Titan Comics, publisher of the Doctor Who comics, have started their special miniseries leading to the launch of the ongoing 13th Doctor title: The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor. Unfortunately, it’s a bit more mediocre than exciting really, and a lot of that comes down to the way they’ve marketed the miniseries. Issue 1 of Doctor Who: The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor is written by James Peaty and illustrated by Iolanda Zanfardino (with colors by Dijjo Lima) and features a short story involving the Tenth Doctor, Cindy, and Gabby, as well as featuring a small backup story from the creative team behind the 13th Doctor title (Jody Houser and Rachael Stott (and colors by Enrica Eren Angiolini))
The first of three stand-alone stories featuring the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctor – each issue contains a serialised short from the creative team behind the new Thirteenth Doctor ongoing series.
The Tenth Doctor has his work cut out when he encounters a lost spaceship… whose crew are being absorbed by mysterious ghostly creatures! Everything is not as it seems, however, especially when disturbing facts about the crew come to light!
Note: there may be spoilers for this comic below so read at your own risk.
Alright, so the thing about this comic is that it’s just fine. It’s nothing special, whatsoever, and honestly a pretty lousy way to kick off what’s supposed to be a miniseries aimed at getting people excited for the new range of 13th Doctor stories. The way this series has been marketed, you’d expect the 13th Doctor to at least make an appearance at some point, even if it’s just for a panel or two (the way she appeared in the Free Comic Book Day issue), but nope. The closest we get is a new sketch of her as a bonus at the end of the issue. Turns out, what Target meant by “featuring a serialized backup from the creative team of the ongoing 13th Doctor comic” was that they’d just be doing a backup featuring whatever Doctor the issue was focusing on and having no immediate, discernible relation to the 13th Doctor (or seeming to lead in to her entrance into the comics). Obviously, that might change by the end of the miniseries, but given the way these serialized backups were promoted as a key selling point, it was a bit disappointing that it seemed to be a whole lot of nothing – as it was the main reason I was even interested in this issue (since I don’t really care for the 10th Doctor’s comics or the companions he has in the comics.)
Speaking of the 10th Doctor, let’s talk about what actually was in this comic (instead of what wasn’t). The 10th Doctor, Cindy, and Gabby arrive on a spaceship that’s in the middle of an attack by these specters, basically, and they’re killing off the crew members one by one and the Doctor has to figure out what they are and what’s happening. As far as premises for Doctor Who stories go, it’s pretty average. Neither super exciting nor super dumb, but totally fine. The problem is that the comic is so short, James Peaty has no time to really play around with this. Pretty much immediately after arriving, the Doctor’s figured out what’s caused these specters to appear and who’s behind them and then immediately sets about fixing everything and then is pretty much done with it. The comic – counting the ‘previously’ page, all title pages and ads, and the backup comic – is about 29 pages. Four of those pages are taken up by the title pages, ‘previously’ page, ads, and the sketch of the 13th Doctor; another four are taken up by the backup story; the final 21 are taken up by the main story. The problem is, those 21 pages aren’t anywhere near enough to actually do anything interesting with the story. Several pages are spent setting up the story and getting the Doctor on the scene and then several more are spent wrapping it up, leaving like 12-15 pages to actually tell the story. With a more unique premise, this could’ve been enough to do something new and fun, but with such a standard premise, the story ends up feeling very standard. These kinds of stories work best over multiple issues of a comic book, not just 21 pages, and I think that’s this issue’s biggest problem. And because of this, the main story is just a bit boring.
Frankly, the backup story was the most interesting part of the comic, once I’d accepted what it was trying to be. The artwork gets noticeably more detailed (and frankly more like David Tennant’s actual likeness) and it features a return to a ship run by the Clockwork Droids. I have no idea what else is going on, but I think that’s why I found it more enjoyable. It wasn’t just standard, safe Doctor Who. It felt new and exciting, even if it was super short. The advertising for this Road to the 13th Doctor miniseries says these backups will be serialized, so this is still what I’m most looking forward to out of this series, even if it never features the 13th Doctor. At least it’s interesting and looks good.
On the whole, it’s not a bad comic. It’s just a mediocre one. It’s got my least favorite of all the Doctors from the revived series as the lead (sorry David Tennant; it’s not you, it’s the quality of your stories and the writing that went into them). The advertising for the series as a whole led one to expect much more than was given to us. It was a pretty standard Doctor Who base-under-siege story without any real twist that wasn’t given anywhere near enough room to breathe. It’s hard to get invested in a story when there’s so little to it. Why should I care about these people I’ve just met– and now they’re gone. That kind of restriction tends to lead to somewhat mediocre stories. The idea of this miniseries isn’t a bad one, and now that it’s been made clear what the backup stories are supposed to be, I won’t be disappointed in them again. I just wish they’d been clearer on the backup stories and, maybe, allotted a bit more space for the main story to have some room to breathe and actually really exist, instead of having to be so rushed and condensed. The writing and artwork in the main story are fine; again, nothing amazing, but perfectly fine. If you like the 10th Doctor, you’ll still probably enjoy this. It won’t wow you, but it won’t bore you either. And that’s basically how I feel about it.
3 out of 5 wands.