The Doctor Who Eleventh Doctor comic story collection After Life brings us a set of adventures with everybody’s favourite eyebrowless time-gentleman and a cast of interesting new friends, courtesy of writers Al Ewing and Rob Williams, and artists Simon Fraser and Boo Cook.
The story begins when a newly-companionless Doctor bounds into the hitherto increasingly grim life of library assistant Alice Obiefune, chasing a huge, rainbow alien dog. This sets the tone for the stories to come: there’s a whisper of menace hinting at the edges of the adventures, and a lot of heart and truth in Alice’s emotional journey but, by gosh, is it most importantly a festival of fun.
Alice and The Doctor are a delightful team of sass-masters, with Alice serving as a smart, assertive, grounding force against Eleven’s whimsical old-man-boy tendencies (and I suppose as a former punk-ass book jockey myself, I’ll always have a soft spot for fictional library staff). The pair are soon joined by decidedly David Bowie-esque young beanpole of a musician John Jones, whose early work, it turns out, just doesn’t quite stack up against his later triumphs. It’s a silly, brilliant team, and the energy of their adventures is reflected perfectly in this collection’s lovely, fun artwork.
I heartily approve of the epithet “floppy blighter” being levelled at Eleven, and I very much enjoy seeing just how many times Bowie lyrics can be integrated with impressive success into Doctor Who dialogue.
The running thread of encounters with the Serveyouinc. company and their apparently less-than-ethical business practice leaves me curious as to what’s behind the friendly corporate image and the strangeness that follows it – a question I’m sure will be further explored in the team’s next adventures.
And high fives for the Hartnell shoutout on page 96!
The latest graphic novel from Titan Comics, with words by Robbie Morrison and art from Dave Taylor, give us two new adventures for The Twelfth Doctor and Clara Oswald.
Set in the 25th century, Terrorformer is a two-parter based on the planet Isen VI, which has been terraformed by Kano Dollar, the Richest Man in the Universe as part of his plans to marry the warrior Princess Thanna of the Gothgolka Horde.
The Doctor has brought Clara to what he believes is an ice planet – complete with ice sharks – ostensibly so that she can brush up on her ski skills, only to find a world transformed into a tropical jungle. But of course, The Doctor has his own motive and has been drawn to Isen VI by a faint warning message left millennia ago by pre-Time War Time Lords.
The main villain in Terrorformer is Rann-Korr, a member of an ancient race called the Hyperion; benevolent sentient suns who became malevolent as they burned out. Our favourite Gallifreyan time traveller discovers that Rann-Korr has caused Isen VI to become dangerously unstable and is out to destroy both it and any being it considers inferior.
Robbie Morrison’s portrayal of The Doctor and Clara is so well done, the dialogue so engaging and in keeping with the TV portrayals of the characters that you can practically hear Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman word-jousting as you read. There are some lovely nods to the show’s past, with lines about Venusian karate and hiding behind the sofa, and in comic terms, an awful lot of extremely satisfying WHOOOSHes, AAAARRRRGHs and VWOORRRPs chucked in.
However, and this is quite a big however, the storyline is slightly daft and the structure so confusing at some points that I thought some pages may have become stuck together with a bit of old jelly baby. Odd bits of story are flung in without warning, and not necessarily in a good way.
There are reports from Intergalactic News reporter Alice Xanadu (a 25th century Trinity Wells with pastel hair) thrown in to swiftly explain goings-on, and part two kicks off with the tale of the Hyperion vs the Rest of the Universe, which should help the tale, but really just add to the overall feel of slightly chaotic storytelling.
As well as the portrayal of The Doctor and Clara, there are some enjoyable parts to Terrorformer. Clara fencing a robot called Eric with a ski pole, and Richest Man in the Universe, Kano Dollar’s ultimate comeuppance are particularly gratifying.
There’s a fleeting appearance from a character called Thannagrrr (and who among us doesn’t love a man whose name end in “grrr”?) and the only mention I can remember of buttock lifts in the history of Doctor Who, but nothing that lifts Terrorformer from being a bit of a crackers tale.
The Swords of Kali is a completely enjoyable adventure by comparison. Flitting between India in the years 1825 and 2314, The Doctor and Clara must work with Rani Jhulka, a renegade Amazon from the past, and Priyanka Maratha, the daughter of The Fourth Doctor’s old friend, Tiger Marantha, to stop the resurrected Kali, an ancient and deadly alien creature who has become the stuff of Indian legend.
In 24th century India, the Scindia family are “angelic avatars” used by the Kaliratha, a jolly unpleasant bunch of four-dimensional being who style themselves as deities. While involved in India’s plans to launch a Starfleet into space, the Scindia’s real aim is to resurrect Kali, the pernicious and generally disagreeable being of old, whose parts were scattered across the Universe.
The Scindia live in a palace that exists in four dimensions, which leads to some very entertaining and perilous action across time. And there is some very clever use of time travel as The Swords of Kali reaches its climactic battle. Without giving too much away (spoliers!), the final revelation of the resurrected Kali is extraordinarily impressive and the story’s dénouement is suitably lovely, without being soppy.
The Swords of Kali is worth a read for what happens to Clara alone, but its portrayal of the irascible Twelfth Doctor is also a joy. The characters of Rani and Priyanka are engaging and enjoyable and the story’s flashbacks add depth and feeling. Dave Taylor’s artwork is superb here and Robbie Morrison has given us a love story (well, several love stories, really) and a dazzling and delightful adventure.