Reviewed: Titan Comics’ Twelfth Doctor #16

Look over there! Under the Christmas tree! What do you mean, it’s May?! At DWC Towers, it’s traditional to keep the Christmas tree up well into June at least. (Well, I’m making it a tradition now.) Look – there. There! It’s a comic book: a present from Titan Comics.

Yep, it’s the Doctor Who Christmas Special from the company that’s been bringing us top-quality stories starring Doctors Nine, Ten, Eleven, and Twelve since July 2014 (plus an Eighth Doctor miniseries, and pretty soon, a Third Doctor one too!). Writers, George Mann and Cavan Scott seem to have brainstormed what people want from Christmas, and created a wonderful cocktail of festive delights: snow, baubles, lights, a roaring fire, sometimes-creepy toys…

Nostalgia plays a big part in Christmas, and appropriately, so too in The Twelfth Doctor #16. You’ll have guessed this if you’ve seen any previews of the issue. Indeed, the very first page of Relative Dimensions has the Doctor and Clara summoned to a mysterious house, the Doctor pulling at a door-handle, and someone shouting “Grandfather? Is that you?”

And then there’s the following two-pages, showing us a Christmassy room filled with former companions: Amy and Rory; Donna; K9; and right in the middle – Susan.

Okay, everyone’s already guessed that something’s going on, but that doesn’t stop this from being a thoroughly entertaining and satisfying story. It’s a real joy, staying just on the right side of fan fiction. That’s always a danger when a writer throws lots of much-loved elements in the mix, but we’ve faith in Scott and Mann, and it pays off.

Twelfth Doctor #16 interior

This perhaps had the potential to be a Big Story, but instead, we get a wonderfully understated and surprisingly intimate conclusion that’s a tribute to the past. “All my love to long ago,” the Tenth Doctor once said, and that’s this comic to a tee. This is almost a tribute to the First Doctor, William Hartnell (which feels very fitting for a Twelfth Doctor tale), but there’s also a pleasing nod to the Curator from The Day of the Doctor (2013) in the penultimate panel.

Nonetheless, the creative team embrace the format of the issue perfectly. If it weren’t for a gorgeous double-page spread starring all sorts of greatly-loved enemies, the most memorable splash is a two-page Snakes and Ladders board that the Doctor and Clara have to travail. It’s stunning. Marvel fans might be reminded of Daredevil, particularly the work of Chris Samnee (Black Widow).

Artist, Mariano Laclaustra should be applauded for the time he’s put into every page, as should colourist, Carlos Cabera whose understated palette highlights the dream-like quality of the book.

Laclaustra makes smart decisions with layout, and gives the tale a real flow. His only misstep is in depicting some of the companions – in particular, there are two who I really can’t identify at all – not aided by their indistinct clothing. But that’s nothing compared to the incredible detail throughout the issue.

Not only is Relative Dimensions a wonderful Christmas treat, but it’s also the ideal conclusion to ‘Year One’ of Titan Comics’ The Twelfth Doctor. And boy am I looking forward to Year Two…

(Adapted from Kasterborous Jan’ ’16.)