After a very strong introduction, the first outing of the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith under the Titan Comics banner continues in part two of Gaze of the Medusa. While coming to terms with her shocking discovery, Sarah Jane learns more about what awaits her while the Doctor tracks down a mysterious artifact that may hold the key to these strange events.
The first half of the comic is, admittedly, a whole lotta backstory but it’s done so effectively that it doesn’t feel like the chore that lengthy villain speeches so often are. The tale is told from two different perspectives, interplayed carefully so that neither one is given too much weight. The story begins incorporating fantastical and science-fiction elements but is fairly straightforward and well-explained to keep the intent clear without any sense that they’re dumbing down the dialogue. My fear last time that the story would pander to the convoluted, timey-wimey aspects of modern televised Doctor Who appears to have been premature.
Backstory done, the story drives forward quickly with the Doctor enacting his trademark wit to investigate further, though he definitely plays second fiddle to Sarah this month. After a laconic showing in part one, Sarah Jane gets her moment to shine, saving the Doctor from certain doom with a bit of quick thinking. Once again, the dialogue is excellent and evokes Baker and Sladen’s distinctive voices with pitch perfect accuracy. All the supporting characters have a moment to shine in this story, with Lady Emily explaining her tragic past whilst Athena and the Professor visibly revel in the misadventure the Doctor has got them in.
But where this comic really excels is in the artwork. The Hinchcliffe atmosphere is taken up a notch with countless gorgeous panels and intricate splash pages that are an absolute credit to artist Brian Williamson. If the cover alone doesn’t get you interested (my review copy had the illustrated Cover A variant), then the shadowy drawing room, with colouring done superbly by Hi-Fi, on the first page definitely will. With artwork this good, it’s fantastic that the minor issues of character design noted last month have been fixed and the two leads now fit more with the rest of the panel. There are still one or two instances where the Doctor looks like a Tom Baker bobblehead, but the effort put into the artwork elsewhere shines through.
The only flaw I can find, and I’ll admit it’s a nitpick, is the ending. Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with it, but it’s just a bit of a letdown after how effectively the story handled what could easily have been a cheesy cliffhanger last month. But, to be fair, with a five-part story and four cliffhangers to cook up, a more subdued ending at this point can be forgiven.
With only two issues, Gaze of the Medusa is turning out to be one of the most well-crafted comic outings of the Fourth Doctor, both in story and artwork. Let’s hope that the remaining three parts can keep up this winning streak.
DOCTOR WHO: FOURTH DOCTOR MINI-SERIES #2
Writer: Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby
Artist: Brian Williamson
Publisher: Titan Comics
FC – 32PP – $3.99 – On Sale: April 20
After the petrifying reveal at the end of the last issue, the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith pry further into the affairs of Lady Emily Carstairs and her legion of Scryclops! What mysteries lurk within her half-veiled mansion? And what light can be shed by Professor Odysseus and his daughter, Athena?