Titan Comics kicks off their second year with the Eleventh Doctor in the appropriately-named "Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor: Year Two" #1 as co-writer Si Spurrier joins Rob Williams, Simon Fraser and Gary Caldwell. Coming off of Titan's "Four Doctors" event, the creative team has plunged the Doctor and Alice into a story where another piece of the Doctor's past collides with his present, but right now the story is lacking a little bit of necessary zip.
The problem is evident in a matter of pages; after a one-page prologue with the War Doctor, the comic opens with the Eleventh Doctor and Alice in containment cells being lectured at by judges. It's about as uninspiring a start to a comic as it can be, and the book never really gets up to full speed after this slow opening. It's a classic case of being told rather than shown; we're informed the Doctor and Alice are in danger, but -- because it starts with them in what look like massive red test tubes -- the threat is never present. That's a problem that then persists from one scene to the next; there's a strange curse known as the Malignant, but -- aside from a nameless character being introduced and killed by it in the space of a page's worth of panels -- we're once again given a hunk of exposition. It never feels like an actual threat to our characters. The setup to all of these events lacks a real punch when they finally happen, and -- by cutting directly to the climax (be it imprisonment or a strange unseen killer) -- we're never given a chance to feel the dread.
On a smaller scale, Alice feels sadly generic here, and that's a real shame considering what a strong introduction she received last year. Hopefully, the second half of this story will give her personality a chance to shine, but right now she feels like she could be swapped out with any one of a dozen different characters. The Squire, a new character, takes up some of that space, and -- while Williams and Spurrier take some time to try and establish her -- she's little more than bombastic for the moment; if she's sticking around, hopefully that will change.
Fraser's art is a joy here, and it's ultimately the high point of this comic. Characters are expressive without looking posed, and I like that Fraser's fluid style isn't lost when having to maintain Matt Smith's likeness. When the Doctor recognizes the Squire (after the "We made war together, Doctor" line), he looks perfectly on point as we see the memories wash across his face. For a character best-associated with another comic artist entirely, the surprise appearance on the final page looks remarkably on point, while once again drawn in Fraser's own style. With Fraser swapping story arcs with Warren Pleece, we should hopefully continue to see this level of strength from Fraser on the title, and that's a good thing.
"Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor: Year Two" #1 is sadly not as strong as last year's debut; this comic just never picks up speed where it needs to. Hopefully, with the exposition out of the way, the book can gain some momentum, but I feel like this isn't the best impression that the comic could have otherwise made. It's all right, though -- considering it has to compete with the actual "Doctor Who" television show -- it needs to be great and only the art shows signs of hitting that height. Fraser makes a strong impression, but Williams and Spurrier need to up their game quickly.