New To You Comics #66: The Boys Kick Around ‘Doctor Who’ Vol. 1- Alternating Current
by Brendan M. Allen
Tony and Brendan have very different tastes in comics. Tony loves his capes, super powers, and sci-fi. Brendan tends to stick to horror, noir, and weird indies. Occasionally, their paths cross, but like most readers, they tend to stay in their own lanes.
New To You Comics is here to break up the pattern a little. Tony will throw some of his favorites at Brendan, and Brendan will hit Tony with some of his. Every NTYC title is brand new to one of them. Every once in a while a title will land with both of them. Most of the time they can find some common ground, but even when they don’t, it’s fun to watch them go at it. Brendan fights dirty. Tony kicks like a mule.
This week’s installment breaks up the pattern even further, as neither of the lads had read this book yet. Approached by Titan Comics to participate in a release event for Doctor Who Volume 1: Alternating Current this week, they decided to have a go. Because Doctor Who.
Here’s what Titan has to say about the book:
‘A brand new story in Titan Comics’ Doctor Who roster, featuring the exciting and loveable Thirteenth Doctor as she teams up with fan-favorite Tenth Doctor, played by David Tennant, as they face the terrifying Sea Devils, with the help of Rose Tyler!
After the Tenth and Thirteenth Doctors’ first adventure together, a paradox of their meeting has caused a radical rewrite of history… Sea Devils have taken over the Earth! Rose Tyler leads the human resistance, but there’s more going on than first meets the eye. Can the Doctors reunite, defeat their enemies, and bring reality back to normal?’
Brendan Allen: Back on schedule! Sort of. Last week, Tony was in a world of hurt (sick, not COVID related), so we forwent our weekly feature to give the poor kid a chance to heal. The book we would have done last week on his turn, All-Star Superman, got kicked out to next week, since this week’s installment was already set. A fixed point, as it were?
With that bit of housekeeping aside, we’re looking at the first four chapters in Titan’s new Doctor Who series that kicked off in November. We’ve got Thirteen, Ten, Rose Tyler, Ryan, Yaz, and Graham, stuck in an alternate timeline on Earth. Prehistoric Battle Toads and TARDISes. And… go!
Tony Thornley: So you’ve been asking to do a Doctor Who story for a long time now. My problem is that I haven’t read a ton of Titan’s Who books- I think just the “Road to Thirteen” mini, Time Lord Victorious, and the first half of this story. We decided to do our best to avoid out of print stories in the column, so we were kinda stuck between a rock and a hard place. So when Titan approached us to join the “blog tour” we jumped! And what a great story to jump in with!
Brendan: As far as the story goes, this is pretty classic stuff. With franchises like Doctor Who, there’s a certain amount of inevitable recycling that’s allowed. Any time Silurians and Sea Devils come up, you have a pretty good idea what to expect. Not a blow-by-blow re-telling of the previous stories, but definitely a faithful version of the established standard.
Tony: Yeah, I’m more familiar with the Silurians than the Sea Devils, but I knew enough to know their deal. Jody Houser is very smart with licensed properties. She knows that fans are probably coming into the series with a lot of knowledge already but also she keeps in mind that old adage that every comic is someone’s first. She makes sure there’s enough background that someone who’s a fan but doesn’t know the Sea Devils would be lost, but not too much that long-time Whovians are going to glaze over and grumble “I know, I know, get on with it!”
It’s one of her strengths as a writer. I’ve seen it in her work at Valiant, Marvel (both on Spider-Man and Star Wars, two incredibly dense properties), and now her Who stuff.
Brendan: You know, that’s a good point. I know who all these characters are, but this book only requires a very basic knowledge of the show. You don’t have to have seen any episodes at all if you get the basic concept. Alien do-gooder, in a blue time machine, who collects human pets and tries to keep the planet safe from worse aliens.
Tony: Agreed, but it reads a ton better if you’ve seen at least a few episodes of the show.
Brendan: Of course. But, as you stated, everyone has to get their first experience somewhere, and this wouldn’t be a bad spot to do it.
Tony: Definitely. Houser creates an engaging story that’s uniquely Who, which is sometimes a trap that licensed comics fall into. Some writers just write a generic story within the setting. Houser gives the story so much texture and gravitas. I do love multiple times that this is treated as just another day in the life of the Doctor, but the stakes are much higher than normal. This is classic Who, but it’s unique to Thirteen. It’s just a fun Doctor Who story.
Brendan: Art by Roberta Ingranata and Enrica Eren Angiolini, in general, is very good. I do have a couple of personal rules when it comes to comics versions of real people, living or dead. When it’s a historical person, or a celebrity or sports figure or whatever, the likeness has to be passable. When you’re doing an interpretation of a live-action show, as in this case, the likenesses of the actors have to either be spot on, or go in a completely different direction. Like when Dynamite did their Game of Thrones, they used the descriptions from the novels as reference, and completely ignored the actors from the HBO series.
In this book, there’s something happening that’s the most distracting for me, where the characters occasionally look like their BBC counterparts, but then in a lot of cases, don’t. The wardrobe makes it unmistakable who everybody is supposed to be, but the likenesses do slip pretty frequently.
Tony: I can see that. Ingranata generally does a very good job throughout the volume. I think the perfect example of what you’re saying though is Rose Tyler. Though she captures the character’s spirit, the character on the page seldom looks like Billie Piper. But on the flip side I think she nails it with both Doctors the entire volume. Ten just feels like Tennant’s gawky, confident hero, never flinching outwardly but hiding the pain within. But Thirteen has that awkward energy, with a deep self-assured bravado.
However, I had a bit of an issue with the art too. Angiolini does a generally good job with the colors, but whenever the story enters the TARDIS, everything gets over-rendered and super-saturated. It’s the comics equivalent of lens flare. It just overwhelms a lot of what’s happening on those pages.
Brendan: The only other Doctor Who comic I read before this one was Revolutions of Terror, a Tenth Doctor story. I feel like that one captured David Tennant’s tics and mannerisms as Ten more authentically than this one. I’m not super familiar with Thirteen, but from the episodes I’ve seen on streaming platforms, her personality comes through a lot more clearly in Alternating Current than Ten does.
Tony: That actually leads me to my other problem with the story. It’s nice to see Ten here, but he really doesn’t do much. It’s Thirteen’s story, and Ten’s largely just along for the ride. I think part of the problem is the brevity of the story, but he could have largely been left out without the story missing anything.
Brendan: And, did I miss it, or did Ten not utter a single “Allons-y!” in this entire book? This is clearly a Thirteen-led story, with Ten as a guest star, but I think it would have added to the story to bring his quirkiness out a little more. I’ve seen David Tennant, Matt Smith, and Alex Kingston all share a stage, and as big as all their personalities are in real life, it worked beautifully.
Tony: Hey, I have too! Also, Whittaker and Tennant are real life friends, so the chemistry has to exist. I feel like a multi-Doctor story starring at least the two of them is an inevitability, but I think until that actually happens, any multi-Doctor with them would be much like this.
Brendan:That all being said, I did like it. It’s a fun story. Loads of callbacks. It has my favorite Doctor in it, even if he’s in more of a supporting role. Easily accessible to new readers. I’m for it. You?
Tony: It’s a great story, has a lot to offer for new and longtime fans. I think it’s worth picking up for any Whovian, no matter your familiarity with the franchise.
Brendan: I already know what’s next, but go ahead and tell us again, for the folks who may have missed the memo a couple weeks ago.
Tony: We’re going to hit the book that my sick day delayed (which just gave you more time to read it)- All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison, and Frank Quitely!