Ohhhh, the creepiness, says Tony.
Every time there’s a new companion in the Tardis, there’s a change of energy – that’s how it works in Who, and in life too – every new person who becomes a part of your day to day life brings their own contribution to the dynamic of your world. But if we’ve seen one thing clearly in the New Who years, it’s that if two people had a prior connection, then one goes off with the Doctor and is eventually joined by the second, it can be something of a rocky road, re-establishing their relationship on new ground – the ground of space-time travellers, each with an individual third relationship with the Doctor.
That’s where we find ourselves at the beginning of The Wishing Well Witch, the new energy of Cindy Wu joining her friend Gabby Gonzalez about the Tenth Doctor’s Tardis, and the two of them sparring and sparking to find their place – Gabby coming off as the seasoned time traveller, Cindy itching to prove that she earned her place on board just as much as Gabby did, and had her own connection with the Doctor while Gabby was off being the pawn of darkness. The writing of their spat by Nick Abadzis takes account of real friendships – there’s not just one bust-up, there’s a solid pathway of lines and looks and gestures before these two explode as they try to establish who’s who and where they stand.
Where they stand, incidentally, is Not-London. Which is to say, the Doctor aims for London and gets Dewbury, a kind of Hay-on-Wye for paranormalists, ye olde quainte village with an annual supernatural literature festival, a creepy old well with an alleged witch at the bottom, and a bunch of teenagers with cowls and candles, performing rituals just to see how smart and clever they are.
Clearly, these are teens who have never been allowed to watch any horror movie ever before pulling their duffle coats over their heads and making with the candlelit vigils, because when Things Happen to them, leaving some of them seemingly struck by extreme Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, looping through the same events and sequences again and again, they all seem quite surprised.
Clearly, the Doctor, Gabby and Cindy have to investigate, if only, as the Doctor calls it, for the sake of a ‘little mystery’ while they’re there, and naturally, they go off in different directions, the Doctor to investigate the well itself, and Gabby and Cindy to find some of the local teens and potential communers with witchy forces. The Doctor comes across an OCD teen in a bookshop, along with her mother, who handily fills in quite a bit of plotting backstory for him – as does Randall, the seemingly random testament to British dentistry and hairdressing who spends much of his day shouting at strangers about the witch of the well. The Doctor, nevertheless, goes blundering into the well to meet the witch, apparently freaks it right the hell out and accidentally sends it towards the village on a feeding frenzy.
Well played, Mr Sandshoes. Well played.
Meanwhile, Gabby and Cindy are having their argument and stropping off in different directions. Cindy, having delivered the atom-bomb of lines to the friend who once left her behind, walks around Dewbury feeling like a douchebag, and stumbles into a fortune teller’s booth.
Now, clearly, she’s never watched any Doctor Who in her life, because fortune telling and clairvoyance never works out well on Doctor Who. We’re thinking Professor Clegg and his heart attack in Planet of the Spiders, Tegan and her crystal ball experience in Snakedance, Donna and her time beetle in Turn Left. It’s just best avoided once you step on board the Tardis. But oh. My. Life. There are words spoken in her fortune that you’re going to want to read. Breath-stealing, air-punching, unbidden ‘Yeah!’-yelling words that will make you look a bit of a freak if you read this comic-book in company. To some extent, the words drag you back not into Cindy’s history but into Gabby’s, and beyond that, they take you a lot further back and make you yelp like a puppy looking for lunch, meaning by the end of this issue you’re almost ready to bite your own fingernails to the quick in impatience for the next part of this story. We’re in major league set-up territory here, while also being led down the pathway of a mystery that entertains in its own right. Which is what you get for your comic-book dollar when Nick Abadzis is on form, as he is here.
Now let’s talk art. The Tenth Doctor has had a bit of a rough ride, artistically speaking, over his first year and a bit at Titan. For such a classically handsome individual, David Tennant seems to give artists a right old pain in the butt when it comes to capturing his Tenth Doctor expressions and essence. So, excuse me while I clear my throat for an announcement. Eleonora Carlini, congratulations – you can deliver the Tenth Doctor. Here, the Tenth Doctor looks like the Tenth Doctor most of the time, which is so noticeable as to be worthy of inclusion in this review. The style overall has both a vivacity (meaning a hat-tip of thanks to Arianna and Azzurra Florean on colourwork detail) and a frequent angularity that gives some scenes and facial expressions a dash of Manga without tipping the balance too far that way for mainstream Who readers. There is some genuine explosive horror here though – a couple choosing to get romantic near the well is never going to end happily, but Carlini brings a lot of bang for your buck, and she delivers proper thrills and chills too when Cindy gets her fortune told and the air-punching words are spoken, and when the Doctor investigates the well and finds…well, something a hell of a lot more creepy and disturbing than your average witch, shall we say. Abadzis gives us the bones of a really solid creepy story with occasional resonances of Gothic Who like The Masque of Mandragora and The Stones of Blood. Carlini here though is on absolute fire, taking his premise and delivering in two dimensions some sequences and panels that, were they to be attempted on-screen, might make you think seriously about pushing your broadcast time to later in the evening.
A mini-mystery in a sleeping West Country village that both ripples with sinister behind-the-scenes darkness and disturbing images like the best Hammer horror films you remember. Visuals that punch certainly at and maybe even above the story’s already creepy weight. Solid character dynamics that make sense as relationships are adjusted. A well-rendered Tenth Doctor, both in terms of his character and his visual representation. And an explosive reveal that has repercussions far beyond the scope of a simple two-part story of ghastly things down wells. It all adds up to one conclusion – you’re gonna want to get The Tenth Doctor #2.8. And then once you’ve read it, you’re going to wish you’d waited till #2.9 was already out, so you could go straight on.
Don’t wait though. It’s not like you need those fingernails, after all. Go get #2.8 today.
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