Tony will sleep when this arc is finished and not before.
Take two singers. Two dancers. Two musicians. Two creative, expressive people of any kind. In fact, take three. Then four. Set them all working together, and what you’ll have might at first feel like chaos, as each does their thing, as hard and loud and bright and distinctive as they possibly can. But after a little while, you’ll notice something happening. The voices will harmonise, or creatively oppose in ways you never imagined, because you don’t have their instincts. The moves will stop being singular, will dance in some audacious way that serves the others, will inspire, push, drive the others on to new invention. The notes will find a rhythm that allows them all to shine, to specialise, to add their own distinctiveness to a new harmonious whole.
That’s what happens with The Eleventh Doctor #2.13.
From a sombre starting place that adds Alice’s voice-over to the Eleventh Doctor looking at an increasingly-infected River Song in her stasis chamber, things go rapidly entirely tonto – the Doctor opens the Tardis door and for a handful of pages after that, you’d be forgiven for thinking artists INJ Culbard and Simon Fraser and colourist Gary Caldwell are out for blood and glory in this issue – they break out the ‘Exploding Cosmic Chaos’ section of their colour pallets and get stunningly busy – stars scream, paradoxes burn, the universe pretty much rips itself to bits, and you think ‘there’s no way anything as paltry as words could ever stand up to this. This is an issue that’s just going to be stunning to look at for thirty pages.’ A picture after all is famously worth a thousand words. Here it’s fair to say a picture’s worth a thousand worlds as the events of issue #2.12 have cosmically cataclysmic consequences.
But you really should know better than to think anything as silly as that, because Rob Williams is on Word Duty, and he’s not a writer who’ll let the issue be all about the imagery this far into an arc, when there are great, impossible odds to calculate, stories to move forward, characters to explain and really speaking, a hell of a lot to do! Nor does he here – in fact, right from the off, that sombre section shows Williams too means business in this issue. It shows an Eleventh Doctor doing his occasional brooding thing, tapping into a fundamental characteristic of the on-screen version, that sense that somehow, right from the beginning, he was a Doctor who got things wrong, who let people down (from young Amelia Pond onward). In Let’s Kill Hitler, he spends some time showing us his guilt over all the people he feels he’s let down, almost like an updated version of the Fifth Doctor, unsure in his hearts that he’s entirely ‘fit’ to be the Doctor, but stuck with it anyway and doing the best he can. Here, that occasional moroseness comes through in Williams’ initial note, and then bang! Crisis, chaos, and the front of the Eleventh Doctor snaps immediately back into place, the cleverest life-form in the room, working things out, fishing in the streams of the universe, trying to understand, and getting there, whether anyone else is following or not.
As the only conscious companion he has is Abslom Daak, the odds that anyone’s following aren’t hugely high, and throughout the ‘exploding cosmos’ sections, Williams gives us just enough to think about while we’re looking at all the pretties. Then, when Culbard, Fraser and Caldwell dare to pause for breath, he takes up the slack, spinning us off with new things to hear and read and think about – Alice, back in the Time War, with all the people and things she’s met there, and the consequences of her trying to do the right thing in a time and place when the right thing doesn’t exist. The art and colour crew, having taken their breath, get immediately back up to speed and match images to his words and revelations, and before you know exactly how it’s happened, the whole story is singing in harmony, dancing in dramatic, sweeping time, working as one to fry your eyes and blow your mind and somehow make a kind of sense of chaos, plucking lines of logic from the maelstrom and giving them the epic visual scale of an anniversary special, everybody working in harmony – including the usually unsung heroes, Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt on lettering – to produce something with the rhythm of a dance, the power of a symphony, the emotional punch of the leading international drama that Doctor Who actually is, and the staggering visuals that really, only supremely good comic-book art can give you. You wouldn’t be as intensely drawn in by a TV version, you simply wouldn’t have access to the imagery in the same intimate way you have here, and that connection is crucial, it amplifies the power of Williams’ words, his explanations, his beginning to unravel the tangled madness of strand-connections that twelve long issues have given us. Let’s throw in some late breaking headlines to push you out the door and to your comic-book store – we finally get an explanation of who and what The Then And The Now is in this issue. We finally understand who the Squire is, and how she can remember her actions with the War Doctor, despite them being time-locked in the war. The Volatix Cabal (keep up!) come into their own in a whole new way, echoing messages heard as recently as Series 9 – ‘the friend within the enemy; the enemy inside the friend.’ And Abslom Daak –
No. ‘Spoilers,’ as River would say, were she not in a stasis chamber getting somehow steadily worse from her infection with the Malignant. That one, you’ll have to buy the issue to find out. Suffice it to say, for an issue that begins with the Doctor in full-on mopey mode, and includes the potential extinction of the universe, by the end of it, we’ve had enough character and story development that the Eleventh Doctor’s relationships with almost everybody on board his Tardis have been altered pretty permanently.
To find out how, you need to hop down to your comic-book store of choice – yes, genuinely, hop there. It’s an Eleventh Doctor thing. We hop to comic-book stores now. Hopping is cool – and get your hands on what is essentially a comic-book symphony waiting to take you on a ride to the end of the universe and beyond. Hop on down and get The Eleventh Doctor #2.13 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