We’re now five weeks into the new series of Doctor Who, and it’s time for the first full adventure of the new Doctor in Titan Comics’ ongoing series – she’s already had brief appearances in the free Comic Book Day release, as well as ‘The Road To The Thirteenth Doctor’ and ‘The Many Lives Of Doctor Who’, but this is her first fully fledged starring role, alongside her Team TARDIS chums Graham, Ryan and Yaz.
Given the lead times on comics, you might think it would be hard for anyone to be able to capture the tone and voice of the current series and the characters without having properly seen them on screen. In this case, however, it seems the writers of the comic series have caught something of a lucky break, as we’re still so relatively early in the run, and still finding out about the characters themselves – in the latest TV episode, it’s quite clear that the Doctor is still in the process of finding her feet and learning about herself, so this gives the comics’ creative team a bit of leeway in that regard.
Taking that into account, it’s still rather impressive how writer Jody Houser has managed to capture most of the obvious traits, particularly the Doctor’s penchant for thinking aloud and working through a problem or situation, in her stream-of-consciousness style which is becoming increasingly familiar on our screens. The other characters do seem a little thinly written so far, but it’s only issue #1, and they perhaps don’t have quite so many obvious characteristics as the Doctor to latch onto, plus we’ve also been spoiled by how much background info we’ve had at times in the actual episodes, so it may be a wise move not to drag too much of that in here while they’re getting established in the comics.
The plot itself starts out with what seems to be an intergalactic art heist, but there’s more afoot here than first appears, as the two thieves appear to be in service to a malevolent alien force, which needs the artwork for its own nefarious needs. With Team TARDIS watching some of the wonders of the universe as we join them, this fits neatly in with the ‘magical mystery tour’ feel of the series, with the Doctor’s sense of sheer excitement and wonderment shining through. It also seems to fit neatly into the gap between ‘The Ghost Monument’ and ‘Rosa’ on TV, as the Doctor talks about seeing things through new eyes, which would suggest we’re still quite early on in her run. There’s also an overlap with mention of a Vortex Manipulator, which also turned up in ‘Rosa’.
The two stories intersect via a device which was first seen in ‘The Road To The Thirteenth Doctor’ – a white, swirling vortex which turned up throughout its pages, but was never explained at the time. The Doctor acknowledges having seen it before, but can’t quite remember when. It’ll be interesting to see how this all ties together, particularly as Houser has been involved with the writing of both stories, and will hopefully have a satisfying payoff that doesn’t end up undermining ‘Road’, which did a great job of setting up the new Doctor for the comic audience.
Rachael Stott’s art does a creditable job of capturing the likenesses of the leads, as well as reproducing the TARDIS interior, of which we’ve had frustratingly little on TV so far, so this gives us more chance to try and savour the look and feel without the fast cuts and frenetic pace getting in the way. Given that throughout its rather chequered history in the medium of the comics, likenesses have sometimes not been a strong point (yes, I’m looking at you, TV Comic), yet Stott manages to give us recognisable enough takes without needing to fall into the trap of leaning heavily on slavishly reproducing a few publicity images. Enrica Angiolini’s bold colourings also help make the art jump off the page, particularly the alien world on which we first see the Doctor and friends.
So far, it all seems to bode well for the new Titan series, and sets itself way above the long-running strip in Panini’s Doctor Who Magazine, which appears to have seen better days in terms of script and artwork, and hasn’t been a compelling read for many years now. The first issue also ends on an intriguing cliffhanger, with enough mystery and pull to make you want to jump straight into the next instalment. Let’s hope it matches – if not betters – what we’ve been seeing every Sunday night.
Doctor Who: The Thirteeth Doctor #1 is now available from Titan Comics.