REVIEW: ‘Doctor Who: Empire of the Wolf’

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Doctor Who Empire of the Wolf - But Why Tho

Doctor Who: Empire of the Wolf is a graphic novel published by Titan Comics, written by Jody Houser, art by Roberta Ingranata, colours by Warnia K. Sahadewa, and letters by Richard Starkings. The Eighth and Eleventh Doctor and dragged into a war and a paradox involving two Rose Tylers. One of them has been in a parallel universe for years, whilst the other grew into the ruler of her own empire.

The plot is one born out of multiple stories that have come before it, four to be exact. Every main character involved comes from another tale, whether it be from the show or another comic. This interlaces histories and flashbacks to create conflict. These backstories aren’t known in their entirety, nor is it important to know before opening the first page, as much of it is quickly caught up. The plot moves quickly but there is a lot of time spent building up the meeting between the Doctors and the two Roses, splitting them into pairs before they meet on Empress Rose’s planet. This wait keeps us guessing and allows for one excellent meeting between characters. 

The second half of Doctor Who: Empire of the Wolf is utterly fantastic, blending the heart that a great Doctor who story needs with high stakes and intense drama. It’s an emotional story that will leave certain Whovians welling up. The ending feels complete whilst also setting the various figures up for their future adventures.

The character development in this book centres on two characters, which is remarkable considering there are four of them. On one side you have the Doctors, namely the Paul McGann and Matt Smith incarnations. These two are at very different parts of their life. The Eighth Doctor is fresh-faced and seems to long for adventure. The horror of the Time War has yet to scar his soul. On the other side of the coin, the Eleventh Doctor has been through that and has only just witnessed the tragic loss of Amy and Rory. He is dismissive, snappy, and crushed. This makes him unlike his usual jovial self who enjoys people. The relationship between him and his young regeneration is fascinating. It is like he resents him for what he’s about to do in the Time War, or even for not having suffered the same losses he has yet. Houser’s distinction between the different incarnations of the Time Lord is superb.

The real heart of this comic lies within Rose Tyler, one of the greatest and most beloved characters that Doctor Who has ever had. It is so lovely to see the true Rose back in a comic after so long away. Seeing how her new life on the other Earth unfolded is adorable and idyllic. There have been some really powerful events, and her growth is wonderful. She is just as compassionate and strong as I remember when she was in the show and remains a grounding force for the Doctor all these years later. Then there is Empress Rose, a remnant from a previous story. This Rose still has compassion and a desire to make things better for people. But that compassion has been muddied by years of trauma and war. She can be cold and seems eager to show strength and military might. In a way, she is much like the 9th Doctor was when Rose first found him. These two versions of the same person have reached very different pinnacles, whilst still containing traits that make them Rose Tyler.

The art is also fantastic. The detail in the character designs is epic as Ingranata beautifully recreates classic figures. It is amazing that both Doctors not only look like the actors that played them, but even their mannerisms are captured brilliantly. Some of Smith’s hand movements ad posturing can be seen perfectly mimicked in this graphic novel. There are some drastic and also some subtle differences between the Roses’ so that they can be identified, yet remain similar enough to be confusing for the characters. Some of the locations are stunning, especially the palace that Empress Rose lives in, and the technology on display is simple yet fun to look at. Ingranata also knows the correct timing when detailed backgrounds are concerned. On some pages, the intricate patterns and lines behind the characters are jaw-dropping in their execution. And at other times it is featureless. This is helpful as so much detail all of the time could get tiring.

The colours are stunning. They are delicate for the most part as Sahadewa does not use overly bright shades in the background or on the characters. Perhaps the most vibrant tone is the blue of Rose’s hoodie, always drawing the eye to her. The colourist excellently adds shine to the marble flooring of Empress Rose’s palace, providing the location with texture. The lettering is easy to read and includes some clever individual word balloons, denoting a particular voice for one of the characters.

Doctor Who: Empire of the Wolf is a wonderful blend of old and new. Although these characters have been seen before, Houser’s exploration of them brings something fresh to all of them. There is a beautiful understanding of where these people are in their separate lives and it really changes the dynamic when they are together. There is a real warmth to the books that stem from the heartfelt dialogue and adoration all of the creators appear to have for the figures on the page. This is a special comic and so rewarding to those who loved Rose.

Doctor Who: Empire of the Wolf is available where comics are sold.


Doctor Who: Empire of the Wolf
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TL;DR

Doctor Who: Empire of the Wolf is a wonderful blend of old and new. Although these characters have been seen before, Houser’s exploration of them brings something fresh to all of them. There is a beautiful understanding of where these people are in their separate lives and it really changes the dynamic when they are together. There is a real warmth to the books that stem from the heartfelt dialogue and adoration all of the creators appear to have for the figures on the page. This is a special comic and so rewarding to those who loved Rose.