Written by: Jody Houser
Art by: Roberta Ingranata
Chronology Placement: Set after “A Little Help from my Friends”
This Graphic Novel collects the following stories:
- Doctor Who Comic # 1 – 4
Before we start this review proper, I have to release some inner geek OCD frustration. Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic had an unforeseen impact on the comics publishing world during 2020, but one curious side-effect was the numbering of the Doctor Who comic. Rather than continue on from the delayed second year of The Thirteenth Doctor series, Titan Comics relaunched the series with a brand-new number one in late 2020, even though the series continued the story from the previous volume. As a result we now have Doctor Who Comic (Vol. 1) – “Alternating Current” as a sequel to August’s Doctor Who: A Tale of Two Time Lords – “A Little Help from my Friends” and a prequel to July’s Doctor Who: The Time Lord Victorious – “Defender of the Daleks”. Things have gotten a bit timey-wimey, to borrow a phrase from the Tenth Doctor and I think it’ll cause confusion to the casual reader in the long-term unless Titan Comics produces one of those nifty flowchart reading guides in its appendix. For those keeping count, this is actually the fifth volume of The Thirteenth Doctor series but I wish they’d continued using the “A Tale of Two Time Lords” subtitle considering the second-year stories all appear to involve multiple Time Lords.
Leaving my nitpicking at the front door, I have to say that this another fabulously chaotic adventure from Jody Houser and Roberta Ingranata. This writer-artist team are so incredibly in sync with each other after multiple years working together that the storytelling just flows on the page. Ingranata has an uncanny knack for capturing the likeness of an actor without resorting to static photo realism and the end result is wonderfully dynamic and expressive. Her representation of Rose Tyler is extremely evocative and just from the visuals, she manages to demonstrate how battle-hardened this alternate version of the popular companion is. As always her Tenth and Thirteenth Doctors embody the quirkiness of both characters and it is a joy to see them interacting together again. Houser’s script provides the expected banter, but Ingranata’s artwork captures the very essence of the two Time Lords. The artwork is complemented nicely by Enrica Eren Angiolini’s colours, making this all-female creative team complete.
Picking up the pieces from the paradox-inducing meeting between the Tenth and Thirteenth Doctors in “A Little Help from My Friends”, this sequel sees writer Jody Houser once again remixing different eras from the show together, this time taking a pinch of the Third Doctor (Sea Devils) and adding a splash of Tenth (Rose Tyler) and a dash of Thirteen (Skithra) to serve up a gorgeous buffet of Time Lord deliciousness. Houser’s writing tickles those nostalgia taste buds enough to make fans salivate in anticipation for each chapter, but she never fails to service those quieter character moments such as the Thirteenth Doctor’s reunion with the Tylers or the Tenth Doctor catching up with an alt-universe Rose Tyler. Despite the potential for paradox plotholes aplenty, Houser dances majestically through that minefield of continuity and leaves the universe pretty much intact at the end of the story. Even though this adventure was released after Doctor Who: The Time Lord Victorious – “Defender of the Daleks”, it serves as a prelude to that event, providing context behind the Tenth Doctor’s amnesia in that story and the Thirteenth Doctor’s impromptu appearance.
It was great fun to see the Sea Devils reappearing in comic-book format, this time looking more akin to their appearance in the classic Third Doctor serial, “The Sea Devils”, and I was pleasantly surprised to also see a reference to the recent Twelfth Doctor comic adventure, “The School of Death” in there too. The Titan Comics debut of Rose Tyler was also a delight, and I really enjoyed the symmetry in the Tenth Doctor healing a battle-hardened version of Rose after she healed the battle-hardened version of him (Ninth Doctor) in the main timeline. Once again carrying a ridiculously over-sized gun, I loved how this alt-Rose had echoes of the “Rose Tyler: Defender of Earth” version of the character, further showing the impact of the Doctor’s absence on her. The final major return in this story-arc was the Skithra, and while I appreciated the pseudo-sequel to “Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror”, I felt that their presence overshadowed that of the Sea Devils.
“Alternating Current” fizzles with energy (pun intended) and the action is paced extremely well as Houser’s script balances exposition and action in equal measure. Separating the two Doctors for the majority of the adventure helps the story to develop on two fronts, allowing readers to piece together the mystery behind his alternate timeline alongside the Doctors. The dialogue is simply fantastic, nailing the authentic voices of the characters – which is a difficult thing to do given the sizeable supporting cast in this adventure. As often seen in the televised episodes, the large cast means that Graham, Ryan and Yaz aren’t given much opportunities to shine and are mainly here for the Doctor to explain continuity references or plot exposition to. The cliff-hanger ending sees the return of another Time Lord (although probably not the one you were expecting) but I hope the next volume gives more focus to “the Fam” as they’ve yet to get much attention in this second year of stories.
There’s an overwhelming sense of fun about this run of Thirteenth Doctor adventures, and I suspect that is because the creative team are thoroughly enjoying themselves as they work on it. Throwing caution to the wind (and the timeline), Jody Houser is riffing off some of the best eras of the TV series to create the ultimate Doctor Who mix-tape for long-term fans. Roberta Ingranata’s artwork is the perfect visual accompaniment to that mix-tape, creating a light-hearted mood that suits the tone of the series perfectly. With no casting restrictions to worry about and the freedom to play with the entire toy box, Houser and Ingranata are making fine use of the comic-book format to create those multi-Doctor stories that we’ve always wanted to see happen on-screen. There’s a real sense of unpredictability about these adventures and I can’t wait to see what is planned for the future…