Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 9

Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 9
"The Wishing Well Witch" - Part 2 (of 2)
Written by: Nick Abadzis
Art by: Iolanda Zanfardino
Colours by: Hi-Fi

This concluding half of “The Wishing Well Witch” sees the introduction of another artist into the rotating pool of talent working on the Tenth Doctor comic as Iolanda Zanfardino joins the team. While recognisably different from series regulars Elena Casagrande and Eleonora Carlini, Zanfardino still manages to capture the same light-hearted tone in her artwork as her predecessors, maintaining that strong sense of continuity seen from all of this series' artists throughout this second volume. While the transitions between artist are more noticeable in the Eleventh Doctor series, Titan Comics have done a fantastic job at maintaining consistency through hiring similarly-styled artists. Zanfardino proves herself to be a strong fit for the series, especially when bringing the titular Wishing Well Witch to life. While the previous episode focused more on setting a Pagan 'Wicker Man'-esque tone, this concluding episode is more action-orientated as the Doctor attempts to prevent the creature from causing more chaos.

As expected, this story of a supernatural witch cursing the children of a small village turns out to have a more alien element to it, but Nick Abadzis completely blind-sided me by tying the mystery into the Doctor's origins on Gallifrey. Loyal fans of the series may remember the 'untempered schism' from the flashbacks of The Master's childhood in the Season Three episode, “The Sound of Drums”. It is a place on Gallifrey where the children of the Time Lords are taken to be tested by staring into the Time Vortex – some would become inspired, others would be driven mad and as it transpires here, some would be tossed inside to become something horrific. It's great to see Abadzis pick up on a bit of Time Lord lore seldom explored in the series itself and by tying this story-arc into his childhood on Gallifrey, it becomes all the more personal for the Doctor. Given how this is a divergence from the ongoing Anubis story-arc, I wonder if Abadzis is sowing seeds for the inevitable Year Three of stories, or whether the two story-arcs will be linked together. The previous set of stories also hinted at Time Lord corruption with their past involvement in the battle arenas, which suggests a theme running through these stories. This focus on the sins of the Time Lords works well as foreshadowing for the eventual confrontation in “The End of Time”.

Despite the increased action of this installment, Abadzis never loses sight of his characters and this episode features some dramatic developments for both Gabby and Cindy. It's impressive to see how quickly Gabby's psychic manifestations are coming along, even protecting her from the danger of the Wishing Well Witch. Meanwhile, Cindy loses the one thing that sets her apart from the other companions – her smart mouth and razor-sharp tongue. It's interesting to see a different dynamic in the TARDIS with two twenty-something females vying for the Doctor's attention – we've not really seen that set-up in the TV show itself, so it's fun to see it explored here in comic-book format. Out of the two characters, I'm starting to prefer Cindy as she has a feistier personality compared to Gabby's more generic companion attitude. Abadzis has done a great job at creating a couple of interesting companions to join the Doctor on his journeys and I'm really enjoying the interplay between the three characters.

Licensed stories, such as these comics, are a fantastic way for writers to explore under-developed plot points from the source material. The Star Wars novels and books are a brilliant example of this as they built an entire expanded universe from background characters, throwaway lines and much more. Here, Nick Abadzis has done something similar – taking what appears to be a forgotten element of the Doctor Who mythos and retooling it to tell an engaging story rooted to the series' past. With Abadzis teasing a conspiracy relating to Ancient Gallifrey, my inner Whovian is buzzing like a bee for more information, and I'm sure other long-term fans of Doctor Who are equally excited about the possibility. While there are some purists out there who will only count the TV series as canon, those people are missing a wealth of great stories here in Titan Comics' ever-expanding library. These stories matter, and they are offering answers and explanations to questions that you probably didn't even realise you had. Once again, the Tenth Doctor adventures showcases an unpredictable streak in its storytelling that not only engages new readers, but also rewards long-term fans of the TV show itself.

Score - 9.4 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor (Vol. 2) # 9 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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