ELEVENTH DOCTOR Volume Two - Issue One
Writers - Si Spurrier + Rob Williams
Artist - Simon Fraser
Colourist - Gary Caldwell
Letterer - Richard Starkings
And Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
(Abslom Daak created by Steve Moore and Steve Dillon)
Editor - Andrew James
Asistant Editor - Kirsten Murrary
Designer - Rob Farmer
Released September 30th 2015
This new start - for a slimmed down TARDIS team of the Doctor and Alice - takes the journey of a long, long lifetime into new playing fields. It also, however, acknowledge the richness of the Doctor's past, and in particular the Time War.
A splendid cover - with the image of a confident Matt Smith - belies the actual demeanour of his alter-ego for the story itself. The Doctor is firmly on the back-foot and has to try and show some resemblance of self-belief and ability to conjure a plan on the fly. In this case, he really struggles, and can only begin to reconstruct what is the reason for the leaders of the Overcast race to capture him, and declare he faces sentence for his crimes. It is Alice who is able to show more outright heroism - especially given her paucity of experience and knowledge, in comparison to her alien co-traveller.
A previously unseen ally (and from long ago in the Doctor's past) also lends a helping hand or two. Despite being somewhat eccentric, the dedicated Squire shows herself to be more than ready to stand tall in the face of danger.
It will not escape a loyal follower's notice that the unmistakably grey-haired and bearded John Hurt version is also on the front cover. And we do get a fair amount of material with the War Doctor. In the primary flashback he is accompanied by a tiny figure. When questioned by this unknown companion over what he is going to do, he replies "What I Have To", and is grasping a formidable gun with both hands. Further recalls of this deliberately sidelined - yet long-lived -incarnation are interspersed later on in the story. The ultimate intent is that the current Doctor has a reminder that he is the same man as he always was, and he must take responsibility for what he has done.
But perhaps the writers are trying to make us think of quite an uncertain debate here. The Overcast blame the Doctor, in that he deprived them of the outsiders with powers that gave them so much prosperity. Soon after, they were vulnerable to a much more Malignant visitor to their planet. However, the War Doctor may still have been arguably balancing the scales in the right direction, so as to save the wider universe, and time itself. The specifics are not mentioned here, and may not be in the concluding issue to come, but the Doctor has every right to be a bit flippant when stating how he is in a courtroom just one more time out of a "Bazillion".
Of course, the theme of a fair portion of Matt Smith's tenure - Series' 5 finale and Series 6 in particular - was all about his accountability for actions that left a mark or two on those it directly affected. So, it feels quite natural to pursue this fascinating topic now, after much of Year One concerned itself with Serve You Inc's soullessness, and the resilience of one dogged enemy in particular.
I found the visual aspects of this season opener equivalent to be pretty good. Simon Fraser uses a deliberately gaudy style, that certainly leaves an impression for some time, after readers put their paperback editions down, or exit the reading app they prefer. The artwork consistency is pretty robust, and there are thus no glaring peaks and troughs. Much of the story is set in darkness or shadows, and this suits the rather grim subject matter of a once-bustling civilisation of pioneers now reduced to - effectively - scavengers crammed into a feeble space station complex. There is also a well-done 'symbolic' image of a brace of Doctor regenerations that reminds us of the brilliant Tom Baker cameo in The Day Of The Doctor, and what exactly it may actually be alluding to.
The monster introduced here is known by precisely the same title as the story proper. This creature is a resonant and brilliant example of Doctor Who showcasing creative talent. A truly fertile imagination sparked the TV show, and that aspiration grew manifold in the hearts of viewers and fans, as well as the minds of countless professional contributors, over time. The effect this powerful foe has on the Doctor and his companion is disturbing, yet quite, quite fascinating too.
The icing on the cake, however, is the re-introduction of one of the very best characters to join the Doctor Who universe in the early 1980s.
A man who has done some unspeakable crimes. A man who offered to try and atone for his sins. But still a man whose morals are questionable.
He obsessed over a prospective girlfriend dying in his arms from a Dalek ray, before even a first date could be granted to them.
He died in a huge explosion. Then he was brought back through time, for yet another showdown with his lifelong nemeses.
Yes, Abslom Daak is back into the fray, and ready for some visceral mayhem. Everyone had better hold on tight.
A humour strip and three alternative covers feature.
New Year. New Who is once more an example of Marc Ellerby wrong-footing readers. It devotes a lengthy set-up to suggest a most critical course of action by the Doctor, where he will re-assert his authority over an adversary or six. (In fact he is dealing with a very domestic problem, which serves to frustrate all three of Amy, Rory and River Song).
Two of the variant covers are done in the humour strip style. One of these is a very sharp parody of the Doctor facing all his enemies, whilst trapped in the TARDIS, by Ellerby.