Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 12th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 1

Doctor Who: The 12th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 1
"Clara Oswald and the School of Death" - Part 1 (of 4)
Written by: Robbie Morrison
Art by: Rachael Stott
Colours by: Ivan Nunes

This second year of Twelfth Doctor stories is set firmly in the Season Nine timeline after the opening two-part storyline, “The Magician's Apprentice” and “The Witch's Familiar”, showcasing a more laid-back incarnation of the Twelfth Doctor, who is now sporting a more casual outfit and the Sonic Sunglasses introduced in those episodes. It's nice to see the series react to the changes in the TV show, and the “Year Two” banner makes it much clearer for readers to delineate which comic volumes align with which TV Seasons. Along with this change in chronology comes a change of artist, with Rachael Stott joining the series as the full-time artist. Stott has worked on the Ninth Doctor mini-series in the past and a story within the FCBD special, but this is her first full Doctor Who comic, and I have to say that she knocks it out of the park with this one.

I was lucky enough to meet with Rachael Stott during a signing at Orbital Comics in London, where she drew me an excellent Spider-Man/Doctor Who mash-up sketch, which can be viewed on our Facebook page! Already, I was impressed with her art style from the brief work she'd done in the past for Titan Comics, but I was wowed by the way both her and colorist, Ivan Nunes, were able to convey such a palpable atmosphere through their artwork, evoking that Gothic Horror from iconic Fourth Doctor stories such as, “Horror of Fang Rock”. Stott's more youthful take on the series and its characters fits nicely with the lighter version of the Twelfth Doctor seen in Season Nine, bringing a frivolity to her portrayal of the character that wasn't as pronounced in the previous year's worth of stories. Aside from focusing on ensuring the characters maintain their likenesses to the actors, Stott also excels at filling her environments with details and is given the opportunity to do so in this inaugural issue with the space-bar in the Rosette of Sirius, the scenic Scottish backdrop of Ravenscaur School and the alien-egg infested caves at the climax of this installment. It all looks absolutely beautiful and represents a confident start to a whole year of Twelfth Doctor stories.

When it comes to the script, Robbie Morrison continues to impress with another storyline that feels ripped from the DNA of the TV show itself. Having his cake and eating it too, Morrison manages to blend the outer-space antics of the Doctor with the low-key disappearance of Clara's friend with such skill that it feels like a Steven Moffat-written opening sequence to an episode. Eagle-eyed fans may notice a cameo from The Doctor Who Fan Show's Christel Dee as the friend of Clara's who disappears at the start of the issue, sparking the investigation into Ravenscaur school. The storyline itself feels reminiscent of “The Green Death”, albeit with a nautical theme as opposed to killer maggots. Part of me hopes that this might end up being a revamp or redesign of those classic monsters, The Sea Devils, but I suspect this is a whole new alien species. My only nit-pick throughout this episode was the brief references to the Marvel Comics characters, The Wasp and Doctor Doom - while it get it was a humourous aside, I wasn't that keen on the implication that Doctor Who takes place within the same universe. I guess the best way to explain it is that he is referencing the fictional characters, rather than the "real" versions...

Overall, this was a brilliant debut for the second year of stories with a fantastic new regular artist at the helm, creating a new tone for the series that manages to combine adventure and horror together with ease. Every panel of Rachael Stott's artwork looks gorgeous, with Ivan Nunes' pitch-perfect colours bringing out the best of her work. Demonstrating a capability to bring both the mundane and the otherworldly to life, I am excited to see Rachael tackle the wide spectrum of Doctor Who adventures under the pen of Robbie Morrison. The strength of quality behind this relaunched series is further evidence that Titan Comics knows exactly how to handle the Doctor Who licence and is producing some of the best supporting material out there, rivalling that of Big Finish and BBC Books. If you're not reading this series, you're missing out on some truly spectacular Doctor Who stories!

Score - 9.7 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor (Vol. 2) # 1 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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