I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: tackling actor likenesses in a comic book is not an easy task. It’s one thing to get a single image of an actor to be instantly recognizable; it something else to not only draw them over and over again, but do so in a way that brings to mind motion and movement. It’s why an artist can be good to draw a cover image, but is less than idea for sequential art. So while “Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor” #4 continues with another good script from Al Ewing, it’s guest artist Boo Cook who appears to be struggling as he tries to tackle Matt Smith’s likeness.
Ewing’s new two-part story continues to please, with Alice starting to question why she’s on board the TARDIS in the first place, and what her working relationship is with the Doctor. It’s the sort of examination of the entire Doctor/companion dynamic that you rarely get on the television screen, much less in the comics. Ewing’s a writer whose profile has been rising in recent times, and this is a reminder why he’s becoming someone that you should be watching. The basic plot of “Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor” #4 is a little ordinary, but it’s everything else he brings to the page that makes it memorable. He’s a good writer that is putting a lot of thought and care into each of his projects.
I’m mostly familiar with Cook’s art from when he provided covers on various issues of “X-Factor” from a few years ago. His pencils and inks are a very different style, providing a slightly scratchy, brow-furrowing look to his characters. When it comes to drawing the Doctor, though, things aren’t quite coming together. He has only a few facial expressions and poses for him, and it feels like he’s cycling through them as best he can. It comes back to the previously mentioned problem of likenesses within comics; the impression that one gets is that Cook knows the difficult task ahead of him and is trying to minimize problems by sticking with the looks he feels are the strongest. Even then, though, it doesn’t quite work. The Doctor’s head looks very elongated and stretched, at times looking more than a bit dopey as he delivers dialogue. It’s a tough job, doubly so with someone who was so expressive as actor Matt Smith. Nonetheless, the sameness coupled with the not-quite-right look provides a slightly disconcerting comic. Even Alice comes across as someone who only has a few looks; what at first looks consistent as we get multiple profile images of Alice starts to feel almost like an artistic cut-and-paste as we get that same side view of Alice looking pissed off.
Regular artist Simon Fraser will be back with issue #6, and it’s nothing against Cook — who’s done some good art elsewhere — but I’m eager for Fraser to return. This isn’t an assignment that works well for everyone, and Fraser is clearly better suited to the book. Fortunately the comic ends on a lighter note with another 1-page tongue-in-cheek strip by Marc Ellerby; the perfect chuckle with which to close out the comic. “Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor” #4 is ultimately a reminder that when it comes to licensed comics, the art can slightly derail what is otherwise a promising book.