As much as I like an ongoing arc, a story rolling into multiple issues – perhaps even a whole series – there’s something very satisfying and “Classic Doctor Who” about a short but sweet story seemingly-detached from the main plot.
Issue 8 of Titan Comics’ Tenth Doctor “Year Two” gives us exactly that: the start of a two-part tale, and Cindy Wu’s first proper trip in the TARDIS.
The Wishing Well Witch sees the Doctor, Cindy, and Gabby Gonzalez at the Dewbury Paranormal Literary Festival; the town’s “beaten Stockbridge this year as most paranormal place in England,” so naturally there’s something fishy going down. The first couple of pages immediately establishes an Image of the Fendahl-esque vibe, but writer, Nick Abadzis nails the slightly naff, tongue-in-cheek nature of Brits: far from the rehearsed rituals of The Daemons, this scene plays out like a sketch – albeit one that leads to all hell breaking loose.
The story is definitely a dark cautionary one, warning people off dabbling with the occult, but there’s a lovely wit too. That’s evident when, instead of using a pillar candle for an incantation, one of the townsfolk suggests a tealight; similarly, the Doctor browses through a bookstore, but is more interested in some classic comic annuals like the Beano, Dandy, and Whizzer and Chips than Dickens, Sheakespeare, and Christie.
That good-natured humour extends to Eleonora Carlini’s art, which is certainly more influenced by manga than the series’ regular artist, Elena Casagrande’s. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a huge fan of manga, but Carlini’s pages largely stay on the right side of realism, just occasionally indulging in the excesses of Japanese art.
This is especially true in her depiction of Cindy, who was welcomed on board the Doctor’s time-space ship at the conclusion of last issue – welcomed by the Doctor, that is. It’s interesting to see Gabby, who’s travelled with the Time Lord for quite a while now, on the back foot. She doesn’t treat her friend terribly well here, just a hint of jealousy perhaps creeping in. Maybe jealousy isn’t the right word: it’s more like she wants the Doctor all to herself, and we’re reminded of Rose Tyler’s initial reluctance to welcome Mickey Smith on their adventures at the end of School Reunion.
It’s a dynamic we’ve not really seen before in the series, and makes for an interesting read, though not a comfortable one. That’s not a fault: a little edginess keeps you intrigued. When there are numerous companions in the TARDIS, there’s always some underlying tension (except with Amy and Rory, post-Series 5), and you certainly get lashings of that here, although the Doctor remains naturally oblivious.
He’s too distracted by the occult circumstances, an old man who appears insane, and a time trace deep down Dewbury’s wishing well.
The actual witch – a humanoid black schism with multiple faces – is beautifully rendered. She’s grotesque and actually quite scary, her victims harking back to those people in horror movies that suddenly start crying blood. Yep, creepy visuals a-plenty. The Doctor thinks it’s some sort of misunderstanding, but the cliffhanger leaves Dewbury at the witch’s mercy, so I look forward to seeing how this one concludes!
The Tenth Doctor #2.8 is out now, priced $3.99.