05th Oct2014

‘Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #1-3′ Review

by Phil Wheat

Written by Al Ewing, Rob Williams | Art by Simon Fraser | Published by Titan Comics

Titan-DW11th-1to3

After getting the rights for future Doctor Who comic adventures, Titan Comics – around the same time as Matt Smith’s run on the show ended – announced three new ongoing series featuring the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors in adventures that would take place in between the already-aired TV seasons. With the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors adventures to bow first, around the debut of Peter Capaldi’s new Doctor.

Confession time: I’ve been hate-watching the latest series of Doctor Who for a number of episodes now. No matter how hard I try, I just cannot get behind the latest doctor or his latest adventures. So what’s a Who-fan to do in this situation? Go back to the previous incarnation of course! With the third issue now in stores I thought I’d go back to my favourite modern Doctor Who, the eleventh doctor, in his new comic book incarnation from Titan Comics. And I’m damn glad I did. There’s more heart, more fun, more “Doctor Who” in these first three issues, than in Stephen Moffat’s current version of the TV show.

The Eleventh Doctors adventures take place in between seasons five and six of the series (after the Pond’s honeymoon but before The Impossible Astronaut), and Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #1 starts with the doctor meeting his new companion for this series, library assistant Alice Obiefune. And what an introduction she has, I don’t think there has ever been a companion introduced in such a downbeat, almost haunting, fashion. Having lost her mother, her home and her job Alice is at her darkest edge, as evident in issue one’s opening which begins in a striking monochromatic fashion (a fantastic stylistic choice from artist Simon Fraser) truly reflecting the dreariness of Alice’s life; a dreariness which is shattered by the appearance of the Doctor chasing what looks to be a giant alien Foo Dog.

The first issue is a high-concept, fast-paced standalone story that is essentially something of a throwaway tale, this is all about introducing both the Doctor and the readers to Alice. Setting up her story, her character and throwing her in, feet first, to the Doctor’s “life” by way of a giant, cuddly, sadness-sucking, space dog (although the Doctor insists it is NOT a dog).

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #2 picks up where the first issue leaves off, taking us on a journey through the galaxy with the Doctor in what is, at its core, a very old-fashioned tale. Issue two sees the Doctor take new companion Alice on her first off-world adventure to the pleasure planet Rokhandi. However, as it often the Tardis’ wont, it overshoots the visit by a few years and the once indescribably beautiful planet has become a ‘theme safari’ corporate hell, overrun by eerie, giant-headed mascots and then there’s the distinct lack of unhappy people…

This issue reminded me very much of classic Who episodes such as The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, The Leisure Hive and Colony in Space; in so much as it’s a “pleasure planet” story. Only this one, I think, hides a much bigger story for this comic incarnation of Doctor Who. There’s the introduction of not only a new shadowy organisation – dubbed ServeYouInc – but also a character who is as much a part of Doctor Who as the Doctor himself. A character who I can only assume will feature more in this run (fingers crossed) later down the line…

By the time Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #3 rolls around it seems everyone, from the writers to the artists and even the book’s characters have hit their stride. This issue sees the Doctor take Alice to meet her mothers favourite rock star – a David Bowie-alike who turns out to be nothing like his rock star persona. Nothing runs as smoothly as planned and Alice and the Doctor end up in the Mississippi delta on the trail of Robert Johnson – yes the musician who, according to legend, sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads for the ability to play blues guitar.

Of course this wouldn’t be Doctor Who without a few spanners in the works and in this case it’s yet another appearance from the evil corporation ServeYouInc, who stalk the residents of the swamps of Mississippi, offering them talent beyond imagining, worlds at their feet – in exchange for their souls! Oh and did I mention they’ve brought back Bessie, only this time in a souped up 4×4 off-road “monster truck”?

As a fan of Matt Smith’s portrayal of Doctor Who, I’m happy to report that writers Al Ewing and Rob Williams have captured Smith’s essence perfectly on the page – this comic book Doctor has the same air of mystery ebbing under the surface, the same playful nature, the same “voice”, the same tonality. This may not be a Matt Smith performance but this IS the very same Eleventh Doctor. It’s a far cry from the usual TV and movie tie-in writing you typically find in comic books. Ewing and Williams have captured what made Matt Smith my favourite Doctor, captured what made his run on the series such as success in my eyes; but the real revelation about the first three issues of Titan Comics’ The Eleventh Doctor?

That would be new companion Alice.

From the very first time we meet Alice there’s just something about her. Yes, her life is in shambles but there’s no “woe is me” from the character – in fact, even despite her troubles, Alice is still as strong as a rock. After all, when she first steps in the Tardis there’s no shock, there’s no “WTF” moment. Instead she takes it all in her stride. But she’s not only strong, she also very smart – so smart that by the third issue she’s even thinking like the Doctor, solving those “puzzles” he typically solves. In all honesty Alice feels like a combination of Rose Tyler and Martha Jones, topped off with the same feisty, opinionated strength that made Sarah Jane Smith so popular. In this writer’s opinion she’s the kind of companion the Doctor needs and she’s certainly a better companion than Clara Oswald will ever be.

Stephen Moffat take note, THIS is how you do Doctor Who… After only three issues consider me in this for the long haul. As long as Titan Comics can keep up the same quality of storytelling and characterisation, then Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor will forever be in my pull list.

***** 5/5

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