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Comic Book Review
The Doctor is an immortal time traveller who, when mortally wounded, regenerates into an entirely new body. He has worn many faces during his long and adventurous life. When the fabric of the universe is threatened, when the laws of time, space and all of reality start to break down… on those dire days, different incarnations of the Doctor can meet. It should never happen, but this is one of those days. What shocking past event brings three Doctors together in 1920s Paris – to combat an unknown foe with three incarnations in its sights…?
It’s not an anniversary or anything like that (unless you feel like celebrating a year and a bit of Titan Doctor Who comics), and so for no particular reason other than just for the hell of it, Titan brings us this five-issue weekly series, which unites the three most recent Doctors and also involves a fourth.
Why am I choosing my words so carefully when referring to the quartet of Time Lords in Four Doctors (which is not to be confused with Big Finish’s The Four Doctors)? Because although the War Doctor appears, he does not actually meet his successors in this issue. Rather he appears in a thrilling prologue, which sets things up for later events. Only time will tell whether he will reappear in a subsequent issue…
The prologue also features an awesome redesign of the Voord, villains from the dawn of the classic series (The Keys of Marinus, to be precise) who are allied to the Time Lords and the War Doctor during the Time War. Shiny, liquid metal armour has replaced the wetsuits of old, and the Voord share a group mind. It is explained that they have been changed for the better by the paradoxes and shifts in causation resulting from the Time War – which could be used as a handy get-out clause for their aberrant depiction as proto-Cybermen (Voordermen?) in the 1987 Doctor Who Magazine strip The World Shapers.
Following that exciting opening, much of the rest of the issue is a rather talky affair, as three Doctors and their companions are told about and react to a threat that has been foretold in a mysterious museum. Writer Paul Cornell faces a complication posed by the fact that Clara has already witnessed a meeting of the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, in The Day of the Doctor, which took place later in both of their timelines and yet in which the Tenth Doctor did not recognise his successor. The writer solves this by making it a plot point, a concern raised by Clara, who is trying to prevent the Doctors from meeting.
Cornell and artist Neil Edwards also face the challenge of keeping about ten pages of chat in a Paris coffee shop lively. They manage this by various means, including cutting to a flashback of Clara stumbling upon the Museum of Terrible Fates on a seemingly abandoned planet, a snazzy zoom-out effect, and by having the protagonists enter the scene one at a time – the three Doctors barging in in especially dramatic fashion. Edwards’s exquisitely detailed art is some of the best we have ever seen in Titan’s Doctor Who range.
The writer has his work cut out for him, having to cater for six regular characters at once. Some of the dialogue doesn’t ring quite true, such as the Twelfth Doctor’s sulky comment about a planet that is just jungle and ruins: “I demand it to stop. I’m going to stand here until it does.” However, plenty of it does feel right. For example, Gabby realises that her Doctor, the Tenth, if warned to stay away from some danger, would head in that direction “right away”, while Alice correctly surmises that Eleven would go there “eventually, after he’d spent ages trying not to.” Clara is every bit the control freak she is on screen, warning the Doctors to “Step away from the multi-Doctor event! This is exactly what I didn’t want.” The authoritarian Twelve asks Gabby and Alice, “Would you two please tell your Manic Pixie Dream Doctors that Daddy’s home? If they would just follow my instructions –” And the sceptical Ten tells him not to “do the lapels thing. You can’t order us around just by doing the lapels thing.”
Marc Ellerby’s accompanying humour strip, The Doctor Shops for Comics, is also written by Cornell and actually forms part of the main story, depicting the Eleventh Doctor’s purchase of said publications. However, with the date established as 1923, he is in fact five years too early to be looking for copies of Le Petit Vingtième (The Little Twentieth), which ran from 1928 to 1940 and saw the debut of Tintin.
Though the adventure is only just getting going by the end of this issue, the quality of the artwork and the characters’ banter mean that it’s well worth shopping for this comic.