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Graphic Novel Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
The Thirteenth Doctor
Hidden Human History (Paperback)


Writer: Jody Houser
Artists: Roberta Ingranata and Rachael Stott
Colourist: Enrica Eren Angiolini, with Viviana Spinelli
Publisher: Titan Comics
RRP: UK £13.99, US $16.99
Age: All
ISBN: 978 1 78586 691 3
112 pages
Publication Date: 28 August 2019

Eisner-nominated comics writer Jody Houser teams up with Roberta Ingranata, Rachael Stott and Enrica Eren Angiolini for a brand-new adventure in time and space featuring the Thirteenth Doctor and her gang! This critically acclaimed new story sees the Doctor, Ryan, Yaz and Graham stumble upon a sinister alien race with a thirst for human blood! Their second comic-book adventure has the team tracking the Stilean Flesh Eaters throughout history, encountering friends old and new along the way. For once, the Doctor’s companions seem to know more about what’s going on than she does, thanks to a podcast, Hidden Human History, that everyone is listening to – everyone except the Doctor, that is…

Hidden Human History is an apt title for this time-travelling tale, which collects #5–8 of the Thirteenth Doctor’s ongoing comic-book series. Whereas recent episodes of the television programme have tended to favour well-known periods in Earth’s past (I’m no historian, but even I had heard of Rosa Parks, the Partition of India and witch trials), this graphic novel visits some more obscure points in time.

The story begins with the TARDIS setting down in the middle of the Guelders Wars, a series of conflicts that took place in the Low Countries (roughly where Belgium and the Netherlands are today) during the early 1500s. The next two landing sites are just as turbulent: Cary’s Rebellion, an uprising against the Deputy Governor of North Carolina in 1711, and the aftermath of the Battle of Ridgeway, a clash between Canadian troops and the invading Irish-American Fenians on 02 June 1866. I wasn’t familiar with any of these battles beforehand, so this adventure has a certain educational value. However, writer Jody Houser could have done with including more background information about the Guelders Wars and the Battle of Ridgeway – I gleaned much of the above paragraph by Googling. Also, the historical county should be called Guelders (or Gueldres), not Guelder – I got that from the internet, too.

The Doctor Who history is less well hidden, with numerous references to television episodes in this tale. Some of them are subtle, such as Yaz worrying that the Doctor may be about to eat some soil (like she did in It Takes You Away). Many are overt, such as the Time Lord warning a nearby flock of sheep to keep the fomenting of their Woolly Rebellion to a minimum (another allusion to It Takes You Away). Rather unusually, several of the Doctor’s recollections of previous adventures are not merely verbal, but illustrated – we see a Kerb!am droid, Becka Savage (from The Witchfinders), Mount Vesuvius (from The Fires of Pompeii) and a Reaper (from Father’s Day).

The story ends in present-day England – though this isn’t simply a case of one time period per issue. We move from the Low Countries to North Carolina halfway through the second episode, remaining there for another episode and a half, before being taken to the village of Ridgeway for the first few pages of the concluding chapter. Most of the rest of the final issue takes place in 2019.

Hitherto regular artist Rachael Stott bows out after the opening chapter, with Roberta Ingranata stepping in to complete the rest. For her first half an issue, Ingranata’s style seems very similar to that of Stott. Colourist Enrica Eren Angiolini helps to ease the transition between the two artists by keeping the lighting levels consistent. Then, when the action shifts to a different point in time and space, the incoming artist loosens up a bit and allows herself to develop her own style. It’s a style that is able to convey dynamism or stillness where necessary, though some readers may object to the amount of white space they are paying for on certain pages. Ingranata produces decent likenesses of the TARDIS crew, especially Yaz, though certain images are repeated. This becomes particularly apparent towards the end of the strip – I noticed the same picture of Yaz being reused at least half a dozen times. In a more serious visual glitch, Magda, a woman from 1500s Guelders, erroneously appears in one frame after the action has moved to North Carolina.

At the back of the book you will find all three cover designs from each of the four monthly issues collected in this volume. Titan Comics has not taken the advice I offered in my review of the previous graphic novel, that of including here the covers that wouldn’t fit into A New Beginning. However, there is the bonus of a page of writer’s notes from Jody Houser.

In common with the current era of the parent show, the plot takes its merry old time to get where it’s going. Even so, we never do get an answer to a question that is raised on several occasions: why does every human across time and space seem to be listening to the same podcast? After the bold New Beginning, Hidden Human History seems like a less confident continuation.


Richard McGinlay