Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor
Low-key to the point of comatose, this issue is either a neat wrap up for dedicated readers, or a twenty-minute hell ride through ennui.
The Stilean Flesh Eaters storyline is wrapping up. But before that can happen, can the Doctor determine the true history of podcasting sensation Bethany Brunwine? Find out in our Major Spoilers review of The Thirteenth Doctor #8!
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Roberta Ingranata
Colors: Enrica Eren Angionlini
Letters: Viviana Spinelli
Publisher: Titan Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: May 29th, 2019
Previously in The Thirteenth Doctor: the Doctor and her pals have chased the threat of the Stilean Flesh Eaters through time to modern-day Earth. Along the way, they have had the help of the Time Agency and found and lost new friends. Now, on the cusp of a final victory, the answer to the greatest mystery of all – who is Bethany Brunwine and why is she creating the most popular podcast of all time, H3?
LULLED TO SLEEP
I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I’ve never read an issue of a comic as determinedly uneventful The Thirteenth Doctor #13. That’s not to say it’s awful, or the writer should never be allowed near a typewriter again, or that it somehow traduces the great legacy of Doctor Who. It’s just…not much of any note actually happens.
Perhaps it’s down to expectations. In the classic series, the final episode always wrapped up what had gone before, often with a big bang (sometimes literally), sometimes with a whimper – but always with a sense that what the production team was trying to do was bring everything together with a sense of excitement.
The Thirteenth Doctor #13 is so low key it could break the world record for going under a limbo stick. The Doctor and her pals attend a funeral, then sit around and have tea with Bethany Brunwine, the creator of the hugely popular podcast, H3. That’s it. It feels hugely underwhelming, but…
… The Thirteenth Doctor #8 does neatly sum up the intent of not only the writer, Jody Houser, but also the current showrunner, Chris Chibnall. Houser and Chibnall’s Thirteenth Doctor is someone who is kind, who is nice, a stalwart for justice and fairness. Gone is almost all the acerbic nature of the Doctor – the sort of thing you would see portrayed by early Hartnell, or early Tom Baker, and is replaced with a keen sense of fair play and equality. So the term ‘companion’ is ditched, and the Doctor now travels with her ‘mates’ or ‘pals.’ It’s a nice way of getting the audience, especially the younger viewers, to feel that they too could travel with a Doctor who is less of a shouter (hello, Colin Baker) and more of a kindly (and goofily hip) aunt.
A lot of that is seen here in The Thirteenth Doctor #8. There are kind words at a funeral for someone they befriended in earlier issues, and when they meet Bethany Brunwine, it is not to unmask her and bring her to justice, but instead to understand her and see that she is well.
Personally, I don’t like the approach taken in The Thirteenth Doctor #8. It’s likely a function of not reading previous issues, which may’ve been filled with enough incident and drama that a low-key wrap up was deserved. If so, I’m happy to stand corrected. But it is a bit much to expect to pay good money for an issue where the characters spend most of the page count drinking tea and feel happy about it.
Granted, Jody Houser’s writing is light and fun and gets to the heart of the current Doctor, which makes the issue much better than it warrants. Amusingly, Yaz has absolutely nothing to do (mirroring the unfortunate situation for the actress playing her in the latest series) while Graham looks great in an apron and steals all the best lines. Artist Roberta Ingranata’s art is bold and striking, with each of the TARDIS crew looking very much like the actual actors. There’s some interesting backgrounding and foregrounding of characters, which gives an almost 3-D quality to the artwork.
BOTTOM LINE: INCOMPLETE, BUT…
When asked by Brunwine what she is, the Doctor says, ‘A friend. I’d like to think.’ That neatly sums up the entire approach to this issue – this Doctor isn’t overly demonstrative – she’s measured, helpful, wants to see the best in everyone and has an appealing sense of fair play. She’s no mug, being keen and perceptive, but she wants to see the good in everyone she meets – which will no doubt make for a nice dynamic when she gets it wrong. Does it make for a good comic? That’s for the reader to decide.