And then there were three, says Tony Fyler.
Given the freedom Titan Comics has these days to use him, and the nature of the plot developments in issue #2, one thing that strikes you immediately is that there’s no Ninth Doctor involvement in this story. There was too much going on in the first issue to notice his absence, but given the nature of the threat that dogs the Doctors through much of this second issue, his absence becomes more noticeable, especially as the threat seems to specifically target post-Time War Doctors. There’s just the faintest whiff of Tom Baker in The Five Doctors about the fact that, for no especially identifiable reason, this is actually The Four Doctors, rather than The Five Doctors…erm…II.
But it’s remarkable how quickly you get the hell over that – the pacing of this issue and this story so far would outrun a Dalek ray in a straight line. There’s a little Gabby Gonzalez artwork to get through as a soft opening (with which you’ll be familiar if you’ve been following the Tenth Doctor’s comic-book adventures. If not, just go with it, he travels with an artist now) and then bang! The verbal sparring while dealing with a terrifying threat made more terrifying by the freedom of comic-book art than they managed to be on TV – and they managed pretty well there!
There’s a lot of running and banter and bile-spitting here, with the kind of edge that ‘Sandshoes and Grandpa’ never really mustered – there’s a lovely Spice Girls moment which hopefully I haven’t just ruined for you. The barbs are sharper from writer Paul Cornell than they ever were in Moffat’s TV version of the multi-Doctor phenomenon (I can hear the cries now – Cornell for Showrunner!…Hmm, actually, not a bad plan), and the combination of his acid wit, (most frequently vented through the natural conduit that is the Twelfth Doctor, but occasionally, just for the look of the thing and the fightback, distributed Bugs Bunny and the Bow-Tie boy), and Neil Edwards’ great gift for spatial artwork allows for some superb moments, not least of which is a journey through a couple of Tardis console rooms, and possibly the best ever comeback to what is now a time-honoured gag. Edwards’ Twelfth Doctor is a little less realistic than some that have appeared in the latest incarnation’s dedicated comics, but again, the combination of the gorgeous broader visuals – from Paris to Tardises, to space, to a planet of apparently forgettable provenance – and the pace and wit of the dialogue means you can pretty much forgive him for being less than pin-point in the capturing of the Twelfth Doctor’s face.
The action of the first half of this issue is frenetic – hence the running – as the three post-Time-War Doctors try to outpace the Big, Scary Monsters trying to erase them from existence. But when Clara sentences them to some ‘Me Time’ – something akin to the Tower of London scene in Day of the Doctor – the three behave in a way that’s entirely believable for each of them at once, and ultimately, as we all knew they would, go running into trouble on the world of the great First Doctor enemies enjoying a heck of a renaissance in recent years. The cliff-hanger is surprisingly downbeat, like the pushing of a plunger that will, somewhere down the line, cause a big, big explosion, but which has yet to deliver its full impact. But the combination of these three Doctors – the War Doctor’s at least visually absent from this issue – remains satisfying in a way that Day of the Doctor, for all its brilliant moments, wasn’t. John Hurt’s War Doctor was a scarred, tired man, wanting the war to be over, with no stomach for the acid that, for instance, the inheritor of his ‘Older Doctor’ mantle is. Bringing the Twelfth Doctor into the multi-Doctor mix gives it a bite that wasn’t possible on the fiftieth anniversary, when all was celebration of the show’s history and legacy. This is a more combustible, more daring and frankly more fun mixture of the three Doctor-personalities, and again, much of that is down to Paul Cornell’s way with a witty line and his knowledge of Who old and new. The storyline promises much in the way of cataclysm and devastation, though much of the actual plot development in this issue is done as the Doctor would probably expect – on the run. The pace is still fast and furious, but here, there’s excellent, rich Doctor-chocolate in terms of character development. Two issues in, this is still a must-buy. Grab your sandshoes and Bugs Bunny your butt to your comic store now. Your future self is really going to kick you if you miss it.
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