Written by: Geroge Mann
Art by: Emma Vieceli
Let me be completely honest about this: For the most part, I do not like Doctor Who comics. I have a general aversion to tie-in comics for most properties I love but I’ve got a particular sore spot when it comes to Who books. It’s not that I’ve been particularly burned in the past, I just always find that they suffer far too much from the burden of comparison.
“9 would never really say that.”
“Why is the artist drawing Martha this way?”
“11’s being kind of a dick, isn’t he?”
But I was excited when I heard Titan was finally doing 8th doctor comics, and even more excited when I finally got a chance to pick up this issue. Unlike the countless hours I’ve spent watching and rewatching Eccleston or Tennant or Matt Smith run around on my screen, fighting Daleks or Slitheen, the 8th Doctor, Paul McGann’s ill-fated (and some might still grumble, ill-advised,) take on the role, has never really suffered from the same burden that depictions of the 2005 onward Doctors do. The 8th Doctor is an incarnation of the character I’ve pretty much always experienced via the long and, spectacular series of audio dramas put out by Big Finish Production. It’s an entirely different relationship and way of seeing than I have with the Doctors whose adventures I’ve primarily watched, rather than listened to and imagined. I can’t say how much influence the long legacy of audio production had on writer George Mann and artist Emma Vieceli, put picking up this comic almost felt like seamlessly transitioning from one episode of Big Finish Production to the next.
Titan’s new 8th Doctor mini-series kicks off in a way that’s pretty much germane to Doctor Who stories across media: the TARDIS lands and the Doctor meets a young woman who’s both strange and in trouble. And there are monsters.
In this case the strange and beleaguered young woman is Josephine Day. We know there’s going to be something weird about her because, well, she’s a young woman meeting the Doctor. Also because she has blue hair.
And because she’s living in the Doctor’s house.
She claims it had been abandoned for decades, which isn’t surprising, he’s a time-traveler, he’s probably got a hundred haunts he hasn’t stopped by in a while, but it’s funny that he doesn’t seem to expect that anyone would just move in while he was gone. The Doctor doesn’t particularly seem to mind, all he wants to do is grab a copy of Jane Eyre a previous incarnation left behind, but then he takes notice of Josie’s art work: there’s Ice Warriors and alien landscapes and one that looks suspiciously like a Miss Amy Pond. Clearly something is a foot. Josie goes on to explain that her paintings are a hit all around the village.
You can imagine what happens next. Reports from the village pub that monsters are afoot, and a quick investigation reveals the source: one of Josie’s now empty paintings. The creatures she’d painted, witherkin, have sprung to life and can’t do anything but act out what they were doing in the drawing. The cause of the living art is quickly deduced by the Doctor – the girl is infected with *ahem* animae particles, which seeped into all of her artwork that was brought to life when the Doctor landed the TARDIS and accidentally reactivated an old psychic circuit one of his previous selves had left lying around in the abandoned cottage.
The Witherkin manage to catch the Doctor but Josie saves the day quickly, by painting a rendition of Eight who steps off the canvas and smashes the psychic circuit, ending the conflict.
Our story ends with the Doctor finally finding his copy of Jane Eyre and some sort of mysterious to-do list, loaded with time and space coordinates, written in hand-writing he can’t quite identify but still sort of recognizes. Of course he’s going to go check them out, and bring along the Earth girl who found herself doused in alien particles and painting aliens from far away worlds.
As far as stories go it’s not exactly an original plot and it’s certainly not territory Doctor Who hasn’t tread before. But it put a smile on my face. Mann’s story is fun, breezy and does a good job of setting up the mystery of Josie Day in a way that’s not heavy handed but just this side of cheesy to keep things entertaining. Emma Vieceli’s manga inspired style really pairs well with Who. The character designs are clean and striking, and her layouts and paneling do wonders for conveying the way these characters move through a pretty silly story. The art is kinetic. When the Doctor makes a dramatic turn, it feels like you’re watching him do it, and when Josie runs, it might as well be to a score right before the story cuts to a commercial break.
It’s not a mind blowing Who comics or even Who story by any means, but it’s definitely worth reading if you’re a fan of the 8th Doctor and I for one am looking forward to seeing how this mini-series plays out.