The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor continues, as the Eleventh Doctor and Alice meet the Pneumatic Men of San Francisco.
Titan’s road to the Thirteenth Doctor is a series-wide pre-launch of the Thirteenth Doctor, and Volume 2 continues the story. With the publication date for The Thirteenth Doctor #1 confirmed (17th October), it feels tantalisingly close. Especially with this mini-series already at the halfway point.
Repeating the pattern of The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor #1: The Tenth Doctor, this issue features a rollicking comic book adventure, while a backup strip shows off the talents of the new Thirteenth Doctor creative team.
In The Steampunk Conundrum, writer James Peaty returns to provide another breezy, self-contained adventure. It’s perfect for all those brand new readers trying out the Titan range as it’s the Doctor’s eleventh incarnation and his companion, former library assistant Alice Obiefune, turn to take the spotlight. The Eleventh Doctor book itself is a quirky and eccentric affair, even for Doctor Who, both in its art and its often whimsical storytelling.
Enter: The Pneumatic Men!
James Peaty and artist Pasquale Qualano play to their own strengths. Peaty delivers a detailed and robust plotline that clicks along at a fast pace and belies its one issue length. The Doctor and his companion are drawn into a mystery when they intercept a psychic homing beacon coming from 19th century San Francisco. The pair soon discovers a city that has quickly and seamlessly accepted a wonderful new invention into its midst – the Pneumatic Men. Cheap, reliable, servants and labourers, they’re everywhere.
Precise, vibrant art and an eye for dynamic angles
But of course, these robots hide a terrible secret (“robots in disguise,” as the Doctor puts it). Soon the Doctor and Alice are on the trail of mad inventor Professor Schwartz to find out the truth. Along the way, there are some fun nods, showing that the writer really knows his fandom. Though quite why the Doctor would have anything as specific as a ‘steampunk Dalek girl’ cosplay for Alice to borrow is a mystery. Possibly some things are best left between a Time Lord and his wardrobe room.
The story manages to turn on a dime and pay off the dramatic build-up with a conclusion that is satisfyingly clever. There are even hints at a future rematch. The slight downside to the tightness of the plot and the high pace is in Alice’s characterisation. She is usually an individual led by her emotions and humanity, which is somewhat missing in this direct, action-based tale.
Qualano, along with colourist Dijjo Lima, complements the script with bright, vibrant art. The artwork accommodates the density of action and dialogue without cluttering or cramping the panels. Wherever possible, Qualano provides the reader with an odd or unusual angle into the story and keeps a feeling of excitement throughout.
The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor Part Two
Backup strip The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor Part Two features some gorgeous art. Artist Rachael Stott has built her popularity with an ability to create realistic versions of the Doctor Who characters but with expressions never seen on TV. This time Matt Smith’s fizzog that falls to her talent brush. The Eleventh Doctor’s strip features his pouting, frowning and pontificating all while holding a conversation with his paintbrush. The Ponds are spot on. They don’t get to do much beyond assuming the manner of tolerant parents-in-law of an unruly man-child, but everything is perfectly realised. Even the Ponds’ house with its blue door.
Jody Houser’s story is, as Volume 1, as slight as the small page count dictates. Again, we interrupt the Doctor during a well-known adventure. The same mysterious figure calls for his aid from a brief opening in the vortex. The detail we find out is a more accurate depiction of the figure’s hand that lends a small hint it’s owner. But we will have to wait a while longer before we get any answers.
We close the issue another with a preview of Stott’s character designs for the Thirteenth Doctor series. This time it’s the first glimpse of companion Ryan Sinclair. There’s something about the huge smile Stott gives him that points to an infectious energy that the character will embody, but we have some time until the series premiere to find out.
Doctor Who: The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor #2 – The Eleventh Doctor
Continue the road to the Thirteenth Doctor with the second of three stand-alone stories featuring the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctor!
The Eleventh Doctor and Alice visit 19th Century San Francisco, but there’s just one problem – it’s full of robots! Do they come in peace? Or could their displacement in the time signal something far more sinister?
Each issue contains a serialised short from the creative team behind the new Thirteenth Doctor ongoing series!
Doctor Who: The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor #2 – The Eleventh Doctor is on sale from the 8th of August 2018. The series concludes next month with Doctor Who: The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor #3 – The Twelfth Doctor, on sale the 12th of September.