Tony Fyler gets totally fractured.
Titan Comics has set the bar pretty high with its Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctor comic-books so far, proving itself, like Big Finish and Virgin Books before it, able to bring the hardcore geekery for fans, while at the same time inventing and expanding freely on the mythos of the show.
The Twelfth Doctor #6 is dangerous territory for the company to wander into though – it advertises this issue as ‘the perfect jumping on point,’ being the start of a brand new adventure with the Twelfth Doctor and Clara. It’s clearly taken this as a mission statement, which means it sticks closer to recent on screen events than previous story The Swords of Kali – taking Clara home to Coal Hill School, and bringing in Kate Stewart and the Tower of London UNIT HQ very quickly. What’s at least as much, it’s got a sense of other recent episodes in the storyline too, with an alien that bears more than a passing resemblance to the Boneless – but which also very much isn’t them – a time traveler with a family connection to the story, a Coal Hill schoolgirl taken along for a ride, the Doctor as Caretaker and a fairytale element in the form of a child who can see and hear things other people can’t.
Happily, at least in this issue, the story marries these elements very coherently, and the use of scene-cutting allows the various strands – a researcher who’s died while probing dimensions at the Tower, a grieving child, the Doctor and Clara being brave, saving worlds, calling in the Judoon (oh yes, they get a name-check too), and Clara reflecting on the death of Danny without overdoing the mawkish references to him – to all run parallel to each other without getting overly angled and messy. It’s a very fine balancing act, and it’s one that writer Robbie Morrison pulls off with the aplomb of a seasoned scriptwriter.
While allowing the pre-credits sequence the pause and the breathing-space it needs to deal with sombre subjects and to weave a fairytale element into our consciousness, from the moment we first see the Doctor, the story begins to zoom along at a rapid rate, because the dialogue is written to be eaten with a big ice-cream spoon, and slips into your mind at a genuinely Twelfth Doctor and Clara pace. This is an interestingly more comic Twelfth Doctor than we’re generally used to though (something we’ve been primed to expect by reports that in Series 9, his character will lighten up), but it still sounds very much in keeping with the Twelfth Doctor’s mystification with human beings. There are one or two places where the Twelfth Doctor appears to be channeling the Seventh, particularly when describing the joys of Clara’s English class, but to be honest, this momentary channeling is no bad thing, and treats us to a Doctor slightly more flamboyant than the buttoned-down on screen version has so far largely been. It’s a Twelfth Doctor more reminiscent of his performances in Robot of Sherwood and Time Heist, with perhaps a dash of Mummy on the Orient Express thrown in for good measure. Perhaps it’s needless to say that it works very well.
Meanwhile the alien threat has a touch of Boneless bout its actions, but also, surprisingly, a touch of The Flood from The Waters of Mars, and a darkly comic approach to delivering its threat – while there’s little in the way of doubt that encountering the Fractures would put a really bad crimp in your day, their mode of self-introduction will give the reader a grin as well as an intake of breath at the drama.
The artwork here is a departure from the style of The Swords of Kali – less boldly-coloured and three-dimensional but never getting in the way of the storytelling and more often than not helping it along. Brian Williamson’s work proves that Capaldi continues to be more accurately deliverable in two dimensions than the Tenth Doctor is, with the Twelfth Doctor never less than recognizable, Clara clear and Kate Stewart always at least given a bearing that captures the essence of Jemma Redgrave’s on screen performance.
So does The Twelfth Doctor #6 deliver on its promise as a ‘perfect jumping on point’ for the comic-book adventures of the ‘Magician’ Doctor? Actually, yes, it does – The Swords of Kali was a fantastic adventure, but this feels like the Who of Series 8, with perhaps a hint of the characterization to come in Series 9 mixed in to expand our understanding. The familiar aspects of Coal Hill and UNIT make this issue feel like it ties in more naturally to the timeline after Last Christmas, and the story delivers an intriguing development, while initially making us think the dots are easy to join.
So yes – come jump on board, it’s time to find out what the Fractures are all about, and to join the fans of the Twelfth Doctor in comic-book form.
The Twelfth Doctor #6 is released Wednesday March 18th. Variant cover and sample artwork is included below.
To find your local comic store visit: http://www.comicshoplocator.com/
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
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 FylerWrites.co.uk