Tony’s counting them down.
If you’ve just joining us on the second year of the Eleventh Doctor’s adventures in Titan Comics…
Unff…Nope. Doesn’t work. There’s simply no way within a 1500-word article to bring you up to speed on all the insane, complicated, back-and-forth what-the-hell, top-level, platinum-plated STUFF that’s gone on in the last eight issues. I’m pretty much afraid you’re going to have to wait for the collected version at this point, because the whole thing’s too damned complicated to summarise. There’s a bad thing the Doctor’s accused of doing when he was the War Doctor, but can’t remember. There’s a trans-temporal bounty hunter on his tail called The Then and The Now. Somewhere along the line, he’s ended up with a full Tardis again – River’s on board, being…well, River. Abslom Daak, Dalek Killer’s on board, looking for Daleks to kill in a Dalekless universe. There’s someone who claims to be a companion of the War Doctor’s occasionally on board, called the Squire. And there’s the Eleventh Doctor’s faithful library assistant, Alice Obiefune, to whom he’s being unexpectedly cruel and awful. Doubtless there’s some deeply conniving reason for that, but it has yet to be revealed. As you join us, the Tardis crew are running from The Then And The Now, and the Doctor’s getting peeved that nothing he does seems to outrun the thing. In this issue, not unreasonably called Running To Stay Still, these elements collide and we get a sense of our Doctor’s increasingly antsy frustration. River quickly discovers it’s a bad idea to ignore safety regulations that say ‘Please ensure your arms are kept inside the vehicle at all times’ and ends up cryo-bunking with Daak’s deep-frozen wife. The Squire reappears from parts and adventures unknown, to basically stick the head in The Then And The Now, and is duly hospitalised as a result. Annnd then there were two. Meanwhile, Alice has a plan to do what the Doctor wants and needs to do, but which for some reason he’s neither seeing nor allowing her to suggest. Enlisting Daak to do some the harder – or at least squishier – work, she sets off to prove either that she’s earned her place on board the Tardis among this esoteric mob of space legends (River Song, Abslom Daak, the Squire…and Alice beginning to feel like she’s the kid in the algebra class who gets given the crayons and glitter), or to do what the Doctor wants without him being forced to ask.
Unlike some recent issues, though, Running To Stay Still does feel like it advances the story significantly, and there’s bull-at-a-gate pace in the early sections of it, with River getting hit by the bounty hunter and the Squire then hitting it right back. Daak, for his part, is rather more active, and attractive, in this issue than he has been for a while, getting his Scrappy-Doo on at the thought of maybe, just maybe, getting back to some Daleks that he can kill to give his life a little more of its traditional meaning than all the toing and froing with the Doctor has done.
There’s an interesting parallel here between the Eleventh and Fifth Doctors – the two youngest of the Time Lords. Both face the issue of Full Tardis Syndrome, and in this issue, writer Si Spurrier deploys a distinctly Fifth Doctor solution to the problem of having too many people to write good dialogue for: he fairly quickly knocks River out of the game, and shortly afterward, leaves the Squire in intensive care, meaning there are only two companions left to deal with. When one of them runs off to have their own strand of adventure, it clears the field for things to get less frenetic but more actively interesting next time – if the Eleventh Doctor and Daak have to share a Tardis for the most part on their own, will either of them survive the symphony of spitting fury and chainswords that will ensue? There’s every chance we’ll find out in issue #2.10.
Artwise, there’s a great energy in this issue that matches the storytelling pace – Leandro Casca delivering the pace of the TV Eleventh Doctor stories both in terms of the beats between set-ups and reveals when River’s being clever or underplaying her danger, and in terms of the big set-pieces, such as the return of the Squire to kick some trans-temporal bounty-hunter ass. Daak, who has varied in his portrayal across the issues of Year 2, here has more of a movie star quality to him, though to be fair, it would have to be one of those grizzled movie stars – a Sean ‘Please God, Don’t Kill Me In This One’ Bean, or a Gerard Butler, maybe. (Hmm…Abslom Daak, Dalek Killer – The Movie. C’mon, after Guardians of the Freakin’ Galaxy, you can’t tell me that wouldn’t be awesome). And Casca drops in a couple of cutesy, blink and you miss them Easter Eggs too – a bunch of framed companion photos, including one of Clara, and a hatstand with a Tom Baker hat and scarf casually draped on it, for instance – that give a sense of value for money and will make most geeks rather happy by virtue of their gracenote purpose of tying the Classic and New Who worlds together. There’s more of that kind of thing too when the Eleventh Doctor well and truly loses his rag with The Then And The Now (there’s finger-wagging and everything) – The Then And The Now resurrects its gift to illustrators and fans alike by showing us the Eleventh Doctor in a state of degeneration, allowing earlier Doctors briefly to come out and play. So among the relentless downing of companions in this issue, there’s plenty of spectacular prettiness to look at – also including Sshh, a planet that looks like a Ferrero Rocher and was at the sucker-end on Dalek R&D during the Time War. And in case you still needed a mystery to solve, beyond the great big mystery in the middle of all this – who did what to whom in the Time War, and why? – there’s the resurgence of the graffiti that seems to be following them as assiduously as The Then And The Now is, the simple, but nevertheless odd word, ‘Exterminhate.’ Now if you’re looking for suspects, there are plenty of contenders – the War Doctor himself seems to have had a bit of a graffiti habit: his mantra before he got stuck on the whole ‘No More’ thing, maybe? Daak, possibly, in a kind of ‘Ablsom Woz Ere’ attempt to put his mark on the Time War? Alice, doing a sort of Bad Wolf to lead the Doctor on to find the truth? Who knows? But certainly it’s a coherent thread on which to pull when Daak and the Doctor find themselves alone (bar the recuperating Squire) at the start of the next issue.
Worth reading? Oh hell yes. One of the best of the year? Mmmmprobably not, but then the year has been insanely good, so issue #2.9 is still better than a lot of comic-books you could be reading. Go get it now, and get ready for a companion-cull.
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