Sunday, January 26, 2020

Spider-God by: Steve Moore with art by: Dave Gibbons

Spider-God is written by Steve Moore with art by Dave Gibbons.  It was released in Doctor Who Monthly issue 52 (May 1981) and is reprinted in its original form in Doctor Who: Dragon’s Claw by Panini Books.

If ever there was a single issue story to end an era on, Spider-God would be that issue.  Published in May 1981, this simple story ends the run of author Steve Moore for the Doctor Who Monthly comic strip in the fashion which had become the norm by this point.  It’s a story that takes up a small enough scale to fill a single comic issue, has the Doctor travelling on his own, and has a last minute twist that leaves the reader with a moral lesson.  The story echoes stories from the William Hartnell era like Galaxy Four and The Web Planet, adding in an exploratory mission to a mysterious planet where a team from Earth is terrorized by a giant alien spider.  The native inhabitants of this planet are being trapped and potentially eaten by the spider, and it’s up to the Earth crew to rescue them.  Moore makes the incredibly important decision to have there really only be three other characters in the story, as the natives are mute, bringing the total to four.  Sure the characters aren’t very deeply characterized, outside of maybe Randall being a standard gruff soldier with a sense of duty, but when there’s one issue to tell the story, then these are the types of concessions which have to be made.

This is also one of the very few stories that is able to get away with the twist that there really wasn’t any danger after all, revealing in the final panels that the spider isn’t cocooning natives for a food source, but to allow them to undergo a metamorphosis, changing into butterfly like beings.  The twist is handled incredibly well for an eight page comic, with the Doctor piecing together some small pieces of evidence presented earlier in the comic and stopping a potential genocide.  There also isn’t much time spent on wrapping up the story, ending on the reveal, implying that the Doctor and the expedition crew just leaves because they really have no reason for being there.  The real standout of the strip is the artwork by Dave Gibbons.  Gibbons’ style has always been an evocative one and Spider-God is no exception on that count.  The art really captures the horror of the situation early on which aides the implication that these poor natives are going to be eaten alive.  Gibbons also perfectly captures the Doctor’s emotions making the Doctor really come across as the Fourth incarnation of the Graham Williams era, as the comic has never really moved into the Season 18 version of the character.  Yes, the costume is now the one from that season, but the Doctor’s actions are still the more light-hearted version of the character.

Overall, Spider-God is a solid end for what has genuinely been a rocky run in the Doctor Who Monthly strip.  It isn’t perfect, and the strip is still suffering from the short nature of these stories, but it’s enjoyable nevertheless.  8/10.

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