Cornell, Paul

About the Author:

Paul Cornell has worked as a writer in prose, comics and television, including writing several episodes of Doctor Who.  He lives in Buckinghamshire, England with his wife and son.

 

AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:

3 out of 5

(3 books)

Captain Britain And MI13: Secret Invasion

(Art by Leonard Kirk, Jesse Delpergang and Scott Hanna)

The first book of the series and a tie-in to the Secret Invasion crossover storyline.  When the Skrulls invade Great Britain they set out to seize control of the country's ancient magic with just a handful of superheroes, including Captain Britain, Pete Wisdom and the Black Knight, standing against them.

Although this is the first book of the series, it can't honestly be called a good jumping-on point for new readers.  First off, the Skrull invasion is in full swing when the book begins so if, like me, this is the first Secret Invasion book you've read, you'll feel lacking in explanation of why there are suddenly Skrulls everywhere.  Then there's the main characters; whose appearances and actions here are all predicated on past events from other comic series.  I know Captain Britain fairly well, and have a passing familiarity with Black Knight and Wisdom, but the others who appear do so fully formed and without any exposition of who/what/why they are.  For instance, I'd never heard of Spitfire before and she never even gets called by name here despite being a main character (I only know she's called Spitfire thanks to the author's introduction to the graphic novel).  Similarly, the resolution of the book is heavily dependant on the Marvel interpretation of mythology which I know very little about.  The jist is that this book is very much an in-off-the-deep-end story, which doesn't make for a good first book of a series.

Despite all of that, there is a good idea behind this book.  I loved the idea of taking the B- and C-list British superheroes who've cropped up over the years (some only in Marvel's UK imprint) and forming them into a very British super-team.  And they do feel genuinely British in their attitudes and sensibilities, thanks to Cornell being British himself, when some of these characters have previously been American charicatures of what they think the British are like.  On top of that, I liked that the focus of the book is a struggle over Britain's magic.  If the author had just made it a superhero-versus-aliens slugfest then it would've felt like a cheap imitation of the Avengers but here it's given a genuinely unique twist.

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: Four Doctors

(Art by Neil Edwards)

A predetermined event leads the Tenth (David Tennant), Eleventh (Matt Smith) and Twelfth (Peter Capaldi) Doctors to meet in 1920s Paris.  There Clara warns them that she had been warned that if they they travel to the planet Marinus together then it will bring about the end of the universe.  Naturally the Doctors cannot resist springing such an obvious trap, but the discovery of who is their hidden enemy will shock them all to the core.

I love multi-Doctor stories usually, but I have to say that this one fell very flat with me.  Instead of getting swept up in the excitement of seeing iconic incarnations of the character interact with each other, I was disappointed to find that the usual amusing bickering that such events feature actually came across more as outright bitchiness and sniping here.  It makes sense that the fun-loving Tenth and Eleventh Doctors wouldn't get on well with the grumpy and rude Twelfth (at least as he was to begin with) but Cornell takes that dislike to such a level here that it saps the joy out of seeing those beloved incarnations all together.

As for the plot, it's very convoluted and occasionally nonsensical and the author seems to feel that just including the phrase 'timey wimey' over and over will somehow justify everything.  For all his faults, Steven Moffat was a master of cleverly put together time travel plots, and here Cornell seems to be doing a rather poor impersonation of his style.

It's not all bad, the brief appearances of the War Doctor and the Christopher Ecclestone incarnation being high points, but it's easily the most disappointing multi-Doctor story I've read.

2 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: Twice Upon A Time

The novelisation of the 2017 Christmas Special, originally scripted by Steven Moffat, which was the final appearance of the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi).  The Doctor is dying and refusing to regenerate when the TARDIS takes him to the South Pole and an encounter with his first incarnation (David Bradley), who is also refusing to regenerate.  The two Doctors are then confronted by a World War One Captain, who has been thrown out of his own timeline and is being pursued by a mysterious Glass Woman.

For the most part, this is a fairly straightforward adaption of the original TV version of this story.  There's a little bit of extra dialogue, but really most of it is what appeared on screen.  What Cornell does do, however, is give us quite a bit more insight into what the characters, particularly the Doctors, are thinking during all of the goings-on.  However, it is Bill's inner thoughts that differ the most from the source, as we get to learn of a life she lived after flying off into space with Heather at the end of Series 10.

For me, the appeal of any multi-Doctor story is seeing the interaction between the different versions of the same man and these two are perfectly matched for one another.  Both are grumpy old men, but where the First is opposed to shenanigans and frippery, the Twelfth has embraced his mid-life crisis side.  Also, the age and gravitas of Capadli's version of the Doctor means that he can actually get away with treating the First Doctor as the novice that he is, unlike previous multi-Doctor stories where the later younger-looking incarnations all defer to the grandfatherly First.

The best new element to this story is the British First World War Captain, Archie.  There's a quiet dignity and honesty to him that makes him endlessly endearing, even to the disparate Doctors.  The melancholy tragedy of his situation is beautifully offset not only by the familial revelations at the end, but also the Twelfth Doctor's solution to everything.  The moment when the Twelfth says to the First "You were right, you know.  The universe generally fails to be a fairy tale.  But that's where we come in" is one of the best expressions of who the Doctor is and what he stands for that I've seen.

The book ends with the arrival of the Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and left me wistfully sad for the loss of Capaldi but excited for a new era for the Doctor.  So, in that, this book does exactly what it needs to do.

4 out of 5

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