Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 5

Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 5
"The Judas Goatee"
Written by: Si Spurrier
Art by: Warren Pleece
Colours by: Hi-Fi

After last issue's tease that the Master may be the architect behind the conspiracy framing the Doctor for despicable war-crimes during the Time War, this follow-up adventure from Si Spurrier and Warren Pleece sees the Doctor take his unlikely group of companions to yet another far-flung planet in order to get some tangible evidence that points to the Master's involvement. Spurrier certainly captures the multi-tasking element of the Doctor's personality well as the narrative feels just as layered as Inception, with multiple reasons for their diversion disclosed along the way. This frenetic scripting ensures that the reader gets caught up in the whirlwind of chaos left in the wake of the Doctor, creating a sense of urgency to this storyline as they struggle to catch up with a lead character who is several moves ahead, yet still trailing behind his greatest nemesis.  With the Doctor presented as distant and distracted, the series' gang of supporting characters prove all the more vital, acting as the reader's window into the action and allowing Spurrier (and Williams) the chance to explain their wonderfully complex plot to the layman. It's a technique often used in the TV show itself, and it's great to see it employed with great effect in comic book form.

I've admired Titan Comics' restraint in keeping the iconic Doctor Who monsters off the printed page, apart from some minor exceptions in the Weeping Angels and Cybermen, but it was great to see the Sontarans make their Titan Comics debut. It was a brilliantly placed cameo – not only was it a nice nod for the fans, but the concept of a war over facial hair works perfectly with identical clone armies of the Sontarans. This issue also gives us our first glimpse of the Master, albeit in silhouette, and judging from the goatees sported by the renegade Sontarans, I'm guessing we're going to see the classic iteration of the character, rather than John Simm or Michelle Gomez's incarnations. This decision certainly appeals to me, as I find the Roger Delgado version to be the definitive take on the character and I think the goatee perfectly defines the villainous nature of the Master.

In a rather surprising move, a third character from the TV series makes a cameo appearance at the end of this adventure as the Doctor and his companions break into the Stormcage prison to meet with River Song. It's a fantastic cliff-hanger and an inspired decision from the series writers as I'm sure River's presence will add a whole new dimension to the series, especially if she joins the team as a companion for the remainder of the story-arc. While River may be a somewhat divisive character amongst the Whovian fan-base, I am looking forward to seeing what her strong personality can bring to the series' status-quo. It's also quite a timely appearance given the recent Christmas Special, “The Husbands of River Song” and the Big Finish audio series, “The Diary of River Song – Series One”. It seems that years after her death, the character is still casting a heavy shadow over the Doctor Who franchise.

Whereas the first year of adventures merely dabbled with the TV show's monsters with appearances of the Nimon and the Cybermen, this second year of adventures feels firmly entrenched in the show's continuity referencing not only the Time War and War Doctor, but also bringing characters such as The Master, Sontarans and River Song into the mix. I'm a sucker for stories set during the gap between “Doctor Who: The Movie” and “Rose”, so it's great to see this era explored in spin-off media, especially since it seems the series is keen to move on and away from the Time War. With this increased focus on the War Doctor and the hidden adventures he underwent between “The Night of the Doctor” and his appearances in “The Day of the Doctor”, it would be great if Titan Comics released a War Doctor series, possibly once its Eighth Doctor mini-series has come to an end. Back to this series, I am thoroughly enjoying each issue of the Eleventh Doctor series as Spurrier and Williams spin together a rich tapestry of adventure filled with plenty of twists and turns. It's absolutely brilliant storytelling and essential reading for fans of the Doctor Who mythology.

Score - 9.5 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor (Vol. 2) # 5 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the Comixology website. Be sure to put in a standing order for the upcoming issues in the series when you pick up your copy!

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