Even as the Doctor regenerates and replaces massive cheekbones with hawk-like eyebrows, his comic book offerings is rebooted in two new series. I’m reviewing the first offering of each, so in a strange way I too am a time traveler except instead of a tardis I have a train to my grandparents’ house and instead of a companion I have this bag of spare clothes and instead of… I’m going to stop.
The two new series are for the 10th and 11th Doctor respectively ( the 12th Doctor’s comic book run will begin in October) and in both we have just lost touch with companions (Donner and the Ponds). In each case the Doctor meets his new partner in this first issue: 10 meets the smart yet strained Gabriella who is trying to hold down 2 jobs in the family business while studying at night school; while 11 meets Alice a middle aged lady who is struggling after the death of her mother. Dr Who has never been a scientifically rigorous exercise in time travel, so it is characters – particularly companions – who provide the series with its draw. I think that both comics have strong potential here. Alice’s grief and the manner with which 11 must interact with her to both comfort and distract her puts a different edge on the usually exuberant Doctor. Much of 10s comic follows Gabriella; her family drama plays out well, her father’s concepts of family loyalty fighting her desire to live on her own terms. It’s too early to say how this will play out but the writers (Nick Abadzis , Al Ewing  and Rob Williams [11 – I know these look like their ages…]) have set up these relationships well.
Titan Comics have also done a good job of presenting the Doctor. 10 talks to himself while 11 bickers with Alice in the same way he did with Amy: “Don’t do cryptic… I already bagsied cryptic”. Fans of the television series will see their characters well represented here, if some drawing are slightly odd – Matt Smith’s face was not, last time I checked, actually twice as tall as it is wide. The art as a whole is less inspired. For 11 (Alice X Zhang, Simon Fraser and Gary Caldwell) it is colourful, but takes few risks. The style in 10 (Alice X Zhang, Elena Casagrande and Arianna Florean) is better, with a less cartoony feel, but while I enjoyed the detail in a few panels, the comic would have benefited from the same approach throughout.
While it is probably too early to tell, I felt the story in 11 was poorer than it could have been. There was Dr Who’s usual lazy portrayal of any non-Doctor authority figure as craven and stupid and the ending was too sentimental for my taste. Not a deal-breaker, but juxtaposed to the strong characterisation of Alice, there could have been greater depth. The comic hinted at a longer term story arc which might be more fulfilling on that level. I found 10 more satisfying in this regard, though little actually took place instead setting up the pieces to be resolved in a proceeding comic. I really hope Gabriella’s family get more treatment because I think there is real interest there.
Overall I enjoyed reading both comics though I would assert a preference towards 10 over 11 (I felt the same way about the TV series though, so perhaps it’s an accurate depiction). The comics are fun but both lack edge. I am up for convincing over the coming issues, but I’m not sold yet. That said, if you are a big Dr Who fan or someone looking for adventure, these are sure to be a hit and both have the potential grow into great series.