Welcome to the jungle, says Tony.
The Ninth Doctor’s adventures in Titan’s comic-books so far have been very faithful to his TV adventures. They’ve been slotted in to a very specific chunk of TV time, taking on an adventure that was mentioned on screen, but never shown – tracking down Captain Jack’s missing memories, the ones wiped by the Time Agents (which, in fairness, have never really been found in either Who or Torchwood). With issue #9, the Ninth Doctor adventures are growing up a little, bringing a new, entirely comic-book companion on board, just as the Eighth, Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors have done. Uniquely though, because of the time and space into which the Ninth Doctor comic-book stories are slotted, there are consequences to bringing someone new on board. Especially a bouncy, smiley, ‘Ooh, time and space, how amazing!’ newcomer at whom the Doctor grins a full Fourth Doctor grin out of his often-scowly Ninth Doctor face.
Rose is jealous of the new girl, who comes over all unnecessary when the Tardis crew hit Brazil in 1682. They hit it in search of some reality in which Captain Jack is a Catholic priest. Yes, really.
Unfortunately, while they find that reality – and apparently an old friend of Jack’s – they also find Spanish slavers rounding up the natives to turn them into…well, slaves, and underground bases with flirty computers, and mermaids. And…well, pretty much river trolls. Oh and Harry Potter’s patronus.
Sooo – busy issue, this one.
Everything points to Jack having been on a deep undercover assignment in this time and place, in pursuit and observation of a temporal miscreant, but more than the bare bones of that fact, what this issue offers is a combination of screen-wipe and story-thread. Like the best of reboots, it sets us moving again after an emotional story comes to a close, while setting up new dynamics of its own, new tensions and character-interplays to deal with while the business of alien or villainous shenanigans reveals itself to us, allowing us several levels of engagement: Jack’s memories; Jack’s history as a priest; monsters and mermaids and mayhem, oh my; but also the journey of wowness of the newcomer on board the Tardis, and their relationships with in particular Rose and the Doctor. It’s a harmony that works and feels like proper – and let’s be controversial here – New Who, with the time taken to interlace the emotional and the adventurous threads of the story. That works especially well in the Ninth Doctor stories, because it was a fundamental departure from everything that had gone before, when emotional involvements and entanglements had been there, but usually very much sublimated to the danger of the week. So that sense of interlaced threads helps this story feel very much in keeping with its time and place, despite introducing our first non-TV Ninth Doctor companion alongside Rose and Jack.
There’s balance here too between writer Cavan Scott and artist Adriana Melo, who are co-credited on the story – Scott moves us right the hell along into the new adventure with an intriguing ‘pre-credits’ disturbance, plenty of currently inexplicable incident and the Doctor at first butting heads with the slaver, and then reaching a deal with him, and also plenty of backstory depth in terms of Jack’s history and the spikiness between Rose and the Tardis newcomer, while Melo gets to grips not only with more than half a handful of ‘supernatural’ elements – your actual mermaids and trolls and mystical floaty stags and suchlike – but also with the richness of the environment and the characters. Melo’s particularly impressive here, giving the characters, especially slaver Francisco Dias, a vivid sense of believable reality. Colourist Marco Lesko does great work here too, bringing the Brazilian jungle a kind of moist green ‘smell,’ and distinctly separating the ‘natural’ from the ‘built’ environments, and the ‘natural’ from the ‘alien’ elements.
There’s a lushness at every step along the line here that makes issue #9 a must-get, the multi-threaded involvement-hooks pulling us in, tumbling us along and landing us right in the middle of something seemingly inexplicable which even by the end of this issue is starting to suggest its logical connections and explanations. It’s a rich ride, and it’ll leave you hungry for issue #10, and the push towards answers. Go get yourself a Brazilian…adventure 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