Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 12th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 5

Doctor Who: The 12th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 5
"The Fourth Wall"
Written by: Robbie Morrison
Art by: Rachael Stott
Colours by: Marcio Menys

After a four-part storyline involving the Sea Devils, Robbie Morrison and Rachael Stott switch gears for a nice “done-in-one” which takes full advantage of the comic-book format to deliver a story that could never be told on the television. This isn't the first time that one of Titan Comics’ series has played about with the confines of the comic-book format – the Eleventh Doctor series did a whole adventure in reverse, and then a subsequent storyline that split the narrative in four ways across colour-coded panels. Here, Morrison actually references the comic book universe, bending the fourth wall from the outset with a Twelfth Doctor monologue not unlike the one from the beginning of “Before the Flood” – it’s quite an effective opener as the reader feels like they’re being addressed by the Doctor, only to turn the page and discover it is a comic-book reader within the tale itself. In fact, Morrison takes full advantage of that page turn to have a monster jump out at the reader, and I have to admit that it did take me aback whilst reading digitally on my tablet. A true “behind the sofa” moment in comic-book form!

As a Londoner and comic-book geek, I instantly recognised the Forbidden Planet London Megastore as the location being used for this storyline and Rachael Stott does a tremendous job at recreating the environment, both the interior of the store and the street on which it is located. It’s actually quite eerie reading a comic about a fictitious version of a place you frequently visit, and the attention to detail was amazing. It’s a nice touch and definitely adds to the story more than creating a generic comic-book shop would have. There’s also a fun scene where the Doctor de-constructs modern American comics, referencing Iron Man and Wonder Woman and comparing his own rogue’s gallery against them. There’s a fantastic energy to Stott’s artwork and as a super-fan herself, she is clearly enjoying every moment she is working on the series. It’s great to see her take on The Boneless, as she literally lifts them off the page and into our world.

Reusing the absolutely brilliant two-dimensional Boneless monsters from “Flatline” is a stroke of genius, as is transferring them from street graffiti into comic books. Morrison’s script crackles with wit and mirrors Jamie Mathieson’s own episode by removing the Doctor from the action, trapping him in a comic-book instead of the TARDIS, and focusing on Clara’s attempts to thwart the Boneless. As such, the comic feels like a genuine “spiritual successor” to “Flatline” and fans of that episode would do well to pick up this issue! It’s probably a coincidence, but I liked how the temporary companion for this episode resembled Pearl Mackie, who has been revealed to be playing Clara’s replacement, Bill, in the new series. In fact, I almost thought it was a sly cameo and sneak peek at the character until I realised her name was Natalie. Still, given how actors have cameoed in the show prior to their full appearance (Karen Gillan, Peter Capaldi and Freema Agyeman), I guess we could pretend that this was Pearl Mackie’s cameo, but in comic-book form!

This was an absolutely fantastic “done in one” adventure, and while I'm not normally a fan of breaking the Fourth Wall, it wasn't overused and made sense within the context of the story. I mean, even the television show does sly winks and nods to the camera – remember William Hartnell wishing us all a “Merry Christmas” during "The Daleks’ Masterplan"? I also loved the return of the Boneless as Robbie Morrison took the iconic creature and re-purposed them perfectly in the comic book world, much like how he took the Weeping Angels and relocated them to Mons during World War One in the excellent "Weeping Angels of Mons" storyline. While relying on popular monsters from the TV show could easily be a crutch for most writers, Morrison does simply trade on their names and instead builds interesting and different adventures that naturally develop the creatures. I'm really enjoying the work that this creative team are putting out, especially since it seems to be relatively self-contained as opposed to the ongoing narratives seen in the Tenth and Eleventh Doctor comic-book series. While all of Titan Comics’ Doctor Who output is absolutely spectacular, fans would do well to pick up this series for a monthly fix of Time Lord tales, especially given the current drought of televised Doctor Who stories.

Score - 9.5 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor (Vol. 2) # 5 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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