As the New Year creeps ever closer with it’s promise of brand new TV Doctor Who, Titan Comics release the final part of their 13th Doctor Holiday Special. Just in time for the Christmas Break, the Holiday Special hits the shelves with a second oversized issue of time travelling fun.
With all of the TARDIS crew present and correct, can the Doctor find out who stole their memories, why they have been imprisoned, and keep quiet about the real Father Christmas?
A Christmas Story
After having their memories altered, The Doctor and the TARDIS crew find themselves on the trail of a dastardly kidnapper. Heading into a winter wonderland they are captured by toy soldiers and imprisoned in Father Christmas’ basement.
And it just gets more outrageous from there.
After the first, scene setting issue, this concluding part to the story is a mixed bag, just like a Christmas Stocking. To continue the simile, it has a selection of funky toys and tasty sweets but also the boring socks and slightly bruised orange. There are good points and bad.
When it is good, this Holiday Special is very, very good. Jody Houser has embraced the Doctor Who festive tradition of creating a slightly ridiculous, feel good story. She has thrown the Doctor and her companions into an over the top Christmas setting complete with elves, wrapping paper, and even Father Christmas himself.
With a year of writing the comic under her belt, Houser has already proven that she can write these characters. If this is your first issue of the 13th Doctor comic, you will find that the characters on the page act and speak exactly as you would expect. The interpretation is spot on and the words drift off the page in the voices of the actors. If you read a 12th Doctor comic then this one, the voice of the central character will automatically alter as you read.
Part of this is down to the speech patterns written by House and partly due to the character rendering by Roberta Ingranata. Ingranata captures each pout and smile perfectly. Although there is an element of simplification in the rendering, none of the characterisation is lost; it is as if Ingranata has condensed the characters into their simplest, but most recognisable forms.
The other characters, the villains and the aliens, are all wonderfully designed with that over-the-top Christmassy feel. This matches the fun story that Houser is telling and produces an easier, lighter reading experience.
The Art of Winter
Unfortunately, in places, the lightness of the script and the art works against the story and the narrative reveals play out with a touch of flippancy. The resolve to last issues cliffhanger is disappointing as a result and certain other story elements are quickly cast aside, overlooked, or seemingly forgotten. This is because everything is taken in it’s stride and it becomes easy to miss important information or narrative beats.
There is also a problem with the visual manipulation of time. On some pages there are elaborate panels structures that lead the reader naturally through the story, adding punctuation to the narrative beats. Other pages are awkward, with too many panels representing a sequence of movements or the layout crowds the page making the visuals overlap and jumbling the story.
As the pacing is consistent, so too the narrative loses momentum and you will find yourself having to reset your inner storyteller on a number of occasions.
The colourist is consistent throughout, giving each page a festive glow. Enrica Eren Angiolini carries the emotional beats from sequence to sequence, altering the palette as required. This is also true of the letterers; Richard Starkings and Sarah Hedrik. The placement of the speech balloons lead the reader gently across the page as best it can while fighting, at times, the composition behind it.
Imagine the scene: it’s Christmas Day, the presents have all been opened, the food consumed, and all you want to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy a bit of light entertainment that doesn’t require much thought. Into this picture the Doctor Who Christmas Special was thrown. It was designed around such festive states and relaxed attitudes, until they started to use them for Regeneration stories.
This Holiday Special from Titan Comics owes more to those early stories with killer Christmas Trees and murderous Herald Angels. Houser has written something enjoyable, if a little daft, and will give you a warm fuzzy feeling. It won’t have much of a lasting impact and might not come out for another read for several more Christmases, but it is worth reading.
If the panels were tighter, and the composition stronger, it may have given the story more emotional impact. As it is, the character work is wonderful but the storytelling is awkward. While not being as good as the first part, or the first year of comics, it fits the festive season snugly and will help pass a lazy, Christmas day.