Titan’s crossover event of 2015 is collected in its entirety for Whovians to enjoy. So how does it stack up?
Compared to Prisoners of TIme, The Four Doctors is the most ambitious Doctor Who story I’ve read in comics. It makes numerous references to classic stories pre and post 2005 revival, and uses them to the fullest to enhance the story.
Paul Cornell has a great handle on each Doctor’s personality and relationship with their respective companions, as well as what story beats make Doctor Who enjoyable.
Cornell frames the beginning of the story with the War Doctor helping to destroy a Dalek ship alongside his allies the Voord. As the Doctor examines the ship for resources, the Voord question if the strength they’ve gained from fighting in the Time War will be undone after its conclusion by the Time Lords. The War Doctor gives his best non-answer, having more pressing concerns and trying to placate the Voord. Flash forward to long after the Time War, Clara is traveling with the 12th Doctor and discovers an event that will end the Universe involving the Doctor and his two previous incarnations. Trying to prevent this with the 12th’s knowledge, she travels to 1923 Paris, France to enlist the 10th and 11th Doctor’s companions, Gabby and Alice. Like all great time-travel stories, Clara ends up bringing about the very events she tries to avoid. The Doctors do come together, try to save the Universe and end up causing it’s destruction. With the help of their companions, they get a second (and third chance) and win in the end. They’re plenty of surprises along the way, creating the most intricate time-travel story I’ve seen since Rian Johnson’s Looper.
Handling the majority of art duties, Neil Edwards creates maybe the most “epic” looking DW comic I’ve seen yet. Each Doctor stands posing heroically against wide expansive backgrounds, and the TARDIS control rooms are rendered with a huge birds-eye view. Edwards has the difficult job of drawing not one, not two, but over four Doctors. It’s one that carries high standards and at times he doesn’t live up to it. Many times the 10th and 11th Doctors have almost the same face or bone structure, despite being portrayed by different actors on the show. It stands out even more when he creates splash pages rendering each Doctor in glorious, photographic detail. He has so much to draw in this series, so its a minor thing if certain characters share the same face. He excels at drawing the companions and making them distinct from each other in size, height and age, which helps develop out three female leads that occupy important roles in the comics right now. Seeing that Alice Obefune’s clothing is baggier than other companions, or that Clara is the shortest companion are little details that add to the visual storytelling and also add to the characters themselves.
Proving art for the backmatter stories, Ellerby, Slorance and Smith illustrate humorous little tales of the Doctors trying to one-up each other or every one of his companions having a self-help meeting to deal with the various issues of time-traveling with a near-immortal alien. Ellerby’s stories in particular are little moments set before, during and after the main story to explain how plot-twists happened. It’s an effective device, that adds levity the story and fills in the blanks of the plot.
Overall, The Four Doctors is a story full of twists, Easter eggs, and timey-whimey science. It’s more creative and engaging than the last great Doctor Who crossover and sets a standard for the rest of Titan’s output with the license. While the book has some minor flaws (in art, continuity bugs in accordance with the show’s), it is an enjoyable read and one of those rare event comics that lives up to its hype and purpose.
Rating: Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Excellent
Disclosure: Publisher Titan Comics provided an advance review copy of this comic to Nothing But Comics without any payment between the site and publisher or agreement on the review’s content.