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Graphic Novel Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
The Ninth Doctor
Sin Eaters (Hardback)


Writer: Cavan Scott
Artists: Cris Bolson and Adriana Melo
Colourist: Marco Lesko
Publisher: Titan Comics
RRP: UK £17.99, US $22.99
Age: 12+
ISBN: 978 1 78586 113 0
128 pages
Publication Date: 28 November 2017

Two staggering adventures see the Doctor and his companions facing psyche-shattering conspiracies and ancient secrets! First, the Time Lord goes undercover at a prisoner rehabilitation facility held within a collapsing singularity… Meanwhile, Captain Jack has left the TARDIS, and when the object of an assassination he was supposedly responsible for turns up alive and well, Jack must delve deep into a past he would rather leave behind! Writer Cavan Scott (Who-Ology, Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen) and artists Cris Bolson (The Shadow) and Adriana Melo (Star Wars: Empire, Birds of Prey) explore the hidden depths of the Ninth Doctor and crew’s ongoing adventures…!

This graphic novel picks up where the previous one left off, collecting #11–15 of Titan Comics’ Ninth Doctor series – though to begin with, you might be forgiven for thinking that you’d somehow missed an issue…

The Doctor has been in some sticky spots in his time – but locked up in a space prison is a new one! And this is no ordinary prison. Located at the heart of a time storm and practising some very unconventional disciplinary methods, this may finally be the one trap from which the Doctor cannot escape unscathed…!

Sin Eaters, the opening two-parter of this volume, throws us – and the Doctor, and Rose – in at the deep end right from the outset. Rose is pretending to be an Examiner from Earth (just like the Second Doctor did in The Power of the Daleks). What she is examining is a maximum security space station known as the Hesguard Institute. There, we find the Ninth Doctor in custody – for the murder of his other travelling companion, the former UNIT soldier and nurse Tara Mishra. Wait, what? When did that happen? Even though there was a teaser sequence showing the Doctor’s capture at the end of the previous graphic novel, the alleged crime itself remained ‘off screen’. The reason for that becomes clear about halfway through this tale…

On the surface, the revolutionary treatment for the criminally insane being carried out at the high-tech facility seems every bit as miraculous as the Neutraliser did in the Star Trek episode Dagger of the Mind – the similarity even extends to the presence of a rather mindless ‘reformed’ citizen among the staff. However, as with the Keller Machine in The Mind of Evil, it almost immediately becomes apparent that the process pioneered by Highsmith, the institute’s director, is going too far. Evil impulses are being siphoned off the inmates and channelled into artificial humanoids, the Sin Eaters of the title. However, because of the Doctor’s many past lives and regrettable deeds, his Sin Eater soon becomes a powerful and terrifying sentient being. Artist Cris Bolson (who handles the first half of the story before Adriana Melo takes over) does some of his best work when tackling this Hulk-like, muscular monstrosity.

The Time Lord’s dark counterpart causes a lot of damage, including significant loss of life. Despite the fact that the Doctor did not intend this beast to be brought into existence as a result of his involvement, and the ultimate death toll would have been much higher had he not intervened, I think he should share some of the responsibility for its sins, though this isn’t really addressed during the fast-paced conclusion to the tale.



The mystery of Jack’s former life is finally laid bare… or is it? Will he like what he sees? The Doctor and Rose will stick by him no matter what… or will they? Take a trip through time with the suavest ex-Time Agent of them all – if you dare! But what will happen when Jack faces his biggest enemy yet – himself…?!

The final three chapters of this graphic novel were originally presented as two stories in the monthly comic book releases – a single-parter, Secret Agent Man, and a two-parter, The Bidding War – but I see them more as a continuous narrative. The events of the opening episode, which turns the spotlight on the now solo Captain Jack Harkness, lead directly into the next one. In itself, that is not unusual for this series or its writer, Cavan Scott. A more compelling connection is the fact that many of the events depicted from Jack’s past life and present investigation are recapped from other characters’ points of view during the next chapter.

Among these brief flashbacks (some of which might actually be classed as throwforwards in terms of Doctor Who and Torchwood continuity), we see some of Jack’s encounters with Captain John Hart, the Weeping Angels, the Slitheen and, in a particularly dramatic moment, a certain little boy. Cunningly concealed among these are some past events that prove to be highly relevant to the ongoing plot…

As this graphic novel hurtles towards its final chapter, the writer pays off on several previous developments, reaching right back to Titan’s opening Ninth Doctor story, Weapons of Past Destruction, and even managing to reference the events of an invalidated timeline from Supremacy of the Cybermen. There is some satisfaction to be had in that (and in some typically Russell T Davies style names for alien concepts and characters, such as the Celestial Sanctum and Father Heretika of the Church of the Evergreen Man). However, the storytelling feels rushed, as though Scott has had to bring his saga to a close sooner than he had expected. See how summarily the comics-only companion Tara gets written out on the final pages.

Compared with her earlier work on this series, there are also some signs of haste in the artwork of Adriana Melo. Not that she’s around for much of this story (which, by the way, is why I have switched the order of the credited artists in the product information at the top of the page – Cris Bolson makes the larger contribution). For a while, I thought Secret Agent Man / The Bidding War was going to be drawn entirely by the same artist (a policy of which I would heartily approve), because it is Bolson’s work that we see during the first episode and a half. However, Melo takes over for the final half of each of the last two episodes. The result is far from consistent, as I have commented upon before, though there are what appear to be a couple of collaborative pages during the final chapter that blend the styles of the two artists very effectively.

This particular trip in the TARDIS has perhaps changed direction more often than was called for – but there’s no denying it’s been an exciting ride.


Richard McGinlay

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