We’ve had a few multiple-Doctor stories in “Doctor Who” episodes over the years, including the appropriately titled “The Three Doctors,” “The Five Doctors,” “The Two Doctors” and, most recently, “Day of the Doctor.” As a result, it’s almost a given that the spinoff media (which doesn’t have to worry about actors’ availability) has gotten into the game as well over the years. “Doctor Who: Four Doctors” #1 carries on that proud tradition, as Paul Cornell and Neil Edwards craft a weekly five-part story that involves the Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth and War Doctors.
“Four Doctors” #1 has two different, distinct segments. There’s a glimpse into the battlefield of Marinus during the Time War, as visited by the War Doctor, who is more than a little bemused at the changes to the world since the 1964 six-part story “The Keys of Marinus.” Then there’s the “modern” storyline, as Clara enlists the help of Gabby and Alice in a desperate attempt to keep the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors from meeting, since it might possibly destroy the universe.
Normally, Doctors meeting involves a threat so great that they have to reluctantly team up, so Cornell’s idea of the companions trying to keep the Doctors apart is a fun initial thrust to the plot, taking a different tactic than normal. Needless to say, though, it’s an attempt that won’t last forever, and Cornell gets the voices of the different Doctors fairly well. They all have their own personality traits and ways of speaking, and the inevitable bickering between the trio is entertaining without becoming tiresome. Alice and Gabby don’t get much to do in this first chapter (being created for the Eleventh and Tenth Doctor comics from Titan, respectively) but, hopefully, Cornell will get to put them onto the center stage before long. Clara comes across a bit more forceful — after all, it’s her idea to try and stop what’s about to happen — and it’s certainly in line with what we’ve seen on the television show with her.
That said, I suspect it’s the War Doctor segment that will be the most intriguing for long-time fans. The changes to Marinus, the updates to the Voord, the idea that species altered by the Time War are afraid to lose their “upgrades” if and when one side wins… it’s an intriguing glimpse into an era of the Doctor’s past that’s been deliberately shrouded in mystery. In some ways, it’s much more in line with how Russell T. Davies’s era of “Doctor Who” had portrayed the Time War, versus the much more literal lots-of-shooting version that we got in “Day of the Doctor.” It’s a good take on the subject material.
Edwards is a strong choice to draw “Four Doctors,” able to nail likeness of the Doctors and Clara with apparent ease. These days, Edwards’ art reminds me a lot of Bryan Hitch (which is apt, since Hitch created most of the production designs for the 2005 episodes of “Doctor Who”), with very smooth and realistic looking characters that avoid coming across as posed or stiff. The knowing looks on Gabby’s and Alice’s faces in the cafe is a prime example; you can see the fear and dread slowly crossing their expressions as what Clara tells them sinks in, and Edwards sells Cornell’s dialogue. Ivan Nunes’ colors work well here too, providing shading and contours to their faces without being distracting or overly bright. This is a handsome looking comic.
“Doctor Who: Four Doctors” #1 may not have a title that rolls off of the tongue, but this is not only a good media tie-in comic, it’s a good comic, period. Cornell and Edwards did exactly what they needed to for this first issue; they’ve put out a lure that’s going to hook their readers. With a five-part weekly comic, an initial stumble could have proven to be fatal. Instead, they’ve ensured that readers are going to want to stick around. I know I’m in for the rest.