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Graphic Novel Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
The Thirteenth Doctor
A New Beginning (Paperback)


Writer: Jody Houser
Artists: Rachael Stott and Giorgia Sposito
Colourist: Enrica Eren Angiolini
Publisher: Titan Comics
RRP: UK £13.99, US $16.99
Age: 12+
ISBN: 978 1 78586 676 0
112 pages
Publication Date: 07 May 2019

Bestselling comics writer Jody Houser and fan-favourite artists Rachael Stott and Enrica Eren Angiolini team up to launch the Doctor and her friends into a whole new universe of unforgettable adventures! This first collection of the Thirteenth Doctor’s comic book series sees the newest incarnation of the Time Lord, along with her new companions – Graham, Yaz and Ryan – trail-blazing through time tackling vile villains, avoiding an intergalactic civil war, uncovering the truth behind a secret human time-travel experiment, and doing battle with an alien hoarder obsessed with amassing the greatest treasures in the history of the universe! With this new Doctor in charge, one thing’s for certain: there’s never a dull moment or a second to spare, even if you are a Time Lord…!

So, whose hand was that reaching out through a mysterious time portal during the back-up strips in The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor (in which the Thirteenth Doctor did not actually appear)? After keeping us hanging on through that, writer Jody Houser (Faith, Mother Panic, Stranger Things) and artist Rachael Stott (Motherlands, Star Trek / Planet of the Apes) leave us guessing for a little while longer at the start of this, the first full-on Thirteenth Doctor graphic novel, which collects the first four issues of her monthly series.

The opening page of the strip shows us a couple of silhouettes – time travellers stalking through an art gallery after dark. Could the taller, spiky-haired figure be the Tenth Doctor? No, his shorter companion, with chin-length straight hair, calls him “Perkins”. Could the female be the Thirteenth Doctor? No, as we clearly see when we turn to the second page.

The new Doctor and her crew are introduced on the third page, beautifully rendered by Stott. The artist produces good likenesses of the regulars, especially the Doctor and Yaz. At Stott’s hands, the Thirteenth Doctor pulls more and goofier faces than she does on screen – and that’s saying something!

The writer faces perhaps the greater challenge, working with characters who have been, in my opinion, rather thinly sketched in the latest incarnation of the television series. Houser fills their mouths with words that you can imagine Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole coming out with. For example, when they finally come face to face with the being from the time portal, the down-to-earth Graham points out to the Doctor, “When you said this was dangerous, I thought it would be more… alieny. He looks like an ordinary bloke to me.” “Ordinary blokes can’t be dangerous?” replies the Doctor. “Fair point, well made,” agrees Graham. Yaz gets to use her police skills, restraining a prisoner and attempting to reason with alien authorities. Ryan helps by improvising that they are “Time Cops”. His dyspraxia is subtly acknowledged without making a big deal out of it. For the most part, Houser manages the impressive feat of capturing these characters without making me cringe at overly clunky or juvenile turns of phrase, as happens from time to time when I watch the show – though I’m not too sure about Ryan’s aside to Yaz, “Never slows down with [the Doctor], yeah?”

The futuristic and/or alien settings of Series 11 have often seemed sparsely populated, presumably for budgetary reasons. This is not a problem for Houser and Stott, who treat us to glorious alien vistas such as a throne room stacked high with riches, and a crystalline temple that looks as though it could be of Kroton construction, inhabited by crazy creatures such as jewel-encrusted robots and a potato-headed army (not the Sontarans – the tiny heads of the Grand Army of the Just really do resemble King Edwards). A satanic-looking collector has so many thrones (a wealth of them, you might say) that he sits atop a heap of them. A field of Adipose-like babies gestate inside transparent buds – and there are many more, even freakier extraterrestrial offspring to behold, including a beheaded Mr Blobby!

In order to keep up with the schedule of the monthly issues, Stott hands over to other artists (primarily Giorgia Sposito) for a few pages here and there. These contributions are fairly complementary to the prevalent style, though there is a slight lapse of visual logic when the time travellers evade their pursuers by dashing into the TARDIS, even though said pursuers were standing closer to the ship when it materialised (maybe they backed away in surprise).

The pace of the story is rather sedate – which is entirely in keeping with the new show! Much of the middle section of the plot revolves around the time-portal guy explaining to the TARDIS crew how he came to be in this situation. This is intercut with flashbacks. A couple of matters are not made clear. Firstly, how are the time travellers able to make a soft landing after what looks like quite a long drop? (Similar questions have been asked about the television episodes The End of Time and The Woman Who Fell to Earth.) Secondly, Yaz refers to a plot point (concerning a many-limbed idol) that appears to have been cut from the preceding pages.

On the subject of omissions, not all of the covers from the individual comics have been included in the gallery section at the back of the book, which is a shame. None of Will Brooks’s photographic B covers are shown. Nor are covers H (by Ariela Kristantina and Jessica Kholinne) or K (the Athena Stamos cosplay variant) from #1. I know there are a lot to fit in (the debut issue had 13 different covers), but Titan still found space for three two-page house ads, for The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor, The Many Lives of Doctor Who, and the rest of their Doctor Who range. The front of this graphic novel makes good use of the dynamic cover C (by Rachael Stott) from #2. Perhaps the rest can be included in the next volume…

So far, the era of the Thirteenth Doctor has been far from my favourite, but A New Beginning has actually helped me to warm to it. A bold new beginning indeed.


Richard McGinlay

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