We enter the final straight in Titan Comics’ Year Three, with just three 12th Doctor books and the crossover to go. “Time Trials”, unlike the 10th and 11th Doctor runs this year, is a subtitle that means… nothing. In fact the three books from Year Three for Mr. Capaldi are all entirely standalone, as well as thankfully very good! In fact the opening story of this Graphic Novel had art that blew me away. So let’s take a look at it!
The Doctor grapples with two deadly small towns in this brand-new collection, kicking off Year Three! Can the Doctor and Hattie get to the bottom of a cosmological horror before it devours them – and wipes the town off the map? And, in a solo adventure, the Twelfth Doctor heads back to the 1950s for a creep slice of small-town Americana, in ‘The Boy With the Displaced Smile’!
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
You can’t mistake those eyebrows!
The first story, which takes up three of the four issues collected, is called “Beneath the Waves”. It starts with The Doctor taking a solo trip to an ancient underwater city called New Oceana, but it all goes a bit wrong when the dome floods. The best bit is one of the funnier puns I’ve read involving the Quarks of all things (see “The Continuity” section below!). Anyway, he then jumps into the TARDIS and meets up with Hattie, the lead guitarist from the future he’s met a few times in these Titan Comics, and takes her on a trip after fan pressure begins to get to her.
They arrive in 1989 Britain by the coast to have some fish and chips, but of course it all goes a bit wrong! Hattie starts having weird black and white visions she can’t fathom, and finds out other residents of the town have the same thing. Then seaweed monsters pop out of the sea, which was very 70s Who, inappropriately! (given it was set in 89, not that a Twelfth Doctor comic isn’t allowed to have an old style enemy…) The Doctor gets taken underwater and Hattie eventually joins him, and they find out that a sentient ship-like alien was caught under the rocks long ago and has just woken up, its mental projections were just a cry for help. They help it leave and then Hattie is dropped off back home with a new sense of purpose.
It’s a fun story that has stunning artwork, especially the underwater scenes. Reading this story after the Eleventh Doctor Year 3 stuff was quite the jump up, I can tell you! Hats off to all involved.
I dunno, giant toothy grin in the cloudy sky is pretty “off the hook”, no need to sounds disappointed.
“The Boy with the Displaced Smile”, the second story, isn’t very memorable. At a single issue it doesn’t outstay its welcome at least, and I get that it’s a bit of a Stephen King nod in many ways (small coastal town called “Sweet Haven”, an evil house, someone about to kill everyone with a shotgun because things seem hopeless and it would be a quicker death…) it didn’t do much for me. The Doctor teams up with a local waitress who is chased by some crazed townsfolk into a building with a few other survivors, all the while a literal evil grin hangs in the sky ominously. The smile ends up taking over a house and a creepy innocent child before being exorcised. It was fine, I think it suffered from being average and paired up with a great story…
This actually made me laugh. Top class Who-related pun!
Refreshingly, there isn’t much continuity here, especially for a Titan comic! In “New Oceana” there are wondering aliens like Judoon, Catkind, Zygons and oddly Silurians and Sontarans, but they literally just make up the background. Then there is the absolutely worth-it-for–the-pun return of the Quarks, who first appeared in 2nd Doctor TV story “The Dominators” and have made very few appearances since, in any format (and not at all, TV-wise… I mean, unsurprisingly!)
Hattie first appeared in both stories featured in the Twelfth Doctor comic “The Twist” before this third, and presumably last, appearance.
Isn’t it? That some amazing cupboards they’ve got in that kitchen! Oh yeah, right. Also seaweed alien. That as well.
The Terror Beneath collects two stories, the first and “main event” so to speak, is a great tale with stunning visuals and an old school feel, and the second, single-part story, is just average. I guess I’ll have to split this review up, but thankfully the good is three-quarters of the book!