Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Christopher Jones & Matthew Dow Smith, Mike Collins
Color Artists: Charlie Kirchoff & Mariane Gusmão
Letterer: Richard Starkings / Comicraft
Reviewed by: Steve J. Ray
Doctor Who: Once Upon A Timelord was originally announced as a fall release for 2022. While the year-long wait has been agonizing, after reading it I’m glad that Titan Comics waited until the Doctor’s 60th Anniversary month and year to release it. Why? The answers are many and varied.
The decision to release this comic at a time when David Tennant’s returning to our TV screens, as the new 14th Doctor, is a stroke of genius. Not only is he one of the most beloved actors to play the character, there can be no denying that his adventures, and the entire Doctor Who era under the stewardship of Russell T. Davies, re-invigorated the franchise and, as such, is now seen as one of the greatest DW runs of all time.
Now I have to talk about about Dan Slott. While fandom remains divided about his 10-plus-year run on Spider-Man (and he’s back, folks) I’ve been a huge fan of his work since Batman Adventures Vol. 2 (2003-2004), and Batman: Arkham Asylum: Living Hell (2003). Slott is the writer whose work brought me back to the web-slinger (after the pointless and completely unnecessary horrors Marvel inflicted upon Peter and Mary Jane). Yes, I actually stopped reading the adventures of my second favorite comic book character (after Batman/the Bat Family) until Dan took over as writer.
Reading interviews with Mr. Slott, leading up to this fantastic comic, it turns out that he fell in love with Doctor Who at the same time (and with the same Doctor and companions) as I did; Tom Baker, Lis Sladen, and Ian Marter (the fourth Doctor, Sarah-Jane Smith, and Harry Sullivan). His love for the Doctor Who universe (Whoniverse?) shines from every line in this story.
Like the wonderful Jody Houser, Slott has an ear for dialogue and the beats of how a character speaks, which really resonates. His Martha Jones, Rose Tyler, Ninth and Tenth Doctors, to me, “sound” exactly like Freema Agyeman, Billie Piper, Christopher Eccleston, and David Tennant. That’s not an easy thing to do, and many other writers haven’t been able manage it.
I’m a lifelong Doctor Who super-fan, I own DVDs of all the existing episodes (right back to 1963) all the ones that have been recreated in animation, and all of “NuWho”, too. This show’s in my DNA and I love it completely and unapologetically. Doctor Who: Once Upon A Timelord reads like the Tenth Doctor’s greatest hits, and feels like a 60th-anniversary special all of its own.
The truth is, this comic features a ton of characters from the RTD/10th Doctor era, including a few surprise ones used in clever and unexpected ways. The second story, “Rhyme Or Reason”, even brings back some Fifth Doctor villains! This comic is thrilling, funny, scary, clever, and super entertaining… just like the TV show it’s inspired by. Dan Slott loves Doctor Who, and this wonderful comic proves it.
Christopher Jones is one of those artists whose work I’ll buy whenever I see his name on the cover. He’s working with Matthew Dow on the first story in the book, “Firelight”. The tale begins and ends in the “Real World”, in the vintage, clean, sharp, gorgeous Jones style, while the central story, Martha’s tale, is edgy, scratchy, and mysterious. The overall effect really works. As always, Jones is also a master at capturing actors’ likenesses, smiles, and quirks. The different visuals used to tell Martha’s story to the new (and absolutely awesome) villains, the Pyromeths, really sets the two sides of the tale apart. This book looks fabulous.
Color artists, Charlie Kirchoff and Mariane Gusmão, also deliver the goods. The effects surrounding the ever-burning villains are very effective, and the space and story time colors are cosmic and ethereal, while the real world parts of the tale are grounded and feel very natural. Great work, team!
The second offering in the issue, “Rhyme Or Reason”, gives us a previously untold story featuring the Ninth Doctor and Rose. It’s drawn by Doctor Who (and comics in general, if we’re being honest) veteran, Mike Collins. I love Mike’s art, and own a veritable ton of it; going all the way back to his work in Marvel UK’s Captain Britain and his earliest strips for Doctor Who Magazine. When it comes to the Doctor (whatever he/she/they look like this year) and all his companions, Mike can do no wrong (in my humble opinion).
Finally, we come to the reigning King of Letterers, (as well as an amazing writer and editor in his own right) and his unparalleled studio, Comicraft. Richard Starkings is the maestro, a legend, and in a league of his own. Plus, he’s one of the nicest people on this planet or any other. If you buy any comic or graphic novel that has his name on it or is lettered by him, or any of the fine talents at Comicraft, you can be 100% certain that you’re picking up an item of true quality.
I’ve been waiting a year for this… but it was SO worth it.
Doctor Who: Once Upon A Timelord deserves its place on every Whovians bookshelf. It’s a fast-paced powerhouse of a tale that’s beautifully illustrated and incredibly well written. The twists and turns, Slott’s love of the English language (and his ability to poke fun at it), his brilliant takes on the TARDIS’ translation circuits, the clever twist at the end of “Firelight” and the way he even clearly tells readers where this comic fits in the Doctor Who timeline, are all impeccably handled.
Not only will I be buying a physical copy when this book comes out, but I may have to get all three covers. Yes indeed, this comic’s a winner.
Images Courtesy of Titan Comics