Oh well that explains a lot, says Tony Fyler.
The ongoing saga of the Eleventh Doctor, Alice, Jones and ARC against ServeYouInc and in particular the villainous dream-come-true merchant known as the Talent Scout is nearing its end, which means this issue of the Titan Comics Eleventh Doctor series turns towards the wrapping up of plot strands. In this issue we find out how the Talent Scout came to be, what his connection is to the mysterious entity of which ARC is essentially the living brain (keep up, this is an Eleventh Doctor saga!), and why he’s been plaguing the Doctor and co for so long now. All of which is satisfying in its own right, writer Al Ewing pulling the strands of the storytelling together very succinctly. But more than anything, the storytelling in this issue is well – and we do mean well – and truly fractured, a cataclysmic event allowing the traditional trick when faced with a full Tardis to be pulled with serious aplomb. Separating each crew member and allowing them to play their own part in the adventure, essentially validating their place in the Tardis by their actions and their personality, is the name of the game here, but it’s done in such a genuinely beautiful way that there’s plenty for your eyes to thank you for while your mind keeps score of who’s where, doing what and why. For fans of the Van Gogh ‘Exploding Tardis’ painting, there’s an extra special treat on Page 8, and from there to the end, there’s a trick pulled, storytelling strands separated by sharply-angled frames and the superb use of colour, artist Boo Cook bringing additional dimensions to Ewing’s words, and allowing for the story to be played out in fast forward, with four parts being told simultaneously, with Alice, Arc, Jones and the Doctor each playing their role in either solving the problem of the Talent Scout or at least filling the reader in on his backstory. Ewing’s story allows them all to have their moment too – Alice gaining strength from the odd order in which they’ve met the Talent Scout to not falter when he tries to make her crumble; Jones proving that even when he’s swanning about the place looking oddly like the Chief Clown from The Greatest Show In The Galaxy, he’s learned enough about his own potential to stand on his own two feet; the Doctor being in familiar territory as incorporeal observer, and ARC delivering the issue’s punch the air moment, which given that it’s really a blob of sentient Play-Doh is surprisingly effective.
There are some solid resonances with TV Eleventh Doctor stories here for the aficionados too – there’s a hint of Dream Lord, a couple of references to the Tardis as ‘Sexy,’ and a strong sense of ‘the old girl’ having a very particular mind of her own, as she manipulates events to her own benefit, irrespective of the particular wishes of the crew at a crucial moment, because, to be fair, none of them appear to have noticed what it is that’s bothering her.
Picking up The Eleventh Doctor #11 in isolation will make absolutely no sense – unlike some earlier issues in the overall arc, unless you already know what’s going on here, the story by this point will leave you behind, like tuning in suddenly and without preamble to The Wedding of River Song, say. If you’ve been with it from the start though, it satisfies by delivering on some of its promises, explaining the real origins of the Talent Scout (who has been in himself a weighty enough supervillain throughout the course of the story to be believed as a real addition to the Eleventh Doctor’s canon) and showing how the Doctor’s latest batch of companions have grown as a result of their time spent helping him into and out of trouble. The Doctor’s somewhat tangential role in this issue as backstory-agent would work much less well with some other incarnations, but Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor was frequently put in the position of relying on his friends to do the actual sorting out of threats, while he swanned about learning something interesting, so this too feels like a cleverly observed homage to the TV Doctor.
Even if you were to pick up The Eleventh Doctor #11 as your first episode in the Titan Comics range (don’t, incidentally – the first Eleventh Doctor collection gives you the background to the storylines that are playing themselves out here) the artwork is stunning at several points, with that Page 8 image a particular standout, and the additional delight of it being crucial to both the story and the way in which it goes on to be told throughout the rest of the issue.
The ServeYouInc storyline is drawing to a close. But what it has proved beyond all shadow of doubt is that Titan Comics is a safe set of hands for the New Who Doctors, as, for fifteen years and counting, Big Finish has been a safe set of hands to expand the Classic universe. By choosing authors with an ear for the nuance of the modern Doctors’ performances, who are willing to take the storytelling in both new and familiar directions, and by matching them with artists who deliver on the tones of not only the stories as a whole but of each individual ‘episode,’ the company has developed the excellent work of the writers and artists of the strips in Doctor Who Magazine, to offer new, believable adventures for the Doctors of the New Who era.
The Eleventh Doctor #11 is released Wednesday April 15th. Check out an advance art 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
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