Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 9

Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 9
"Running To Stay Still"
Written by: Si Spurrier
Art by: Leandro Casco
Colours by: Rodrigo Fernandes

Si Spurrier continues to tell his sprawling Eleventh Doctor epic storyline, which sees the Doctor accused of war crimes during the Time War and struggling to prove his innocence. As opposed to the previous year's story which featured individual stories that connected together to form a wider 'season-long' story-arc, this year's tale has been far more serialised with a singular narrative thrust driving the adventure along. While this does make it trickier for new readers to jump into the storyline, it certainly means that long-term followers of the series are rewarded with a densely-plotted adventure, filled with clues and references to earlier issues. Spurrier, along with his co-writer Rob Williams, has crafted an absolutely thrilling “whodunnit” mystery that reaches into the heart of modern Doctor Who mythology and offers a satisfying glimpse at the untold events of the Last Great Time War.

Now armed with a potential suspect, the Doctor attempts to appeal to the Overcast to call off their temporal bounty hunter, The Then and The Now, but finds himself blocked by the Malignant. Spurrier continues to raise the stakes for the Doctor, putting River in stasis as the Malignant begins to eat away at her body and critically injuring the Squire in the midst of a battle. This is Doctor at his lowest point, plagued with self-doubt and faced with momentous odds – something we don't get to see too often in the television series itself. He's usually the man with a plan, and although previous issues have seen him manipulating events and his companions in a last-ditch effort to prove his innocence, there's the strong sense that this is the Doctor out of his depth for the first time in a long time. I must admit that I found myself uncomfortable witnessing the Doctor's cold, calculated approach of pushing Alice away and forcing her to use the Master's TARDIS to break into the time-locked planet of Lujhimene to discover answers to the mysteries that have plagued the team (and the readers) since the start of this second year of adventures. Clearly, this is a Doctor who no longer has the luxury of being the nice-guy and is forced to make some tough decisions to facilitate his endgame. I'm guessing he knows that Alice is destined to go back to the Time War, but has he just sent her to her death?

Returning to the series after helping out during the seventh issue, Leandro Casco brings a refreshing look to the Eleventh Doctor series with his thick, bold line-work and smooth, nearly-animated character designs. Despite his distinctive style, Casco manages to create consistency with the previous artists, particularly Warren Pleece. I love the way that Casco ensure the story flows along nicely, especially during the action-orientated scenes between the Squire and The Then and The Now. As with its earlier appearances, The Then and The Now affects the Doctor, bringing forth former and future regenerations at once as it plays with the Doctor's chronology. Casco does a brilliant job at illustrating this side-effect and I loved seeing his interpretation of the other incarnations of the Doctor merging into one. While Casco did a fantastic job at bringing the TARDIS crew to life, I'm not sure his style lends itself well to drawing the elderly, wrinkled skin of veteran companion, The Squire. To be fair, she is a tricky character to get right but Casco's smooth style didn't really gel with the increased lines on her face, resulting in a juxtaposition that made her look mummified at times. Luckily, she spent most of the issue in a space-suit so it wasn't too distracting! On the flip-side, I absolutely love his representation of River Song and her mass of curly hair – it manages to channel Alex Kingston's take on the character without being a carbon-copy portrait of the actress. Much like his version of Matt Smith's Doctor, it captures the essence of the character without being a slave to realism.

Once again, this was another solid chapter of the Eleventh Doctor comic-book series and what promises to be a turning point in the narrative structure of the series. I've enjoyed the twists and turns up until now, but with six issues remaining of this storyline, I hope that we're going to start seeing the pace change up as we head towards the third act of the adventure. I've enjoyed seeing the Doctor being chased relentlessly by The Then and The Now, but it has resulted in each episode feeling somewhat similar to each other in structure. The Doctor goes somewhere, discovers a clue, gets chased away by the Then and the Now – this seems to have been the format for the past few episodes, and while enjoyable, it has become slightly formulaic. With Alice's decision here, though, it seems like we're about to get a shake-up to the status-quo and a different type of adventure to those seen recently. Perhaps we'll get a War Doctor-centric issue instead, shedding light on the mystery of the Malignant and the strange boy glimpsed in flashbacks? I remain utterly enthralled by the mysteries that Spurrier and Williams have conjured up onto the page, and cannot wait to get some much-needed answers.

Score - 9.3 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Eleventh 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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