WRITER - ROB WILLIAMS
ARTIST - WARREN PLEECE
COLORIST - HI-FI, WITH THANKS TO AMOONA SAOHIN
LETTERER - RICHARD STARKINGS AND
COMICRAFT’S JIMMY BETANCOURT
(ABSLOM DAAK CREATED BY STEVE MOORE
AND STEVE DILLON)
EDITOR - ANDREW JAMES
ASSISTANT EDITORS - GABRIELA HOUSTON
AND JESSICA BURTON
DESIGNER - ROB FARMER
The Doctor's antiquated but invaluable vessel has finally decided to land somewhere after a series of mind-bending detours. So begins an exploration of the Planet Veestrax. After everyone's ordeal in the TARDIS tested their perceptions of reality, some respite should really be in order. However, more headache-inducing visions soon appear on the horizon for the Doctor, his associates, and the unkempt, swearing and psychotic warrior - Abslom Daak.
The Doctor has to open up further about his past to a concerned Alice, as well as attempt to decipher the clues as to the present status of Veestrax. Can he do this, however, when another old enemy of his may also be about to make their presence known?
As intriguing as last issue's Pull to Open was, it ultimately has minimal bearing on this new story, albeit being part of a larger arc. A lot of set-up and characterisation is the chosen focus by scribe Rob Williams. Despite the pace being sedate, there is much that is memorable here.
Daak certainly gets his best outing yet, in that his bullishness and lack of education comes to the fore. Most notably, there is a stark verbal reminder made by the Doctor of this grizzled near-do-well having much innocent blood on his hands. This is despite some of his heroic acts that helped save lives, once Daak became an infamous 'Dalek Killer'.
It is also engaging to witness how this chain-sword-brandishing man's involvement in the Time War is contrasted with the Squire's own battles. The Doctor is caught in a tightrope act of judging just whether she is a force for good or evil. Fall one way and denounce squire as an enemy in sheep's clothing, or fall the other way and place as much trust in this aged female warrior as any of his most beloved assistants from 'home from home' planet Earth. Pick the wrong side and he may feel guilty for letting her down, or feel guilty for risking the lives of others.
Outrun is also notable in reminding us how little the Eleventh Doctor tends to tell his companions about the period of his former life when morals were all variable shades of grey. Of course, compared to Doctors Nine and Ten, there was little over guilt over the deeds of yesteryear. Fittingly, Alice still knows little of her friend's role in the Time War. This is despite her many adventures shared with him, and furthermore, her retained memories of the adventures with both a past and future self of him, in the spellbinding Four Doctors crossover.
Of course, a good chunk of the Steven Moffat TV productions explored the Doctor being more dangerous than his worst enemies. For the new Year Two arc though, this is a chance to keep building on The Day Of The Doctor - which functioned as an intriguing nucleus of an idea, as well as a crowd-pleasing feature length special. Once again, a handful of panels feature the bearded John Hurt incarnation, who is also described as "X-rated" by the Eleventh Doctor. They manage again to leave an impression, perhaps because of their brevity. The standout example is the attempt by 'The Then and The Now' to regress the Doctor back to his past self. Another moment of impact - and one that has spooky undertones - is when Alice is totally confused by the fluctuations in time, and sees herself beside the aged warrior in the middle of an adventure, despite never having met him in the first place.
Again, I found Warren Pleece was up to the demands of Williams' vision for the vast majority of the tale. Character expressions are something that comics can boast as an inherent strength, and even over the televisual media, where it takes indifferent direction or a weak performance to miss out on a vital emotional beat. And the emotions explored in this story are definitely raw and heartfelt. The particular visual highlight from Pleece's art involves a jarringly blank 'protective view' of the Time War, which only the Doctor is able to really see for what it is.
The questions continue to outweigh the answers, come the final sections of the story. And this is welcome, as the parent TV show, with Matt Smith at the front and centre, did similar tricks in keeping followers intrigued, and indeed frustrated (!). This is a strong effort, and I unreservedly recommend it for reading, once the first two or three issues in Year Two are accounted for.
Bonus Humour Strip - "Who Who Who, Merry Christmas".
This comic was released just before Christmas Day, and fittingly this example of adventures and witticisms with the Pond 'family' centres on the Yuletide occasion. Whilst we are leaving Winter behind shortly, this still can be read as a depiction of the highs and lows that a group of relations encounter in having to put in some original effort into an overly familiar time of the year. The particular humour standout for me came in the form of mocking a number of festive foes, that were conjured up by showrunners Russell T Davies and Moffat over the years as a form of lightweight opposition.
There is also another fine variant cover. It is described as a 'Subscription Photo', and credited to Will Brooks.