fans who might be reluctant to embrace a new companion - pitched their scripts in a way as to show just how great and wonderful Martha is.

Which would be fine except that instead of endearing Martha to the fans - many of whom had just started watching Doctor Who and had come into it at the same time that Rose was introduced as a character, creating a natural "she's new to this like me" equation in most people's heads - it made her into a border-line Mary Sue. The reason I say border-line is because while everybody talks about how great and wonderful Martha is, she doesn't really do anything to justify this talk. Despite being a medical doctor in-training, Martha was still given little more to do than be the damsel-in-distress who the Doctor needed to rescue (Gridlock, 42, Daleks in Manhattan). And I think it is telling that the most popular episode of the season - Blink - is the one in which Martha is almost completely absent.

Apart from giving The Doctor CPR in 'Smith and Jones', trying - and for the most part failing - to look after an amnesiac Doctor in 'Human Nature' and the contrived circumstances which made Martha the last hope of humanity in 'Last of the Time Lords', she didn't do a blessed heroic thing in the whole season. And even in this last, "finest moment", you have to believe that Jack Harkness and The Doctor would be willing to hang around an entire year waiting for Martha to set up the audience for the biggest stage production of Peter Pan of all time in order for Martha to be seen as a heroic figure.

There's also the fact that in a lot of ways, Martha and her family were a virtual clone of Rose and her family, only we weren't given two seasons to get to know them and come to like them despite their faults. Everything with Martha was rushed in an attempt to make her Rose's equal.

For instance, Rose was - at first - horrified by the idea that anyone would think she and The Doctor would be "involved" but she came to fall in love with him in the middle of Series 2. Martha, by contrast, fell in love with The Doctor after one kiss.

All in all, I agree with The Master: "... such a disappointment this one. Days of old, Doctor, you had companions who could absorb the time vortex... This one's useless."

Why do I mention all of this? Because this issue of the comic is a perfect mirror of those episodes of the show. Martha doesn't do a blessed thing other than get dragged around, bitch about The Doctor not liking her as much as he liked Rose and being the generic person The Doctor explains everything to in order to show off how clever he is. Lazy, lazy writing and I may have to drop this book if it doesn't improve.

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