Click here to return to the main site.
Comic Book Review
What secrets await the Doctor and Clara in… the school of death?! When a teacher friend of Clara’s disappears from a private school in the frozen wilds of western Scotland, the Doctor and Clara decide to go undercover to investigate. But Ravenscaur is home to mysteries that are even more terrifying and ancient than its strict school rules and entitled, Old Money residents. As the tide turns against the cliffs below, an old menace is about to rise anew…
Titan’s Twelfth Doctor title commences its second year and enters the territory of the most recent television series with the first episode of a four-part story, Clara Oswald and the School of Death.
The comic doesn’t specify exactly when during Series 9 this adventure takes place. The Doctor’s biography on the prelim page states that, “Having defeated Missy (twice), and sorted out both a Cyberman invasion and a Dalek masterplan, the Doctor is demonstrably more laid back.” This definitely places the strip after The Witch’s Familiar, but then that much is obvious anyway, because the Doctor is now sporting his ‘ageing rock star’ look, complete with sonic shades. In this issue, he lives up to his ‘mid-lives crisis’ characterisation by downing Pan-Galactic Gargle-Blasters and referencing the Sex Pistols. The ‘story so far’ panel indicates that, “After their most recent adventures, Clara is back at Coal Hill School, while the Doctor is off making a colourful nuisance of himself somewhere…” However, “most recent” cannot mean after the series finale Hell Bent, because of course Clara has parted company with the Doctor by then. I speculate a placement that is as recent as possible, which would be shortly before the events of Face the Raven.
The story title, Clara Oswald and the School of Death, brings Harry Potter to mind, but really all this tale has in common with that franchise is the boarding school setting. There is no wizardry or witchcraft here, despite some apparent supernatural activity involving a chalkboard – which in any case is a continuation of a theme from episodes such as Listen, Last Christmas and Heaven Sent. Other associations are most certainly sci-fi, such as some creepy children who are straight out of Village of the Damned, and a clutch of eggs clearly inspired by the Alien films – again picking up a motif from Last Christmas.
As is often the case when Scotsman Robbie Morrison is doing the writing, there is a Scottish element to the story – in this case the school. This is also in keeping with the television show, which of course currently has Scotsman Steven Moffat as its showrunner. According to Clara, Ravenscaur School is the most exclusive educational establishment in the world: “In terms of power and influence, Ravenscaur makes Eton and Fettes look like St Trinian’s.” Part of its exclusivity is due to its isolated location. In 1907, a massive undersea earthquake rocked Scotland’s west coast, opening up a chasm that separated the Raven Peninsula from the mainland, creating an island, Raven’s Isle.
Morrison populates the school with immediately memorable though intentionally unlikeable characters, in the form of Mr Beck, the full-of-himself PE teacher, and forbidding headmistress Mrs Mariner.
New regular artist Rachael Stott (Star Trek) picks up the baton from her predecessors on this title, filling their shoes admirably. Her work combines the fine line detail of Mariano Laclaustra with the dynamism of Daniel Indro. Her smooth-faced Twelfth Doctor isn’t really craggy enough, though otherwise the likeness is good, and her Clara is quite beautiful.
This is a good jumping-on point for new readers, so if you haven’t already signed up, welcome aboard for the new term.