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Graphic Novel Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
The Tenth Doctor
Facing Fate: Vortex Butterflies (Hardback)


Writer: Nick Abadzis
Artists: Giorgia Sposito and Iolanda Zanfardino
Colourists: Arianna Florean and Nicola Righi
Publisher: Titan Comics
RRP: UK £17.99, US $22.99
Age: All
ISBN: 978 1 78586 088 1
112 pages
Publication Date: 06 February 2018

The Doctor has abandoned his crew to chase a mysterious message into deep space! As Cindy recovers from the splitting headache she developed on her most recent adventure, Gabby’s mysterious block-transfer butterfly powers evolve even further. But will the team ever be reunited? And what secrets will the Doctor find waiting for him, out in the cosmic dark? The Doctor, Gabby and Cindy face more challenges than ever before! Award-winning writer Nick Abadzis (Pigs Might Fly) and incredible artists Giorgia Sposito (Wonderland) and Iolanda Zanfardino (The Punisher) steer the TARDIS crew through another turbulent chapter in the Doctor’s ongoing story…!

This graphic novel collects #6–8 and #10 of Titan Comics’ third year of Tenth Doctor adventures. If you’re wondering what happened to #9, that issue formed part of the multi-Doctor crossover tale The Lost Dimension, and so will be collected in the first volume of that. Readers of the monthly comic books had been faced with the slightly disconcerting experience of having the four-part Vortex Butterflies interrupted at the final hurdle by the Tenth Doctor’s involvement in the Lost Dimension saga. One benefit of this compilation is that it contains the complete and uninterrupted story.

Which is not to say that Vortex Butterflies is entirely self-contained. The first few pages deal with the repercussions of the previous adventure, Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth, lingering for a while in Ancient China as the TARDIS crew say goodbye to Cindy’s multitudinous clones.

Then the Doctor drops off his companions in a couple of separate locations while he sets off to do some investigating in the TARDIS. Noobis elects to spend some time studying in the Xenopsychology Library of the Zokadyll on the planet Aramuko. Don’t worry, though – this isn’t the end of Noob’s story. The young Osiran has some charming scenes as writer Nick Abadzis cuts back to him from time to time throughout the book. We spend a rather longer period with Gabby and Cindy in London. The Doctor leaves them at one of his houses, in Willesden. I did wonder for a moment whether this could be his house on Allen Road, which featured in a few Doctor Who novels, but that was in Kent.

Nevertheless, there is a definite blast from the past (or rather the Doctor’s future) as the Time Lord commences his solo trip: he receives a message from none other than the Twelfth Doctor! (This isn’t much of a spoiler, by the way, because it happens early on in the tale, and Doctors’ meeting is given away by an illustration on the book’s prelims.) This crossing of the Time Lord’s timeline may at first seem self-indulgent and to have little bearing on the plot, but it plays into one of the story’s later revelations…

There’s an even greater nostalgia trip as Gabby and Cindy get a visit from former companion Sarah Jane Smith! (This isn’t really a spoiler, either, as Titan’s publicity for the monthly issues mentioned Sarah by name on a couple of occasions.) Her entrance is curiously low-key – she remains in long shot on her opening page, where one might have expected a dramatic close-up. Any fans wondering how all the spin-off fiction that there is out there can possibly fit into the lifetimes of the Doctor’s human companions may appreciate Sarah’s explanation that the ageing process is slowed down whenever a person is travelling aboard the TARDIS. Sarah provides a wise and calming presence during a period of great uncertainty for the Time Lord’s younger friends. Towards the end of the graphic novel, Abadzis and the Doctor make spine-tingling use of one of Sarah’s speeches from the television series.

There are other, more fleeting, callbacks to series continuity (on screen, off the page and on audio), but I won’t spoil these thrilling little moments by going into specifics.

As well as telling a more coherent story than last time, this volume also boasts more consistent art. Giorgia Sposito handles most of it, with just a little help for some sections of the opening chapter by Arianna Florean (who creates more of the delightful sketches from Gabby’s diary) and a few pages of the second chapter by Iolanda Zanfardino (including an exciting flashback to… no, I really shouldn’t say!). (Incidentally, there were a couple of bookend diary pages in #5 that never made it into a graphic novel, which is a pity.)

Sposito helps to create an adorable new ‘companion’ for the Doctor: a biomechanical scanning device that the Time Lord chooses to name Marcie (because she calls him “sir”, like a certain character in the Peanuts cartoon). Imagine a very polite hovering turquoise potato with extendable tentacles!

The artist also produces some beautiful renderings of the eponymous temporal lepidopterans, which are inspired by the Rorschach-like shapes formed in the title sequences from the William Hartnell and Jon Pertwee eras. A couple of double-page spreads at the back of the book show examples of Sposito’s butterflies in their original black and white, alongside the finished versions augmented by Arianna Florean’s colours.

There are a couple of visual bloopers during the London scenes. At one point, Sarah carries her groceries in an American-style brown paper shopping bag. Elsewhere, Cindy fries eggs when she says she is scrambling them.

While it is in mid-flight, Vortex Butterflies makes for compelling reading, though at the end of the journey it isn’t as conclusively eventful as you might have expected. Even so, you may experience a few butterflies in your stomach along the way.


Richard McGinlay

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