Script: John Barrowman, Carole Barrowman
Art: Antonio Fuso & Pasquale Qualano
Colours: Marco Lusko
Publisher: Titan Comics
Release: 3 August
Titan’s new Torchwood comic series starts with a cold open… that feels like it lasts the entire issue. Sure, there’s are a few changes of location, and a couple of panels are used for character building rather than action, but 95% of this premiere issue feels like you stepped into a midseason episode without the aid of a “previously on”. Which is especially odd since there’s a “previously on”. It’s just not much help.
And by the end of the issue, you’re left little the wiser about what’s going on.
There’s certainly a lot to enjoy here. John and Carole Barrowman return to chronicle the adventures of Captain Jack having last done so in the 2012 novel Exodus Code. They’d previously collaborated on the Torchwood Magazine comic strip story Captain Jack and the Selkie in 2009. This new story follows on from the events in Exodus Code with Jack still in charge of the alien-tech-enhanced ice breaker ship he picked up in that novel, along with its motley crew and demented AI.
The Barrowmans certainly know how to write a witty script, and not just Captain Jack’s double entendres (though there are plenty of them). Even the captions introducing the characters are delightfully silly. They also capture Jack, Gwen and Rhys brilliantly. And there’s no denying the script is action-packed.
There’s also an awful lot going on. Perhaps too much. There’s a (proper) cold opening on an alien planet, which seems to have nothing to do with the rest of the issue (it’s certainly never mentioned again) but you suspect will have some relevance later. A girl becomes an unwitting stowaway on the Ice Maiden (is a manner that’s not at all clear) but is discovered, then never mentioned again. Jack picks up Gwen for a mission, which she agrees to, without anyone explaining what the mission is. Captain John Hart pops out of nowhere to do something unpleasant that for the moment appears unconnected to the main action (but obviously isn’t). A kraken attacks a ship off Norwegian shores.
It’s all so breathless it feels like it’s going expire from lack of oxygen at times.
On one level, all these things can be seen as great hooks to get you coming back. But the way everything seems so utterly random and nobody goes, “Hang on… what’s going in?” becomes a bit overpowering at times. It doesn’t help that the art – while looking great if you take each panel individually – doesn’t actually help tell the story with any clarity. The whole sequence in which the unsuspecting girl is beamed onto the Ice Maiden, for example, is mystifying.
The thing is, despite all these problems there’s enough here to want to know what happens next, and maybe as the first chapter in a collected graphic novel down the line it’ll make more sense. But as a standalone issue it does feel a little undernourishing.
Review by Jonathan Norton