Tony Fyler says ‘Told you so.’
There was a lot of hype about the first part of this first adventure from the Ninth Doctor in the comic-book world – written by comic and Who aficionado Cavan Scott, illustrated by hot shot Blair Shedd, it had everything going for it.
When the first issue arrived with us here, my reaction though was a little muted.
The artwork was great, albeit with a lot of silhouette shots, but the story seemed, if anything, a little over-padded, with some single shots taking several panels to realise, and the story-arc seeming to miss the mark of getting its hooks in. I ended my review of the first issue by telling everyone to keep the faith, and that it would probably get better.
Ahem. It’s gotten better.
Really quite a lot better in part two. Some of Shedd’s artistic techniques are now becoming familiar, but they’re used to fantastic effect here – the use of close-ups of characters’ eyes as the graphic for a voice-over; pulling back to show more of a scene; those silhouette-shots - they’re all here. But in this second instalment, what’s also shown up to the party is Cavan Scott’s barnstorming way with characterization. There’s Ninth Doctor by the bucketload here, the grandstanding, the sudden smile, the suppressed but explosive rage against his own past, his own limitations and the universe he’s left with, roaring out here and there to not only unsettle everyone else, but move the story on significantly. Captain Jack too is written well here, a balancing force for the Ninth Doctor’s anger, with a sweet smirk and a way with a flirtatious story that takes him right back to the period into which this story is slotted – between The Doctor Dances and Boom Town – when Jack was still the youngish, exuberant, morally questionable rogue time agent and con man.
The story takes us from where we left off last time – Rose Tyler, unprotected, lost in the vortex, and the other two racing off to her rescue – and leads us somewhere we truly didn’t expect to be: a black market world where technology from dodgy collapsed timelines is all for sale if you have the grotzits [Classic Who reference – Google is your friend, O my New Who geek-buddies]. There are a couple of nice TV references there – a Slitheen wandering around looking for something dangerous, a couple of Hoix looking hungry - and what look suspiciously like some Eleventh Doctor comic-book characters spoiling for either a bargain or a rumble. There’s not really getting any getting away from the Mos Eisley, Star Wars feel of the place, especially when it turns out that Rose has been working for a ‘strictly legitimate’ giant octopus arms-dealer for the four days (or twenty minutes, Tardis-wise) it’s taken the time team to catch up with her. Very ‘Young Anakin in The Phantom Menace.’
Interesting scenes unfold, with Scott seeming, if anything, to take a pinch of Ninth Doctor and blend it with a previous Russell T Davies/Christopher Eccleston collaboration, The Second Coming, as the Doctor not only comes over all ‘Jesus kicking moneylender ass,’ but then draws a staggering amount of attention to himself by offering the buyers and traders at the market the best bargain they’ll ever find.
In typical Ninth Doctor style, there’s a method in his moments of madness, but Scott captures that dangerous, knife-edge, ‘what-the-hell’s-he-doing-now?’ feeling that you got watching Eccleston’s finest performances, like his speech in Dalek when he discovers the last Dalek in the universe has no weapon, or at the end of Bad Wolf when he tells Rose he’s coming to get her. You really do get a sense of the dark and dangerous hysteric underneath all the grandstanding, and it’s – well, there are plenty of other words for it, but it’s now become obligatory when talking about the Ninth Doctor to say it’s fantastic.
Shedd’s artwork in this issue doesn’t steal the show as it did in issue #1, because Cavan Scott brings more of his game to this party, but it’s still very impressive – Shedd has a strong eye for character-drawing, and as I said earlier, his techniques do work well; the first page of this issue, in Rose’s voice, is a thing of bright beauty, and he also has a great sense of movement – particularly in this case, the Tardis’ movement through space-time, which is gorgeously evocative and well-coloured. There are some equally vivid non-portrait images here too – fantastic detailing on a sun that’s too close for comfort, a great flashback image of a Dalek fleet etc.
All in all, issue #2 of the Ninth Doctor comic-book stories relies less on hype and the impetus of launch, and actually focuses far more on delivering above and beyond the call of your money’sworth. The actual plot moves on surprisingly little – it does move, but it’s a movement threaded thinly through all the characterization and action of the moment – though builds to a climax that suggests we’re in for more plot-advancement in issue #3.
If the first issue was a little deflating, issue #2 restores the balance, and then, in a good match of skills between Scott and Shedd, goes a little bit further than that, delivering a couple of air-punching moments of Ninth Doctor (and at least one from Rose), leading to an ending that whets the appetite sharply for the next instalment. This is what the hype and excitement of the Ninth Doctor’s arrival in comic-books should have felt like.
And now, it does.
Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor #2 is released Wednesday June 17th. Check out an advance art preview here.
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