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For the uninitiated, each Christmas day since 2006 “Doctor Who” has aired a television special. These specials are typically light on continuity, big on spectacle and designed to bring in the casual viewers and entertain the whole family. Last year’s edition, “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” was a fun look at the world of superheroes through the lens of “Doctor Who.” Given the subject matter it was pretty much a no-brainer that the special’s superhero, the Ghost, would return in Titan’s line based on the series, and with Doctor Who – The Twelfth Doctor: Ghost Stories #1. The opening issue kicks things off with economy and energy, propelling the Doctor and the Ghost into an adventure that, while it may feel familiar to long-time superhero comic readers, stills serves as an exciting opening chapter for the miniseries.
Written by George Mann, with art by Ivan Rodriguez and colors by Dijjo Lima, the issue opens eight years to the day since the event of the Christmas special. Grant (aka Manhattan’s super-powered protector the Ghost) and his wife Lucy are enjoying their holiday with their daughter Jennifer. but duty calls, and while trying to foil a robbery, the Ghost once again finds himself embroiled in the affairs of the Doctor. This time, the Doctor needs help only Grant can provide, and he takes the hero and his family in the TARDIS into a nightmarish future on a desperate mission.
The creative team kick things off briskly, and a reader needs really very little info to enjoy the story. They really don’t even need to remember much of the Christmas special to follow the story. Things are explained incredibly well, the exposition within the story dispensed with so smoothly and organically that it doesn’t stand out at all. This story approaches the superhero genre a little differently than the special, which cast a warm but satirical eye at its tropes. In that way, the special drew far more from classical interpretations of superhero stories, notably classic Superman tales and particularly the 1978 film.
Mann and company instead craft a superhero story that feels much more like a merging of the contemporary approach to the genre (big bombastic apocalyptic action) with the science-fiction action of modern “Doctor Who.” Whereas the special saw superheroes invade a Doctor who story, this is more like the Doctor gets dropped into a superhero story, which is an interesting way to go, and a solid way to make it feel different from the special while also utilizing the wide-open vistas the comics medium offers.
Doctor Who – The Twelfth Doctor: Ghost Stories #1 serves up a recognizable Twelfth Doctor, using his prickly personality to inject some fun into the proceedings, and getting some milage out of Grant and his family’s reactions to his eccentricities. But Mann wisely keeps the pace moving at a clip and quickly kicks the narrative into gear, a smart move for a four issue miniseries that doesn’t have time to waste on decompressed story tactics. Rodriguez has a tough needle to thread in that the issue needs to feel like a superhero comic, with all the dynamism and heightened reality that calls for, but still be a “Doctor Who” story, which often calls for a completely different form of reality. He succeeds very well here, and the story doesn’t ever tip too far in one direction or the other. From an an art point of view, the issue feels extremely well-balanced and paced extremely well. The action scenes a re well designed and depicted with economy, but don’t sacrifice scale or drama either.
If you’re a superhero fan, the central conflict and setting of the issue will feel decidedly familiar. Travelling to an apocalyptic future is a superhero comic’s stock and trade after all. I won’t say they do such of anything different with this set-up at this stage, but who expects anything like that from a first issue, anyways. At this point, it’s a steady and well-executed opening chapter that holds a lot of promise and offers a fun mash-up of two great genres. 8/10