Bwahahahaha, says Tony.
The end of issue 2.4 of the Eleventh Doctor’s adventures gave us all a bit of a thrill with the promise of a return for an old enemy never faced on-screen by that incarnation.
This issue takes that promise further, teasing us to the point of madness, while never actually showing us that enemy. But it does give us a fairly typical, adjunctive Eleventh Doctor magical mystery tour, introducing us to Time Lord insects, a bit of Tardis chicanery to escape the ever-oncoming threat of the quantum being that destroyed its own timestream known as The Then And The Now, and a war between the Sontarans and, erm, the Other Sontarans, before heading to a highly secret, staggeringly sealed building to find something or someone whose help will be instrumental in the next part of what, with the Eleventh Doctor, it’s always safer to think of as the ‘thing in progress’ than ‘the plan.’
This toing and froing is another great example of the comic-books’ siphoning of pure Eleventh Doctor ‘purposeful bonkersness’ to add to writer Si Spurrier’s arsenal. In the TV show, it was notable how often this felt over-contrived, but in two dimensions, it really works as an Eleventh Doctor ‘thing,’ a part of what makes him who he is, this predilection to think in twelve directions at once, travel in four and talk in only one, hampered by linear time and the minds of his companions, so that the true intent of his actions only becomes clear after he’s got to a certain point and explained it to them. The comic-books then succeed in doing something that should be technically impossible – they’re more like the Eleventh Doctor than the actual Eleventh Doctor they’re trying to be like. It’s the storytelling equivalent of the Michael Caine impression everybody does. Put a really good Michael Caine impersonator next to Michael Caine, close your eyes and listen to them speak, and the impersonator would sound ‘more like’ Michael Caine than Caine himself does to our ears.
All of which is a convoluted (and therefore typically Eleventh Doctor) way of saying something simple: this issue is dripping with Eleventh Doctor goodness.
It also has Abslom Daak, of course, which can only increase its value. Daak here is deliciously dedicated to the idea of there being some bloodshed to get involved in, especially when he discovers a Sontaran war into which he could inject his own brand of chainsword-wielding insanity. But like a guard dog on a short chain, the Doctor pulls him away, leaving Daak scope in this issue to focus on some of the hidden, softer sides of himself – holding hands with Library Assistant Alice and rescuing insects from certain oblivion.
The Sontaran war is a thing so insane and glorious it probably couldn’t survive in the TV version, their point of difference so pathetically insignificant to outside observers as to underscore the comedy value of Sontarans generally. But for the clone race, ‘the Judas Goatee’ is reason enough to destroy each other, and much of a planet. Stirring some of them up to wearing a particular kind of facial fuzz does sound like the hidden enemy’s style, but Spurrier immediately undercuts any certainty about that, by showing another potential candidate for the instigation of such madness. And as Daak, Alice and the Squire struggle to keep up with the Eleventh Doctor’s flights both of logic and Tardis in this issue, they find themselves going deeper and deeper into a labyrinth of tunnels to get the person or thing that will kickstart the next phase of operations. Exactly what that is gets a reveal as this issue’s cliff-hanger, and will split fandom, with some punching the air and some groaning, Douglas Adams-style, “Oh no, not again.”
Essentially, this issue takes the reveal at the end of the last issue and takes us on a mad bunny-hopping tour of times and places to help explain what may well be going on. It’s tremendous fun, but it’s fun to a purpose, even if we, like the three companions, have to run very fast to try and keep up, to understand what that purpose might actually be. The issue keeps the energy up without necessarily revealing too much by getting us invested in the short term, in chunks of action that help advance us at a precisely regulated rate. And the reveal at the end takes the throwback potential of this storyline up to a whole new level – not only do you have the joy of Abslom Daak, and the War Doctor, and the villain with a highly recognisable artefact from the eighties, but there’s this too, essentially throwing a new form of nostalgia into the story in a way that makes pretty much perfect sense.
Warren Pleece, on artwork, continues to walk a very effective line – in some instances, he’s very precise, rendering his panels with a reality that helps sell the visual universe in which the story operates. Here he’s particularly exceptional at space travel sequences, which add a pace to the flight away from The Then And The Now, and at internal environments – check out some of his corridor work and revel. In other instances, he judges when he can best convey the scale of scenes with less precisely delineated and more impressionistic artwork, meaning long shots of the Sontaran war are less forensically accurate, but Pleece then goes in closer to ‘focus’ our eyes on some of the battle’s specifics. In essence, Pleece makes the calls that help move the story on while keeping the energy high, helping us push on greedily to the end while still appreciating the stand-out panels and pages in all their glory.
Year 2 of the Eleventh Doctor stories was always going to have to pull out something pretty spectacular to top the epic series-arc that was the ServeYou Inc storyline. With all the nostalgic ingredients being woven into this story and the central idea of the crimes the Doctor may or may not have committed during his War Doctor incarnation though, Titan looks on course to do precisely that.
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