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REVIEW: Doctor Who: The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor #1 – The Tenth Doctor

Doctor Who - The Road to The Thirteenth Doctor - Cover B - Titan Comics

The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor and to one of 2018’s most anticipated comics events starts here!

As the countdown continues towards the Thirteenth Doctor landing on our screens (quite literally judging by the end of Twice Upon a Time) Titan Comics continue to do their part to build anticipation to a fever pitch. Ahead of September’s The Many Lives of Doctor Who, comes this three part mini-series The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor. It acts as both a primer on the existing Titan range and an epic tease for the new Doctor’s debut. Each issue is separated into two stories. A standalone lead story focusing on the Doctor and companion teams of one of Titans’ titles (the Tenth Doctor in this case) and a backup strip featuring… well, more on that later.

New Earth. Smith and Jones. Partners in Crime. Once upon a time every new season of Doctor Who would open with a light, breezy, tale. Episodes that were high on fun and speed and low on darkness and continuity. The lead story in this issue, Ghost Ship, is very much in the mould of such instalments.

Just as Russell T Davies felt new seasons had to offer a big welcoming hug hello to new viewers checking out what all this Doctor Who fuss was about, Titan Comics have taken the same approach to those readers dipping in to the comics for the first time by that “Thirteenth Doctor” in the title, or perhaps even drawn to Doctor Who itself due to the buzz around Jodie Whittaker’s casting.

James Peaty presents a fast-paced, self-contained adventure for the Doctor, Gabby and Cindy

For long-term readers, this might make for a slightly odd experience. Unusually for comics characters, the Tenth Doctor’s companions Gabby Gonzales and Cindy Wu are largely the product of one writer. Writing duties here fall to James Peaty rather than Nick Abadzis, though he has written for Gabby once before (Interlude: Revolving Doors in Tenth Doctor Year Three #5). The result is that both she and Cindy feel like slightly alternative versions of themselves.

Making this TARDIS crew accessible to readers who’ve never encountered them before does make them a little less well rounded. They lack that element of self-doubt mixed in with the feistiness that’s a hallmark of the Tenth Doctor title. It’s a trait found there even in recurring sometime ally, sometime antagonist, Anubis and is notably absent here. But if the goal is to encourage people to check out their adventures in the ongoing title, they’re more than engaging enough to accomplish that. Peaty captures Cindy’s sass, Gabby’s positivity and the Tenth Doctor that’s the fast-talking genius with all the answers.

Doctor Who - The Road to The Thirteenth Doctor - Page 1 - Titan Comics
Doctor Who – The Road to The Thirteenth Doctor – Page 1 – Titan Comics

Ghost Ship captures that Doctor Who combination of colourful fun and a nightmarish villain

The art by Iolanda Zanfardino (with Dijjo Lima on colours) hits a similar tone. It’s bright, clear and colourful and underlines that this is a fun romp. In fact, under Zanfardino’s dynamic pencil you couldn’t say any character ever walks or even runs, down a corridor. They bound down them. It gives proceedings a tremendous sense of pace and energy.

Ghost Ship itself is necessarily slight as a self-contained episode over 21 pages but does a lot within that limitation. The villains of the piece are effectively disembodied circulatory systems stalking the ship’s crew. It’s an image of pure nightmare fuel worthy of Steven Moffat at his best. And the Doctor’s resolution to the threat hits that perfectly Who-ish sweet spot between being a piece of innovatively clever script work and turning off the plot with a switch.

Writer Jody Houser, artist Rachel Stott and colourist Enrica Angiolini tease their new all-female creative team in The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor

The four-page backup strip may perhaps be considered the real road to the Thirteenth Doctor. Created by the new Thirteenth Doctor comic team, it’s reminiscent of the 2013 audio series Destiny of the Doctor. It’s a brief vignette of the Tenth Doctor (cheekily caught in the middle of a television episode) receiving a mysterious call for help across time. But is the half-glimpsed figure in need the Thirteenth Doctor herself? Or someone that the Doctor simply won’t get around to helping until their thirteenth incarnation? It’s a deliciously playful way of Titan both having their cake and eating it. Presumably, we’ll only have a couple of months to wait to find out the answer to this mystery.

The issue wraps with new preview sketches by Rachel Stott. Any readers of TitansTwelfth Doctor title will already be aware of her as an all-around art genius, but it’s clear Whittaker’s casting has particularly inspired her. Even these character sketches (one in colour, two in black and white) feel like pure joy dropped onto the page. I can’t wait to see what she what she does with the Doctor in the full flow of her adventures.

Doctor Who – The Road to The Thirteenth Doctor – Page 2 – Titan Comics
The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor mini-series heralds a new era for Titan ComicsDoctor Who line.

It begins the countdown to 2018’s Doctor Who Comics Day on Saturday 24th November 2018. This marks the fifth annual Doctor Who Comics Day, which is set to be bigger than ever. Expect new comics and collections, merchandise, variant covers, signings, and events across the world at comic shops, bookstores, retail chains, libraries, and on digital platforms.

Doctor Who: The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor #1 – The Tenth Doctor is available from all good comics retailers from the 11th of July, 2018. The road continues with Doctor Who: The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor #2 – The Eleventh Doctor on the 8th of August.

For further news on The Road To The Thirteenth Doctor follow Titan Comics on FacebookTwitterInstagram or Tumblr and for more information visit www.titan-comics.com

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