Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 7

Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 7
"The One" - Part 2 (of 2)
Written by: Rob Williams
Art by: Leandro Casco & Simon Fraser
Colours by: Gary Caldwell

After last issue’s surprise reveal that the Doctor and his merry band of companions had broken through the time barrier and entered Shada, the prison planet of the Time Lords, Rob Williams takes time to have fun with the ambiguity over the canonicity of the legendary unfinished adventure by having the Doctor unable to remember his previous time on the planet. Williams also provides a subtle nod to the serial’s writer, Douglas Adams of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy fame, with a rather depressive AI system that bears similarities with Marvin the Paranoid Android. Williams’ script manages to be very accessible and requires no real background knowledge of “Shada” and its complicated history, but rewards those hard-core Whovians who do know about it. There’s a fabulous pace and momentum to this story as the Doctor, River and the others attempt to break through the prison security to find out whether the Master was involved in the war-crimes that the Doctor has been accused of.

Unfortunately, this issue features two artists working together and while their styles do contrast against each other – the point at which the ‘switch-over’ occurs allows the transition to occur relatively seamlessly minimising disruption to the narrative. I really enjoyed Leandro Casco’s art in this issue, which offered a distinctive take on the Eleventh Doctor and his many companions. There’s a smoothness to Casco’s style that adds a minimalist flavour to his artwork and gives it an animated style – unfortunately, this does contrast against Simon Fraser’s more detail-laden style, which makes use of shading and intricate line-work. Both art styles are great and would have worked perfectly on their own, but blending the two together in one issue is slightly problematic. However, as I’ve said before, the editors picked the perfect transition moment to switch between the artists as the companions find themselves placed in stasis. I really enjoyed the sequence from Simon Fraser where the Squire uses her sword to prevent the Doctor from being placed into stasis for one thousand years. It’s full of dramatic tension and the emotion of the scene leapt out of the page – it was definitely the highlight of the issue for me.

Ultimately, this issue offered little in the way of answers, choosing instead to bombard the reader with more questions than before. For example, what was on the photo that the Doctor printed out of the Master’s TARDIS – was it something incriminating himself in the genocide of the Cylors? Also, what exactly is going on with Alice – the Shada AI made a blink and you’ll miss it reference to “fluctuating Tachyon technology in her neck”, further building up the mystery about her visions of the future. Obviously, the Squire remains a conundrum for both the Doctor and the readers, revealed her to be a being with no history – which suggests that she might be some kind of artificial construct? Interestingly, the Shada AI asks if she is the owner of the Master’s TARDIS – a question that goes unanswered, meaning that my theory that she is a hidden incarnation of the Master remains open, ready to be disproved at a later date! I’m really enjoying the multiple layers of mystery that Rob Williams and Si Spurrier have piled onto this storyline, crafting a “whodunit” that continues to confuse the reader and take them on a journey of twists and turns.

Despite the inconsistencies between the two artists, this was a strong issue of the Eleventh Doctor comic series which pulled the rug out from under the reader’s feet by dismissing the Master as the master-mind behind this storyline. Of course, it’s possible that he is still involved further down the line, but I’m intrigued to see where Spurrier and Williams intend to take this storyline over the coming months. With such a firm grasp on Doctor Who mythology, it feels like they have fifty-plus years of material at their hands. Forget “hiding behind the sofa”, the compelling mysteries of this storyline will have you shouting at the TV for answers, thanks to some absolutely brilliant storytelling from Spurrier and Williams. I can't recommend this series enough to fans of Doctor Who - go buy it now!

Score - 9.2 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor (Vol. 2) # 7 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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