“Doctor Who doesn’t conquer or obliterate or maim or murder. Doctor Who pets puppy dogs and returns library books.”
Titan Comics’ four-issue run of Doctor Who: Missy reaches its climax, and it would be fair to say writer Jody Houser has done something of a bait-and-switch on readers, in setting up the core premise of a reality-shattering MacGuffin as the focus of the plot, but then taking the whole story in a rather different and unexpected direction.
The Master does have something of a history when it comes to doomsday weapons, so when Missy went and roped in an earlier incarnation for help with what had seemed to be the latest in a long list of diabolical schemes in conquering and subjugating the Universe, it looked like a case of business as usual. However, the last thing we thought would potentially happen was a deconstruction of the Doctor and the Master, as well as the fractious relationship the pair have had during the years since they both left Gallifrey.
It has to be said Doctor Who: Missy is all the better for it, as the near-total absence of the Doctor from proceedings has let Missy (and the Master) breathe, and given us a chance to look deeper into the Doctor’s old rival, particularly at a time when it seemed Missy might actually turn her back on all of her past misdeeds, and cross over to join the other team. In all things concerning Missy, however, it will never turn out to be straightforward or simple, and Houser has given us a look at the mass of contradictions that are going on beneath that bonnet.
When you realise that the whole point of the endeavour here has not been about some tyrannical plot, or the latest deadly device to enslave and domineer all life, but was instead just a character study, it certainly makes the entire story feel less unbalanced; leaving the mystery of the big super weapon to be resolved in the final of four parts was a sleight of hand, as it was never where the story was in fact going, when you look back across the previous issues. The search for the key to the secure vault housing the supposed object of Missy’s plot was only ever set dressing.
What we actually get is a look at the stark contract between the Master when we first met him in 1970, and Missy as she was in 2017, when she was on the cusp of finally changing in a far more fundamental way than switching gender. Houser has managed to show Missy’s build to the seismic events of ‘World Enough And Time’ / ‘The Doctor Falls’, where it felt as though things had finally been resolved in a rather decisive and definitive way between Missy and the Doctor, drawing things to a fitting climax after so many centuries of conflict and rivalry across space and time.
Doctor Who: Missy manages to fuse together classic and nu-Who in a manner which has only been rivalled by Big Finish, as age does not weary nor the years condemn in comics or on audio in the way that television sadly fails to avoid; it is much easier to have old and new series characters meet up in other media, as you can avoid the manual problem of actors – and, therefore, their characters – having visibly aged (or even, in an increasing number of cases, having passed away). So, the Master can freely cross paths with his future selves, without there being any limitations.
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Roberta Ingranata’s artwork has veered irritatingly between accurate (if somewhat stylised) depictions of characters and settings as seen on TV, to falling somewhat wide of the mark at times whilst she has been working on Titan’s Doctor Who Comic. Thankfully, Doctor Who: Missy has seen her work be a lot more consistent (no mean feat, given that she has more existing characters than ever to try and reproduce, instead of having pure artistic free reign), and has certainly helped give this latest mini-series plenty of the epic feel and scope it was clearly aiming to deliver.
After some very clever misdirection, Doctor Who: Missy has managed to pay off handsomely, and proved to be far more of a marvel than Titan’s parent title has of late. In fact, when it comes to Doctor Who comics now, Make Mine Missy. ‘Nuff said.
Doctor Who: Missy #4 is out now from Titan Comics.