WRITER - ROB WILLIAMS
ARTIST - WARREN PLEECE
COLORIST - HI-FI
LETTERING - 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
MAIN COVER BY JOSH CASSARA
BONUS COVER BY WILL BROOKS
PUBLISHED JANUARY 27TH 2016. TITAN COMICS
Having had strong indications that his life-long nemesis the Master has framed him for evil deeds during the Time War, the Doctor resolves to explore another obscure planet yet again, in order to obtain hard-and-fast evidence.
Before long, the danger of hordes of militaristic Sontarans having a brutal civil war rears its head. A breakaway group have decided to grow beards that pay tribute to one of the most notorious renegades the Time Lord race ever produced. The Doctor persists in staying just a little longer, much to the chagrin of his fellow travellers.
Yet eventually even the twin-hearted 'madman in a box' realises the need for escaping this colourful world: the main faction of Sontaran are prepared to sacrifice themselves with a bomb that would destroy the 'stray' cohort, all indigenous life on this remote world, and indeed the very planet itself.
And beyond this stress-inducing stopover lies hope in the ongoing quest to quash the Doctor's 'guilt' in the eyes of The Overcast. Perhaps finally, the Doctor's bad reputation can be literally a thing of the past.
The title of this story is on the unusual side, and overall this is a real curiosity from start to finish. Titan have done many experimental stories with the different doctors they have been granted rights to, but this really pushes the envelope. The Eleventh Doctor uses a wacky turn of phrase quite often in any given edition, but this escapade really sees everything but the kitchen sink when it comes to synonyms and idioms. Rob Williams is normally a consist and strong writer, but this is a sign of creative juices being just a touch over-flowing.
The art continue in much the same vein as before. It tells the story well and offers fine facial expression. However I still cannot place Warren Pleece's efforts higher up on the ladder of creative quality than his fellow contributors Simon Fraser and Boo Cook.
There are many ambitious concepts in play, but for my sensibilities at least Pleece does sometimes miss that vital 'X-factor' when portraying large set pieces. He does however do justice to the excellent character work that the Eleventh Doctor line is by now renowned for.
However the crux of this instalment (of what is a cleverly done ongoing arc) does advance the mystery and speculations to great effect. We are drip-fed some information on just what the nefarious Master has been able to do during the Time War, and only now is this particular version of the Doctor in a position to piece together why The Overcast have been desperate to hold him to trial. The Doctor somewhat weakly admits how he may be a hypocrite of sorts, but simultaneously emphasises that his ends do justify the means, and there are far worse 'monsters' out there who do not stop to consider accountability. In essence, the Doctor's self awareness places him in the black column, and those he has had to defeat that had similar potential/talents that could have helped many beings are in the red column.
Just the one panel of the War Doctor surfaces amongst dozens of frames that populate this comic. Yet it does re-emphasise firmly the pressure being placed mentally on Alice, as she has already obtained a clutch of unwanted mental processes courtesy of being in close contact to the TARDIS. This particular aspect of the ongoing arc of Year Two is being done in assured and wholehearted fashion and it is difficult to see the resolution being any less than brilliant, given the pedigree of writing readers have come to expect.
Abslom Daak continues to be well written and feel an organic part of proceedings, rather than one of many examples in Doctor Who's history where nostalgia and homage to the past were a millstone around the neck of real and vital creativity. He manages to ooze charisma, although there is no doubt he is rakish, thuggish and lacking much capacity when it comes to empathy or patience.
It is The Squire who perhaps gets the short straw. Whilst remaining likeable, and indeed noteworthy in being considerably older in her physical appearance to most companions of the Doctor, she really does not have much bearing on the story. This has been a problem for a few issues now. True, she gets to unleash some weaponry that allows the Doctor to meet a vital figure in his life, and someone that can help him in his ongoing quest to clear his name. Yet it still feels like Daak could have done much the same thing, and probably been much more entertaining into the bargain. This problem almost brings to mind the issues with K9 when he was a regular character in the Tom Baker era: a useful plot-device, but lacking an actual path of character growth.
The Sontarans do have a marauding presence here, but never directly interact with the heroic TARDIS travellers. Eventually the Doctor attempts to use their genocidal practice as a means of eradicating Then and the Now being, but has little luck in that tactic. I do generally enjoy the Sontarans as adversaries, and hopefully they are used in a more traditional way in the future. The Sontaran Stratagem certainly did well in that regard, and especially as far as TV stories featuring the 'potato-heads' go. Hopefully that model is followed some time soon in one of the comics.
This early 2016 entry into the adventures of the Eleventh Doctor is certainly not anywhere close to being perfect, and does somewhat lack the normal intangibles that the franchise thrives on. Yet it still offers plenty of memorable visuals and visceral thrills. Hopefully next time, there can be a little more even-handedness with the scripting and the art finishing.
BONUS HUMOUR STRIP - Time Spill On Aisle Five
A pretty solid effort, if not Marc Ellerby's best script. It again shows commendable planning in having thematic links to the main story. Given my mild reservations over the artwork of Pleece above, for once the bonus story actually outshines the main attraction. This is surprising given the focus on light entertainment, but it does (albeit in its short length) offer cohesive quality visuals.