I loved the Torchwood show, I think that it’s a very underrated part of the Doctor Who universe. Yes, the first season wasn’t the best, and started off very shaky, but the series just went from strength to strength. As such, I was excited to read this new addition to the Torchwood story.
Unfortunately, I’ve not read the first two volumes of the Torchwood comic, and as such felt a little lost for ‘The Culling’. The third part in an ongoing story, I was unsure of who every character was, only had half the information on what had previously happened through some of the dialogue, and was left trying to put the pieces together myself.
This isn’t a fault with the book, as I’m sure that they’re writing for an audience that has read the previous parts of the story rather than a casual reader jumping in at this point; but every comic has to feel somewhat accessible for new readers. ‘The Culling’ fails on this point, and would not have been a book that I’d have continued to read if it was not for the need of reviewing it. Hopefully the next volume of the Torchwood comic will make things easier for readers and give them a better jumping on point.
The story of ‘The Culling’ follows on from the defeat of the Vervoids in the Arctic, the result of which being a human/Vervoid hybrid created from the DNA of both Jack and Gwen. As soon as I discovered that the story would be focusing on the ‘child’ of Jack and Gwen I groaned a little inside. THe Jack/Gwen potential relationship was one of the things that I liked least about the early part of Torchwood, and s something that I was glad to see less focus given to. Gwen and Rhys were a great couple, and I loved their relationship; and Jack and Ianto were brilliant together, so I was worried that this ‘child’ story could put these relationships in danger.
Luckily, the ‘child’ in question, called Sladen, is not a real child of the two, and the characters never act as if she is. She’s a genetic accident, made purely by chance. The story doesn’t push the idea of Jack and Gwen as her parents and it stops the story from falling into some poor pitfalls.
Whilst the story manages to dodge the bullet on this point, it’s somewhat lacking elsewhere. There’s little to no character develpment within the story. The only characters that have any real sense of personality are those from the show, and only because they’ve had characterisation in the series, whilst the characters that are new to the comic are fairly bland and one dimensional.
The book instead relies upon the story to grab attention and to entertain rather than the characters, but the story moves way too quick in places, jumping from event to event within the space of a few panels. In one scene Jack and Gwen say that they are a few hours behind Sladen, yet are confronting her in the very next scene. The pacing just feels off in a lot of places, and this works to the detriment of the overall experience. The conclusion is also somewhat of a let down, with a very brief confrontation that doesn’t feel like it has any real stakes before suddenly being over.
Torchwood: The Culling feels less like a competent follow-up to a beloved series, and more a rushed and ill defined story. It could have been a lot better, and probably would have been if it had six issues to tell it’s story rather than just four. It could have made things more accessible to new readers, taken time to explore its characters, and could have paced things much better. As it is, Torchwood: The Culling feels lacking in a lot of ways.
Torchwood: The Culling is now available from Titan Comics.