It’s difficult to tackle a successful licensed comic when it’s set amidst the television episodes currently airing. It’s even more difficult when you’ve got a brand new protagonist and probably only had one or two episodes to watch before you needed to turn in your first comic script. So with that in mind, “Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor” #1 isn’t quite up to par just yet, but Robbie Morrison and Dave Taylor are certainly trying their hardest to get there.
The main area that’s a bit lacking is in many ways the one that will be the easiest to fix with time, and that’s the Doctor and Clara not sounding quite right. With a brand-new Doctor and a companion who’s essentially been re-invented for the new season, Morrison was at a real disadvantage when it came to finalizing a script so Taylor could draw it in time for this month’s release. Morrison at least gets slightly closer with the Doctor, attempting to get that slightly snappish and abrasive tone that Peter Capaldi brings to life on the screen. With so much of it come across via Capaldi’s actual delivery of the lines, though, here it never quite hits the mark. He’s either a little too arrogant, or alternately a bit flat (with generic Doctor-isms showing up). Clara feels even more generic, although after her 2013 episodes being nothing but generic when it came to her character, that’s going to take a while longer to rub off.
As for the story itself, it’s not very memorable just yet. A mystery about a terraformed planet takes too long to establish itself, and then it feels a little disjointed as characters are tossed into the mix quickly to race towards a cliffhanger. There are some fun individual elements, like the copyright symbols on everything that’s been terraformed, but for now it’s a setup that takes a little too long in the wrong places.
Taylor’s art is best when drawing the scenery of the planet. I like the lush vegetation, the slightly different animal life, and the shadowed reveal of the main villain on the last page. Even something as simple as lava tendrils come across well here, with Taylor putting a lot of care onto the page. He’s not as great with likenesses, though. The Doctor looks at his best when it’s a still, unmoving version of him; perhaps a reliance on reference material? When he’s moving it’s not bad, but it never feels quite like it’s Capaldi, but rather just some guy with gray hair. Clara is unfortunately unrecognizable here save for hair color; if anything her face looks more like ’80s “Doctor Who” companion Peri than Clara. Likenesses are a tricky business in comics, and so far these aren’t quite clicking.
“Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor” #1 was a slightly audacious move from Titan, to get a full-length comic starring the new TARDIS team up and running so quickly. (At least when “Doctor Who Magazine” does something similar, an 8-page length means that the creative team has a bit more time to get their initial chapters together.) Morrison and Taylor really do the best they can under difficult circumstances, and I’ll definitely check in shortly to see how having some more time and reference material has worked in their favor. For now, though, it’s probably not going to wow those who are looking for their “Doctor Who” fix.