While the other ongoing series from Titan Comics’ Doctor Who range steer clear of the show’s mythos, the Eleventh Doctor’s is very much swimming in it. We have glimpses of the War Doctor (and by extension, the Time War), Sontarans (briefly), and, as of last issue, River Song. Issue 6 of this comic’s “Year Two” concludes with another biggie.
But of course I’m not revealing what that is. Suffice to say, it will leave fans very familiar with the show’s history with mouths open. I know I was shocked.
Before we get to that, though, we have a little reunion with the Doctor’s sometimes-wife.
We begin in the Stormcage facility where the Doctor is breaking River out of prison in order to help him do something impossible. Business as usual, you may think, except he also has the Dalek Killer, Abslom Daak, and the Squire, a companion of old that the Doctor has no recollection of, in tow (alongside regular comics companion, Alice Obiefune) – and they’re being chased by the temporal bounty hunter, The Then And The Now.
Phew. If you’ve not read the previous five issues, this certainly isn’t a good jumping-on point. It’s best if you just pick up the graphic novel collection to get up to speed.
The good news is, it’s worth it.
Part One of The One (yes, that did sound a bit odd, sorry) is a fun instalment that’s bound to please fans while also keeping us on edge. You really can’t predict where this one’s going: six issues in and the answers aren’t forthcoming. In fact, I’m not sure we’ll get them for quite some time.
I’m in two minds about this. On the one hand, I’ve loved the Twelfth Doctor title’s more isolated adventure, Clara Oswald and the School of Death and it makes these series more accessible. On the other, I like that this series is doing something a bit different, and with an incarnation of the Doctor that perfectly suits the tale. I don’t think you could do, say, a Tenth Doctor story that so heavily relies on the Time Lord forgetting about events in the Time War.
Doctors Ten and Eleven are, respectively, “the man who regrets and the man who forgets,” and it’d be disingenuous to have any other Doctor admit to wiping his own memory of events during the Time War. Similarly, the Eleventh’s jovial nature gives us a beautiful contrast, and helps to highlight how capricious our favourite Time Lord can be. The light of the Eleventh brightens up the darkness of John Hurt’s Doctor.
But there’s more to it than that, stemming from the reason The Name of the Doctor, The Day of the Doctor, and The Time of the Doctor work so well: you know Matt Smith’s Doctor is a tortured soul who puts on this fun façade, so you can really believe the connection between him and his past faces.
Writers, Rob Williams and Simon Spurrier have weaved an intricate, considered drama, and this issue, scripted by the former, exploits that tension for a few great character moments between the Doctor and River. Professor Song’s a bit harsh with him, but there’s nonetheless an interesting scene in which the Doctor needs to look inside her diary to find out about his past. Did he have a peek? Spoilers!
Williams’ dialogue is as good as ever – when Alice asks the Doctor why River calls him ‘sweetie,’ he replies, “To annoy me. She knows how lazy I find catchphras… Ooh. Jelly baby?” – and while the pacing is certainly slower than anything you’d find on TV, there’s still a good driving force behind the TARDIS.
The main concern is how crowded that time-space ship is getting. The Doctor, Alice, the Squire, River, and Absolm: that’s Fifth Doctor levels of packed. It means that this issue’s focus is squarely on the Doctor and River; Alice has a few good scenes, but the Squire and Absolm are largely forgotten about. I’m sure that’ll be remedied next time, fortunately.
A special mention must go to Alex Ronald, who gives us one of the most stunning covers I’ve ever seen. It’s just a beautiful piece of work. His work is frequently amazing, but he pulls something extraordinary out of the bag this issue. It needs to be a poster, pretty please.
That cover really does stand out on the shelves, but if you’ve picked up the previous five issues, you’ll have no doubt grabbed at this one too. The story is very engaging, a lot of fun, and throws the lever in unexpected directions. To me, that’s a winner.
The Eleventh Doctor #2.6 is out now, priced $3.99.