Of the various continuing Doctor Who titles that Titan Comics has going right now, The Twelfth Doctor is something of an anomaly. The others, the Tenth, Eleventh, and, soon, the Ninth Doctors, are all gone and the comics serve as a way for fans to continue to go on adventures with their favorite Time Lords. But Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is still going strong, and will be for some time now that we know both Capaldi and Jenna Louise Coleman will be back for season 9 of the long running sci-fi series. There’s no nostalgia to trade on here, and I won’t say it’s unnecessary, but as we look at issue #3, “The Swords of Kali,” it has a distinctly different feel than the others.
After battling and banishing the Hyperion in the last issue—signaling the new rise of a old foe of the Time Lords of Gallifrey, something that is sure to play a big role moving forward—the Doctor and Clara are off on a new adventure. This latest jaunt sees the duo bounce from 18th century India to 16th century Florence—where we learn the true origins of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa—back to India, but this time in the 2300s. You get vampiric monsters, road warrior murder cults, and badass amazon vigilantes, among other fun little bits and baubles. As the Doctor says, there’s “death, destruction, and timeless evil,” all of his favorite things.
Definitely a change from their last outing, “The Sword of Kali” is part one in what is essentially a murder mystery. The more antisocial the Doctor tries to be, the more people want to talk to him, but when he gets a call from an old friend named Tiger Maratha—and by old friend we mean all the way back to Tom Baker’s Fourth regeneration—it’s one he can’t ignore. Tiger is murdered before they can get there, and teaming up with his daughter, Prinyanka, the Doctor and Clara must investigate a futuristic dynasty, the Scindia Corporation, with ties to an ancient darkness. The future is full of mystery, Nosferatu-esque creatures, locations that exist multiple places in time simultaneously, and a city scape that looks lifted directly from Blade Runner.
This issue is a lot of fun, full of harrowing action and intrigue—and though she’s only around for a bit, the character of Rani Jhulka, the aforementioned Amazon, is definitely one we want to know more of. But there’s also humor and heart, and all of the things you want out of a Doctor Who adventure.
Especially compared to The Eleventh Doctor, this is a drastic tonal shift. Darker and grim, this Time Lord is definitely not a bouncy human cartoon. When Prinyanka finds her father murdered, the Doctor doesn’t offer condolence or sympathy, he’s hard and stoic, steeled against any kind of touchy-feelyness, and determined to find whoever did this and put a stop to this once and for all. It’s not quite a quest for vengeance, but it isn’t far off, not something you normally associate with the Doctor.
While the narratives here aren’t quite as developed and engaging as The Tenth Doctor, Doctor Twelve is certainly approaching that level, on the rise while Eleven sinks, unable to find its footing. Still, it’s hard not to read this and view it as supplemental to the TV series. That said, it’s definitely become one of the better of the Doctor Who comics currently floating around and is worth picking up at your local shop if the mood strikes you.