Tony talks slavery.
The Ninth Doctor’s latest adventure has a whole hell of a lot going on. New girl Tara Mishra (lately of UNIT) is having a tough first trip in the Tardis, having landed in 17th century Brazil and run into Spanish slavers, fish monsters, a mermaid, and living water. Meanwhile, Captain Jack Harkness and Rose have discovered Jack’s old, Time Agent base in the region, when he was pretending to be a Catholic priest (yes, really). All of this was in the first half of this two-part story, and it built to a cliff-hanger that was always going to be tough to push on from.
This second and concluding issue of the Slaver’s Song storyline is therefore, by necessity…busy. In fact, it’s slightly more than busy, it’s almost exhausting, as we learn something about Jack’s Time Agent mission, and Rose has a permafrost-level strop. Meanwhile there’s a conflict between one group of slavers and another that goes on perhaps a little long, making this issue feel like a longer, more convoluted read than it needs to be. Aliens arrive, goodies and baddies become flexible in terms of who’s who, and the resolution the Doctor manages to achieve is disappointing to the new girl, who thought she was just embarking on a joyride into time and space. So – Rose has a strop with Jack, Tara has a strop with the Doctor, and the solution to the mermaid and the sea monster and the slavers pleases…only some of the people, and only to some degree. It’s a suitably real-world solution to issues like slavery, where once it’s happened, there can never really be a ‘right’ thing, only degrees of reparation and healing.
The issue’s busyness, its revolution around issues of slaves and slavery, and the lack of contentment on the part of either of the Ninth Doctor’s female companions gives it an oddly downbeat emotional note, despite a solid amount of action – Tara rescuing the Doctor against his will, the Doctor swimming his way through a spaceship of mermaids to do his usual bit of jiggery-pokery, things going bang, doohickey-based power dynamics being turned upside-down.
By the end of this issue, almost everything has changed – the Tardis team’s dynamic, and even its make-up, is different at the end than it is at the start. And the cliff-hanger here builds on the way the story of the Slaver’s Song ends, in an almost-fog of indecision, to slam a whole new story into gear with the Doctor dragged before the forces of justice, not for the actions we see him perform throughout this story, but for something altogether more serious, making us ask ‘What? How has that happened?’ and sending us off with an imagined sting of theme music.
The fact that this story has been jointly created by Cavan Scott and Adriano Melo makes both issues feel, if anything, more organic, more unified even than most Titan titles. In this issue, there’s a lot of water-based action, and Melo works hard to render the visual flow of the characters in that challenging environment, while intelligent colourwork from Marco Lesko separates, for instance, the watery environments and Jack’s base, the natural and the built, so neither our eyes nor our brains have to work particularly hard to follow the action. That’s an active aid in this second half of the story, given the busyness of the script and everything the issue builds in to the backstory of what we learned in issue #9.
This is the Ninth Doctor in transition – he’s by no means cured of his anger, his Time War wounds, and he’s improvising wildly (and we do mean wildly – as much as Rose and Tara have their strops in this issue, the Ninth Doctor delivers a solid bit of sarcastic ‘Fantastic!’ rage when the humans with which he surrounds himself dare to act independently and get in his way). But more than the power of the Ninth Doctor, which Scott has made his own over the course of the Ninth Doctor comic-books, this story is a cogent anti-slavery stance that dips into real Brazilian history to make its point, while spinning an effective alien story on top, adding layers of Jack’s missing memory to pull that thread forward, and whacking readers with a whole new level of ‘what-the-hell?’ right at the end.
Pick up issue #10 of the Ninth Doctor comic-book, and go by feel – if you immerse yourself in the busyness and the action, you’re going to walk away from issue #10 feeling humbled, slightly exhausted, and at least a little anxious and eager to move straight on to issue #11.
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