Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor #0
Writer: Richard Dinnick
Artists: Mariano Laclaustra, Giorgio Sposito, Brian Williamson, Arianna Florean, Claudia Ianniciello, Iolanda Zanfardino, Neil Edwards, Pasquale Qualano, Rachael Stott & Fer Centurion
Colors: Color-Ice, Carlos Cabrera, Adele Matera, Dijjo Lima & Enrica Eren Angiuolini
Letters: Comicraft’s Sarah Jacobs & John Roshell
Cover artists: Claudia Ianniciello plus photo cover
Editor: Jessica Burton
Publisher: Titan Comics
Price: $7.99 US
While my favorite storytelling medium is comics, I love film and TV as well, and I’m pretty well versed in a wide array of geek culture. I’m knowledgeable in Star Trek, Star Wars and other big sci-fi/fantasy properties, as well as some lesser-known ones, but one thing I know next to nothing about is Doctor Who. You’d think as a resident of the Commonwealth, such British science-fiction fare would have been prevalent on Canadian airwaves over the decades, but it wasn’t. It’s been available in recent years, as its profile in America has risen, but I’ve never actually watched an episode. My exposure was limited to commercials and merchandise in comic shops. So I thought Titan’s release of this zero issue bringing the latest incarnation of the Doctor to comics might offer a primer of sorts for someone like me who’s new to Who. The comic is subtitled “The Many Lives of Doctor Who,” after all. But while this oversized comic delivers an overview of the many iterations of the sci-fi icon, it’s not as accessible as I’d hoped. I was left with many more questions than answers, though I’m starting to see the appeal of the franchise.
As the woman dubbed the Thirteenth Doctor finalizes her regeneration and prepares to embark on her new role as a Time Lord and protector of history, life and reality, she’s awash in memories of past Doctors — their adventures, their friends and allies, their loves and their enemies. She’s immersed in a sense of wonder and relishes the new experiences that await her.
While most of the artists’ contribution to this longer issue adopt as realistic an approach as possible (in keeping with the actors’ likenesses for which they strive), there were a couple that were far more cartoony, loose and exaggerated in tone, and they boasts the most personality and sense of fun. The segment featuring the Fourth Doctor by artist Arianna Florean (it took some Googling to figure out which artist handled which sequence, as I don’t know my Doctors) was easily my favorite of the book. It suggested to me that era of Doctor Who might have been the silliest, and it makes me realize why so many fans list actor Tom Baker as their favorite Who. Of course, this is all supposition on my part, but it does speak to what segments of the book worked best. It’s those that embrace the ludicrous elements of the premise that were the most entertaining (even the seemingly grim, post-apocalyptic elements of the War Doctor chapter had a cheeky tone in the dialogue).
One thing that comes through clearly in this comic book is the radical shift from Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor and Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth. Just judging from ads and the like, Capaldi’s stint as the Doctor didn’t seem to boast the same sense of whimsy and wonder, but the brief glimpses of Whittaker’s portrayal seems joyful and awed. Why some fans are up in arms about a woman finally taking on a role that’s had regeneration/reincarnation as a central tenet of the character, I don’t know. Logic dictates this should have happened long before now.
Promotional copy for this comic book labels is “a perfect beginner’s guide and a brilliant tribute for long-term fans to enjoy.” That description from the publisher is only half right. If I were a Doctor Who devotee, I have no trouble believing I’d be thrilled with the many tastes and vignettes of the different eras of the character(s) offered here. But a “perfect beginner’s guide”? It’s anything but. At best, it could be described as an imperfect primer. It does whet one’s pop-culture appetite, I suppose, and it made me a little more curious about Doctor Who, but it also conveys the weight of the history of the franchise, suggesting it might be a bit daunting to try and navigate it all. 5/10