DOCTOR WHO: Titan Comics – Twelfth Doctor #5 "The Swords of Kali, Part 3" Review

Tony Fyler celebrates Dewali.

The point about really good actors is that in one series, they can establish a tone for a character that’s both very different from everything that’s gone before, and absolutely dead-on the same.

The point about really good writers is that they can hear that tone, and imbue their work with it, feeling in sync with the performance and taking it forward.

All hail then to Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, and to Robbie Morrison at Titan Comics, who has rendered him in all three parts of The Swords of Kali with economy of language, but a definite Capaldian tone.  In The Twelfth Doctor #5, we see the culmination of the story, which blends ancient Indian mythology with a future Indian space-age, and brings the goddess Kali well and truly back to life. There’s a delicious ‘pre-credits’ sequence that simply drips with Capaldi, swanning in, being clever, outsmarting the bad guys, stealing an artefact, and not giving even the first in his very small collection of damns about the fact that the aggressors have a very bad day. This is not the same Doctor who agonised about whether he was a good man – this is a Doctor with his mind made up, as in the confrontation with the Boneless. That’s the way you want to roll, the Twelfth Doctor will rock your world and do what he does to the out-and-out gits of time and space.

There’s a trick the bad guys do here of appearing all sweetness and light and human in one panel, only to get all flame-headed and evil in the next, that reminds Whovians with at least a solid decade under their belt of the Gelth from The Unquiet Dead, and there’s a similar lurch of emotion here when a perfectly harmless genius discovers he too is having a really bad day as a result of the switch. The realisation that his bad day means a bad day not only for the citizens of Mumbai but also for those on board a continent-sized space station comes at just the right moment in a story that’s plotted with action as a core element, but which still gives Capaldi’s Doctor enough brusque grandstanding to do to win the day. There’s a solid action moment there too – you know you’ve always wanted to see the Twelfth Doctor sword-fight a four-armed Indian goddess – and the resolution is double-threaded, with the Doctor’s being both an homage to the days of reversing the polarity of the neutron flow, and a nod to the mythologies of spiritual evil throughout human history, where actively fighting them only makes them stronger, and the solution is to find another way. Meanwhile, one of the Doctor’s new friends, Priyanka, discovers a crucial secret about shouting at spaceships and saves her part of the day too. The discussion at the end – the Twelfth Doctor would probably clip us round the ear for calling it banter – has an authentic sound both on the Doctor’s end and on Clara’s, and the final moment comes full circle with the tale of tragic same-sex love which has been a hallmark of the story, and a strong indication that Titan takes the forward-looking essence of the programme wholly to heart.

The artwork here is mostly excellent – Capaldi clearly has a face that’s good to draw, and artist Dave Taylor does impressive work both with the lead characters and the Indian goddess who’s the cause of all the trouble. She’s rendered here for the most part in a slightly more everyday fashion than we saw for her grand reveal at the end of issue #4, but in panels which focus on her eyes for instance there are still moments of brilliance. Where this issue’s artwork really excels though is in the bringing to life of Haven, the space station, which really highlights the work of colourist Luis Guerrero too, light seeming to stream down and change what you’re actually looking at. Guerrero is presumably also responsible for the bold pallettes of colour used to give mood to this final act of the story, especially important when there are tearful farewells and Dewali fireworks to deliver in quick succession.

The Twelfth Doctor #5 tells the final chapter of a complex tale, and really sells the story’s power and pace. What’s more, you believe you’re watching a Twelfth Doctor script unfold with the man himself – the writing is precise, the artwork vivid, and the story of love lost, love found and evil conquered has everything you could want from 45 minutes of the BBC’s finest.

Both of two small funny strips deliver in this issue too, serving as a palate cleanser after the intensity of the alien/goddess shenanigans, and leaving you ready for the start of the Twelfth Doctor’s next adventure in issue #6.

The Twelfth Doctor #5 is released Wednesday February 25th. Check out a 3-page preview here.

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Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at
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