Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 12th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 3

Doctor Who: The 12th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 3
"Clara Oswald and the School of Death" - Part 3 (of 4)
Written by: Robbie Morrison
Art by: Rachael Stott
Colours by: Ivan Nunes

This penultimate episode of “Clara Oswald and the School of Death” is filled with the same chaotic energy of the preceding episodes as the Sea Devils, now unmasked before the Doctor and the reading audience, unveil their grand plan to influence political decisions regarding the environment. The more damage the Sea Devils can do to the eco-system via things like fracking and oil-framing, the more hospitable the Earth becomes to the creatures, enabling them to eradicate the human race and reclaim the planet for themselves. With the fictional Prime Minister Daniel Claremont sharing both the initials and a passing resemblance to real-life Prime Minister David Cameron, writer Robbie Morrison is able to use satire to make a statement about the environment policies of the Tory Party, as well as inferring that the private school elite are secretly cold-blooded lizards. I'm sure somewhere David Icke's ears are burning....

Rachael Stott continues to draw her heart out onto the page, showcasing her obvious love for the subject matter with every panel. You can tell from her artwork that this is a labour of love for her, and that passion is truly infectious. While I was initially unsure about the redesign of the Sea Devils, a brief bit of exposition for newcomers describes them as a warrior clan offshoot from the original incarnation of the creatures, complete with a lovely rendition of Jon Pertwee's Third Doctor, Katy Manning's Jo Grant and Roger Delgado's Master from “The Sea Devils”. This falls in line with other alien races, such as the Silurians themselves and even the Ice Warriors, which have slightly differently designed variants, often based on rank and seniority. I loved seeing Stott's take on the Third Doctor's era that I sincerely hope that Titan Comics consider asking her to illustrate a miniseries based on that time in the show – perhaps once the Fourth Doctor miniseries concludes? There are so many potential time periods from the show's fifty-two years of continuity to choose from, Titan Comics could easily end up printing twelve ongoing series – although that might stretch the wallet's of even the most hardcore Whovian!

Morrison manages to keep the narrative moving at a brisk pace, quickly revealing the Sea Devils' plan and then promptly foiling it through the Doctor's ingenuity. However, the stakes are raised high in the final sequence of this issue and I wonder if the cameo from UNIT in this episode is a portend towards a more militaristic solution as seen in the classic Third Doctor adventure, “The Silurians”. As with the Silurian-based adventures, the Doctor points out that the Sea Devils have more claim to the Earth than the humans based on their pre-historic roots with the planet – however, while the Silurians were more open to negotiation, as seen in “The Hungry Earth” and “Cold Blood”, the Sea Devils appear more war-like than their land-dwelling cousins. I'm genuinely unsure of how the Doctor intends to defeat the armies of invading Sea Devils, although I suspect it will involve some sort of deus ex machina. While these new versions of the Sea Devils do come across like a mix of the Slitheen and the Silurians combined, they remain an interesting choice of monster and allow Morrison to rejuvenate a “forgotten foe” from the vaults – especially, one that is unlikely to return to the screens.

While initial episodes confirmed that this adventure took place during Season Nine, the appearance of the two Osgoods in this installment firmly places the adventure after the events of The Zygon Inversion”. With no new series of Doctor Who this year, the Twelfth Doctor comic series has the potential to fill the gap between Season Nine and Ten, possibly introducing new comics-only companions to replace Clara. If this does turn out to be the case, then Robbie Morrison's stories will become even more vital reading material for Doctor Who fans, offering the newest adventures of everyone's favourite time-lord until the show returns. As a relaunch of the Twelfth Doctor comic adventures, this storyline has done a tremendous job, capturing the spirit of Season Nine and bringing it to life on the page. Stott's artwork deserves all the praise it is getting, even from Peter Capaldi himself, as she captures the mannerisms and facial expressions inherent in the character. Quite simply, this series is the best medicine for any Whovians suffering Doctor Who withdrawal symptoms!

Score - 9.6 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor (Vol. 2) # 3 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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