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Metatextual writing is a tough needle to thread. If you take too subtle an approach, the references can come off as hokey and easy. But if you hit the references too hard then at time sit can across as mocking, too inside-baseball, or even lazy. Writer Robbie Morrison and artist Rachael Stott tackle this tricky style in The Twelfth Doctor Year Two #14, and though I appreciate the intent, there are times when I wished the creative team had been a little less clever and more straight-forward in crafting an engaging opener beyond its commentary on writing and “Doctor Who” itself.
The issue revolves around two comics creators who are enjoying a hit with their “Time Surgeon” series, an obvious adaptation of the Doctor’s adventures. After a clever and funny opening that crafts an overtly cheesy and “comic book” stylized take on the mythos of “Doctor Who”, the two creators find themselves confronted by the actual Doctor himself. None too fond of their take on his travels, he takes them on a quick jaunt in the TARDIS in an effort to show them what time travel is really like even while he tries to play match maker between the battling but infatuated team.
I really liked the opening scenes of the issue, from the hilarious “Time Surgeon” stuff to the interesting way Morrison and Stott establish the fraught working relationship between the two creators at the heart of the story. I also liked the idea of the Doctor confronting them about their take on his life, which had a nicely ludicrous vibe reminiscent of the days when the Fantastic Four would visit Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the pages of their comic. And the sights that he shows them in his subsequent travels are wonderfully novel and suitably awe-inspiring in their boldness and scope. The two comic creators we’re introduced to feel well-defined and realized, and their relationship has possibilites, resulting in them being an engaging presence in the story.
But, I did find that after their initial meeting, the metatextual elements felt a bit ill-defined and contradictory. Part of this may be the fact that the issue’s characterization of the Twelfth Doctor is more cuddly and less spikily complicated than Peter Capaldi’s on-screen performance. The Twelfth Doctor comes across as generic here, as if you could slot in any other incarnation of the Doctor and not change much. If the Doctor here had retained those rough edges, then he would have more sharply contrasted the “Time Surgeon” character. As it is, the Twelfth Doctor introduces himself in the same self-aggrandizing and pretentious way that the “Time Surgeon” does, which kind of undermines the point of the rest of the issue. I’m sure it’s supposed to be a joke, that the creators aren’t as off-base as the Doctor asserts them to be, but the rest of the issue seems to want to contradict that position.
The art of The Twelfth Doctor Year Two #14 is top notch, however. There’s some really lovely imagery and a strong control of pace and energy throughout that makes the issue zip along. There’s a multitudes of settings and different aliens in the story that need to be depicted quickly and with some kind of impact in a minimum of panel space, and both the script and the finished art really know how to make the most of each image. The Doctor may not sound like the Twelfth Doctor to me, but I can’t fault how well they capture his look, and without making him seem stiffly recreated from photos. The other characters are similarly well-designed and feel solidly alive and individual. And the “Time Surgeon” elements are fantastic, looking completely convincing in how modern comic creators might address a concept like “Doctor Who” as an original creation.
In the end, while I felt that the metatextual elements were hit and miss, I appreciated the boldness of the attempt. I also recognize that this aspect will likely play less and less of a role moving forward as the plot kicks in in earnest. The climax of The Twelfth Doctor Year Two #14 sets up an interesting adventure for the Doctor and his fellow travellers, and if the rest of the arc will focus more on the plot and the character interactions as opposed to commenting on the creative process, then I think the story will wind up being a fun travel through time and space. 6.5/10
The Twelfth Doctor Year Two #14 will be released tomorrow, Feb. 1, 2017.