With Doctor Who back on the air, there is no better way to get more of our Timelord fix than to read Titan’s Doctor Who: Empire of the Wolf. Fans of “Nu-Who’s” first companion, Rose Tyler, will not want to miss this one, as the tenacious working-class Londoner returns for another adventure in time and space. Yet, as is par of the course in Doctor Who, nothing is simple. In this series, Rose must work together with the 11th and 8th Doctors to stop an alternative version of herself. Empire of the Wolf #1 is a satisfying introduction to a story that is sure to excite anyone invested in the most iconic love affair in Doctor Who history.
Writer Jodie Houser has been fronting Doctor Who comics for a number of years now, and with good reason. Empire of the Wolf #1 demonstrates Houser’s talent for capturing the voices of characters from a show that spans decades. The wonderful thing about bringing different versions of the Doctor together is that they are at once the same and completely different. Houser draws attention to the various quirks and personalities of the 8th, 11th, and 10(.5)th Doctor whilst capturing the tragic sense of heroism that unites them all. Similarly, Houser maintains the grounded vulnerability of Rose Tyler, building on a sense of maturity that was inferred when we last saw the character in 2009. In comparison, her alternative Rose displays an unfamiliar coldness that will no doubt be exciting to explore further.
The plot of Empire of the Wolf #1 can feel a bit rushed in places. Part of this is down to the many moving parts that necessarily have to be set in motion to begin the plot. However, Houser has a tendency to not linger too hard on the emotional moments in her Doctor Who scripts. Therefore, the longer, drawn-out sentimental exchanges that defined the romance between the Doctor and Rose are not guaranteed. Having said that, the brief exchange between her and the human-timelord hybrid Doctor early in the comic underline that the pair are still very much in love — even if some fans may take issue with the fact that this version of the Doctor now goes by the name John Smith.
Empire of the Wolf‘s #1 art stands out most in its backgrounds. Artist Roberta Ingranata and colorist Warina K. Sahaweda effortlessly construct scenes for an issue that sprawls between suburban streets, intergalactic palaces, and dusty battlefields. Ingranata and Sahaweda ensure that the presence of time and space appear in every panel — flickers of space dust hide in fireplaces, the canopy of trees mimic the night sky, and shop windows glow like moonlight. Occasionally, facial expressions in characters look less polished compared to the beautiful backgrounds behind them. This is a very minor flaw in an otherwise beautiful issue.
Doctor Who: Empire of the Wolf #1 achieves the considerably difficult job of uniting several elements of the franchise that have appeared across the past 25 years. Within the first issue, it has already begun a complicated plot and captured the distinct voices of its cast, all while looking gorgeous. In coming issues, if Houser takes a moment to indulge in the emotional components that make the Doctors’ and Rose’s relationship so compelling, Empire of the Wolf has the makings of a truly great Doctor Who tale.
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