There’s no other word to describe the shock of seeing the fantastic artwork in the first four pages of Titan Comic’s Twelfth Doctor #2.6.
Zooming out panel by panel from a screaming punk singer to the orbit of ‘The Twist’, an infinity symbol shaped instillation where, the now companion-less Doctor hangs out backstage, the artwork by Mariano Laclaustra piques your curiosity almost instantly with a clarity of thought, peerless execution, and some stunning vistas – and that’s not to mention the fabulous colour-work too. Seriously, imagine trying to track the light and shade in a figure eight shaped colony? Yet somehow it works with the context of a breezy sci-fi romp. Carlos Cabrera and Thiago Ribeiro do a fabulous job of making sure that the illusion is never broken, that every choice feels natural, and every colour choice brings something eye-catching to the table.
You’re hooked from the get-go…and then the running starts.
While backstage the Doctor encounters Hettie, a bassist fresh from that ear-splitting gig, who finds herself caught up in an adventure that includes a murder, electric trees, and a mysterious feral beast stalking the streets of ‘The Twist’.
The setting for this new arch reminded me of The Fuse, a sci-fi crime comic by Antony Johnston and Justin Greenwood, where freshly transferred detectives must deal with the murderous crime rate on an orbiting power station – especially when the Doctor does his best Columbo impression on a crime scene which is hiding something more than your usual litany of clues.
Here again Laclaustra keeps things interesting by adding little touches (a robotic creature hovers outside the scene of the crime) and cinematic framing (I love the framing in one panel where our heroes are show through the mesh of a broken security fence – it adds a level of realism that cements the location as fully functioning, working habitat, rather than a pristine, airless sci-fi cliché) which reward the reader by hinting at the world beyond the story.
Fresh from the fantastic Eighth Doctor mini-series, George Mann, who has an uncanny ability to capture the voice of each Doctor he writes for, intrigues us with an adventure that perfectly resets the Doctor after the events of Hell Bent. The anguish has gone and in its place is a fast-paced, punchy, and fresh story that has a lot in common with Series Three opener Smith and Jones, where the Doctor wasn’t necessarily looking for a companion but in allowing himself to just be the Doctor, doing what he does best, he finds someone who is intrigued enough to follow this strange, strange man.
Hettie isn’t exactly enthusiastic about following the Doctor and her antagonism towards him is reminiscent of Tegan – she’s not exactly happy to tag along, and who would be happy hiding in cupboards after playing a great gig, but her opposition marks her out as someone who could work well with the Twelfth Doctor – although Titan haven’t announced her as such, leaving some welcome uncertainty around her presence.
As for stray observations, and I might be wrong, but isn’t this the first time the Doctor has engaged with punks since Paul Cornell’s New Doctor Who Adventures novel No Future? Okay, they’re technically post-punks but still. Well actually, if it’s set in the 40th century then they would be post, post, post, post, post, post, post… Also, there’s a clear nod to a particular shot from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. You’ll know it when you see it.
So, thanks to some sterling work from George Mann, Mariano Laclaustra, Carlos Cabrera and Thiago Ribeiro, the post-Clara work of Titan Comics Twelfth Doctor is in safe hands.