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Graphic Novel Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
The Twelfth Doctor
Time Trials: The Wolves of Winter (Hardback)


Writer: Richard Dinnick
Artists: Brian Williamson, Pasquale Qualano, Marcelo Salaza and Edu Menna
Colourist: Hi-Fi
Publisher: Titan Comics
RRP: UK £17.99, US $22.99
Age: 12+
ISBN: 978 1 78586 539 8
112 pages
Publication Date: 06 March 2018

In Bill’s first comic-book adventure, the TARDIS crashes into the heart of a Viking camp! But this is no interactive history lesson – a terrifying alien force has taken over the icy kingdom. As the snow melts, the Doctor realises that he is about to face more than one unwelcome face from the past… And for a different flavour of peril, the Doctor takes Bill and Nardole on a trip to an intergalactic superstore, where they make an unexpected new friend – or is that enemy?! Writer Richard Dinnick (Doctor Who) teams up with artists Brian Williamson (Spider-Man, Torchwood), Pasquale Qualano (Batman ’66, DC Comics Bombshells), Marcelo Salaza and Edu Menna, for an explosive new story…!

This graphic novel brings together #5–7 and #9 of Titan Comics’ third year of Twelfth Doctor adventures. In case you’re wondering what happened to #8, it vanished into The Lost Dimension (or rather the story bearing that title) and will be collected in the second volume of that multi-Doctor crossover. As with the previous collection of Twelfth Doctor tales, this book is dominated by its opening three-part serial, from which it takes its title…

The TARDIS lands the Doctor and his new companion Bill in the middle of a Viking camp – where it seems that the Time Lord isn’t the only alien they’ve encountered…


Yes, we need a big spoiler alert for this part of the review, as it’s practically impossible to discuss the merits of The Wolves of Winter without mentioning all the returning monsters. It’s perhaps no secret that the Ice Warriors put in an appearance – they were mentioned in publicity for the monthly issues, and one of them is shown on the prelim pages at the front of the book. Therefore, as I settled down to read, I thought all the big surprises had already been given away… but I was wrong!

The Ice Warriors were originally envisaged, by Brian Hayles, the writer who created them, as resembling Vikings or Saxons. Several characters in the first Ice Warrior serial describe them as such (“He looks pre-Viking,” says the scientist Arden; “It looks like a Viking warrior,” agrees Jamie, “Look at the helmet”), despite the obviously reptilian design of the costumes. Author Richard Dinnick appears to have been inspired by this notion to wonder, “What if Vikings and Ice Warriors actually met? Would these proud warrior races clash, or would they unite against a common foe?” Now, you might think that a Viking versus Ice Warrior confrontation would be no contest, but the author reminds us that the Martians have their weaknesses, in particular heat. His scripts also emulate the Ice Warriors’ distinctive hissing speech by elongating their “s” sounds – though he forgets that you don’t pronounce the “s” in “isssland”.

Even certain character names seem interchangeable between Martian and Norseman. Torkal would be as good a name for an Ice Warrior as it is for a Viking here, while Grand Marshal Sskoll sounds like a wolf in Norse mythology (a son of Fenrir)… not to mention the Danish/Norwegian/Swedish word for “cheers”, as the Doctor points out!

But Dinnick’s word association doesn’t end there. Evidently he then considered the exciting possibility of bringing the Ice Warriors together with another potent Martian menace: the Flood from The Waters of Mars. In that episode, the Flood was unable to speak. Here it can, when in possession of an Ice Warrior host – which makes sense, since presumably the virus is more compatible with a species from the same planet. “You are made of even more water than the Martian creatures,” it tells the Doctor. So it would appear that the Second Doctor was wrong in The Ice Warriors when he theorised that “Varga and his warriors have a far greater fluid content than human beings.”

If you’re going to have Vikings, Nordic runes and a water-based foe, then you might as well go the whole hog and also include Fenric and the Haemovores from The Curse of Fenric! It was exciting enough when the Flood was revealed (at the end of the first episode), so I really didn’t expect Fenric’s gang to turn up as well (partway through the second instalment), despite the many clues the author had laid in front of me, including character names like Sundvik and Halfdan, and mention of a treasure from a foreign land. Dinnick makes good use of series mythology to tell this follow-up to Fenric, the events of which are several regenerations in the past from the Twelfth Doctor’s point of view but centuries in the future as far as Earth history is concerned. It comes across as a particularly devious chess move by the evil force from the dawn of time.

The opening episode of The Wolves of Winter marked the comic-book debut of companion Bill Potts – though in terms of graphic novel publication, her appearance in the first volume of The Lost Dimension beat this book to the shelves. Dinnick gives Bill some wonderfully wry comments, which remind me what a breath of fresh air she brought to the television show. It’s just a shame that Titan didn’t write her into the comics sooner (her first issue was published a few days after the final episode of Series 10 aired). Bill recognises the Ice Warriors, which places this story after Empress of Mars – though in a lack of observation similar to that witnessed in the original Ice Warriors serial, she doesn’t seem to notice them at first (presumably having devoted all her attention to an attacking Flood-infected human). Curiously, she doesn’t comment upon the superficial similarity between the Flood and the sentient fluid she encountered in The Pilot.

Brian Williamson provides most of the artwork for this adventure, though he is assisted during the final episode by Marcelo Salaza and Edu Menna. Thankfully, Williamson relies less heavily on photographic reference than he did during Titan’s Fourth Doctor miniseries. Salaza and Menna largely complement his photorealistic style, but with finer line work, though the likeness of the Ancient Haemovore varies enormously. Occasional frames showing just action with no dialogue are sometimes a little difficult to make sense of, though this is perhaps as much the fault of the writer as of the artists. However, the entire creative team should pat themselves on the back for bringing to life an early, unused design for a creepy leech-like Haemovore, which acts as the Ancient One’s ‘queen’ in the chess match between Fenric and the Doctor.

Wolf down The Wolves of Winter, and let the nostalgia flood out!



While exploring the Übermarket, one of the largest shopping malls in the universe, Bill stumbles across a frightening alien race – one that she must face alone…!

Dinnick packs even more continuity into the accompanying one-shot story, The Great Shopping Bill. We see Missy imprisoned in the Vault, looking typically untrustworthy, and for one frame only the fluidic Heather pops up to keep an eye on Bill. The trouble is, I didn’t recognise Heather, so the latter scene made no sense to me until I read up on it afterwards – perhaps another instance of the writer overestimating how much storytelling information can be communicated via pictures alone, without sufficient explanatory text. Missy’s role has little bearing on the plot, though her presence is justified by this episode’s placement within Series 10, some time either side of The Eaters of Light, at which point she was making regular appearances in the show and was beginning to gain the Doctor’s trust.

The rest of Dinnick’s shopping list of references is more light-hearted, with some familiar alien species making cameo appearances as visitors to the Übermarket, whose wares include jelly babies, impossible soufflé grills, and wibbly-wobbly, limey-wimey jelly!

Some of the most amusing allusions are to narratives outside the Doctor Who universe. At the start of the tale, building upon their discussions of science-fiction movies in Empress of Mars, the Doctor and Bill have clearly just been watching the Back to the Future trilogy. The Doctor doesn’t approve of Doc Brown allowing his “companion” to double back on himself at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance in the second film: “Has he never heard of the Blinovitch Limitation Effect?” When the Time Lord mistakenly refers to Michael J Fox’s character as Morty, Bill corrects him: “Marty.” Then she adds, under her breath: “Morty’s a whole other thing.” Later the Doctor (possibly accidentally) quotes Star Wars. He does so while dealing with some sinister robots, whose designations include N-e-1-4-10-S and N-i-4-N-i – if you don’t get their significance, try saying them out loud.

Artist Pasquale Qualano provides good likenesses of the television characters, with the exception of the aforementioned Heather. He has particular fun with the Twelfth Doctor’s manic eyes and Nardole’s hairless, frowning eyebrows.

The slender jeopardy plot, in which Bill and a little girl try to escape from a couple of scary aliens, is almost an aside to the wall-to-wall jokes – but even so, The Great Shopping Bill is well worth picking up.


Richard McGinaly

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