Doctor Who: Empire of the Wolf, out in trade paperback now, brings the Summer fun and a keen ear for the voices of its cast
Titan Comics’ most recent Doctor Who mini-series, Empire of the Wolf, is now out in trade paperback form. You can now gobble the whole adventure down in one go like a big bad wolf downing a grandmother. But is it worth the calories? To stretch the metaphor a little further, reading from the menu you might think it sounds like a bit of dog’s dinner of random cuts. Because here you get the return of not one but two Rose Tylers, along with the Eighth Doctor, the Tenth Doctor, and even a cameo from the Meta-Crisis Doctor. Yet there’s artistry in writer Jody Houser’s kitchen. With Empire of the Wolf, she serves up a delicious concoction where every ingredient earns its place.
Vividly imaginative and perfectly characterised, the story, like the Doctor themselves, sprints through the Doctor Who universe for fun
The action begins with Rose Tyler living in her parallel world home with her husband ‘John Smith,’ and their teenage daughter Mia. (Catching up on a Tennant era companion fifteen years on, along with her teenage daughter? Whatever next, eh?) But her increasingly real dreams of a life she never lived culminate in her being whisked home to our universe. But it may well take two Doctors and solving the mystery of this ‘other’ Rose to get her there. Meanwhile, halfway across the galaxy, the Empress of the Wolf has being having equally vivid dreams of Rose’s life, causing her to command a search for the one man who might have the answers she seeks. A man called the Doctor.
In truth, Empire of the Wolf never quite makes a case for including this odd jumble of elements. But ultimately this is a storyline less concerned with asking ‘why’ than asking ‘why not?’ And with Houser’s vivid imagination and gift for characterisation, ‘why not’ is all the invitation readers need. Multi-Doctor stories always seem like hard work to script. All the more so in paper and ink form without the actors’ performances to help differentiate their Doctors. But Houser’s superb ear for dialogue is at work again in Empire of the Wolf, and Paul McGann’s laconic, affected unconcern, and Matt Smith’s hand flapping mock grumpiness, was ringing in Blogtor Who’s ears throughout as clear as if they were in the room.
The real joy in these pages is the interplay between the Roses and the Doctors
The treatment of the two Roses at this mystery’s heart is just as impressive. They each echo the Rose we know while showing the impact of their different experiences. Seeing the older version of ‘our’ Rose encounter the Eleventh Doctor, both of them very much moved on with their lives, but with a deep abiding friendship, is the closure we didn’t know we needed. While her easy friendship with the relatively carefree Eighth Doctor is actually very sweet. He’s willing to simply roll with encountering a future companion from an alternative universe. Meanwhile the pre-Time War Doctor’s youthful optimism is clearly charming to a Rose accustomed to the Tenth’s ‘lonely angel.’
For her part, Empress Rose may be a galactic hero setting the universe to rights by any means necessary. But within her extra aggressiveness and grandeur, Jackie Tyler’s girl from the Powell Estate is never far from the surface. Her presence also illustrates at how, despite Titan’s Doctor Who comics being structured as a series of mini-series these days, they maintain their own evolving subplots. Because this is the same Rose orphaned from a divergent post-apocalyptic timeline in the Alternating Current arc. And in part Empire of the Wolf is about the Doctor facing up to the error of simply leaving her to find her own path among the stars. Neatly too, this Rose isn’t simply an eeevil doppelganger like Deep Space Nine’s Intendant. Instead, she’s someone who’s been trying to live up to the Doctor’s philosophy in the only way she knows: fighting.
Roberta Ingranata and Warnia K Sahadewa’s art holds the essence of these well known characters, while keeping loose enough to use the medium’s energy and emotion
Meanwhile, Roberta Ingranata’s art continues to be the perfect match to Houser’s scripts. In her work on both Doctor Who and Star Trek comics, she’s shown a rare ability to balance likenesses with the functional needs of narrative art. She sketches the resemblances to McGann, Smith and Piper loosely enough to allow for the medium’s exaggerated expressions and energy. Yet she fills every line with the personality and body language we know so well. Only a few panels towards the end where the Eighth Doctor’s hair is more Dwight Schrute than Lord Byron stick out, but that’s a mere quibble. Warnia K Sahadewa’s colouring nicely complements Ingranata’s fine lines by creating an additional sense of three-dimensionality.
Doctor Who: Empire of the Wolf delivers exactly what fans want from a multi-Doctor story, and what we’ve come to expect from the Houser/Ingranata team. There’s playful bickering, world shattering stakes, and revisiting old friends. And it all leads to moments of charm, fond farewells, and the Doctors sorting everything out with something terribly clever. (If a little vaguely defined.) If you’re in a celebratory mood as we head towards next year’s 60th Anniversary, Empire of the Wolf is a good place to start the party.
Doctor Who: Empire of the Wolf is available now from Titan Comics and all good comic book retailers