Written by: Jody Houser
Art by: Roberta Ingranata & Rachael Stott
Chronology Placement: Set after “Resolution” and “A New Beginning”
With no televised Doctor Who adventures expected until early next year, Titan Comics is performing an essential service by producing new Thirteenth Doctor stories in a comic-book format. This second volume collects the storyline, “Hidden Human History”, which sees the Doctor and her friends travelling to some lesser-known historical events to uncover a mystery that spans several generations. Much like how Season Eleven alternated between futuristic, contemporary and historical episodes, this adventure juxtaposes against the previous future-focused storyline to tell stories from Earth’s past. The initial chapter felt extremely reminiscent of “The Witchfinders”, with the Doctor befriending and empowering a young woman native to the time period.
Jody Houser’s script delights with its intricate plotting and the “timey-wimey” nature of its central mysteries. The foreshadowing and eventual pay-off to the storyline are extremely satisfying, and it has the feel of a Steven Moffat episode viewed through the prism of the Thirteenth Doctor. Houser continues to demonstrate a keen understanding of the Thirteenth Doctor’s voice and the roles of her companions. I would argue that this sophomore adventure is more confident and complex in its plotting than “A New Beginning”, which greatly benefits the tale. Houser drops in some lovely references to past adventures to strengthen links to continuity and even revisits characters from her initial story-arc, potentially setting up foundations for an ongoing subplot with Schulz and Perkins.
Rachael Stott handles art duties for the first chapter in this storyline, carrying on her stellar work from the initial volume. She is a fantastic artist and excels in capturing the mannerisms of the actors onto the page, such as Jodie Whittaker’s nose scrunching – I particularly enjoyed her suspicious interrogation of the sheep upon arriving in Guelders. Taking over art duties for the remaining three chapters is Roberta Ingranata, and the transition between artists is extremely smooth. There is a lovely energy to Ingranata’s artwork that feels dynamic and exciting. I really liked the way she played with the panel layouts on certain pages, and the occasional use of silhouettes along a backdrop to illustrate travel to and from the TARDIS. She is a fantastic addition to the Thirteenth Doctor family, and her art suits the characters well. Another key ingredient in making the issue look amazing is the colorist, Enrica Eren Angiolini and color assistant, Viviana Spinelli – both of whom work well in picking colours that match the mood of an historical episode of the series.
This story introduces a new creature into the Doctor Who mythology – the Stilean Flesh Eater, and I have to say that I loved the design of this new monster. Most successful Doctor Who monsters prey upon a primal fear to really get under the viewer/reader’s skin; The Weeping Angels makes people terrified to blink, Nashta Verada uses people’s fear of the dark against them, and with the Stilean Flesh Eaters, Jody Houser takes leeches and makes them even more scary. The idea of a bloodsucking parasite with rows and rows of teeth is disturbing, much like leeches themselves, and the visual representation of the creatures is deeply unpleasant. Not content with that initial design, the creatures undergo a number of transformations that continue to unsettle the reader in different ways.
With a compelling mystery, imaginative monsters and the foundations of an ongoing subplot, “Hidden Human History” hits all the right notes and delivers a wonderful orchestra of a Doctor Who story. Houser proves herself to be equally capable at creating exciting historical adventures as she is at crafting science-fiction concepts, establishing a tonal balance in her comic series that matches the rhythm of Season Eleven. Streamlining its Doctor Who output to a single ongoing series has greatly benefitted Titan Comics, allowing the incumbent Doctor to spearhead the franchise without distraction and resulting in stronger, more engaging storytelling. Fans who may have dropped off from the previous over-saturation of the licence should definitely come back to the fold and pick up this series. This is a brilliant Doctor Who comic, the definitive article, you might say…