Tony stands around a bit, looking moody.
The first issue of the Torchwood comic-book was very…blam! Very hit-the-ground-running, and very hit-it-till-it-doesn’t-get-up. It also very definitely took Torchwood on from the show that ‘most’ people will know – Jack, Gwen, Ianto and the rest of the Cardiff crew – forward beyond John and Carole Barrowman’s novel, The Exodus Code, and expected readers to either know the events and personnel of that story, or to get up to speed quickly in the middle of an action sequence involving jetski-ninjas.
Yes, jetski-ninjas – why not?
In essence, the comic-book, like the novel, took on-screen Torchwood into a world without budgetary constraints, and got Bondy, with a bit of some Tom Cruise-like futuristic sci-fi to boot. No apologies, no excuses – just get on board or don’t.
The second issue very much continues that vibe – the first whole fistful of pages are one long action sequence, and after that, there’s a straightforward scene-split, half the action revolving around Jack, Gwen, the crew of the Ice Maiden and their new accidental stowaway, and the other half focused on Torchwood House in the wake of a murder by a TV-familiar Torchwood character. There are searches for scientific notes, new, odd projects uncovered, and a call-back right to the very origins of Torchwood (appropriately enough, during its tenth anniversary period).
But here’s the thing – you end issue #2 not feeling like you’re very much further on than you were at the end of issue #1. And there’s something that aches a little in disappointment at that. The Torchwood House storyline is actually by far the more interesting of the two in this issue, though even this feels oddly paced and padded to make it fit the issue and end on a cliff-hanging note – there are, to be fair, only so many scenes of a dog sniffing round a flower-bed you can add into a sequence before it stops feeling like an appropriately sad grief and purpose sequence and starts turning into stock footage. Meanwhile, on the Ice Maiden, after the initial burst of action sequence, there’s a little inconsequential chat, then Jack getting particularly Bondy again, leading to quite a bit of standing about, and a reunion between Jack and Gwen that causes a couple of characters to reach for the sick bags – and importantly, we the reader feel the same, especially as Gwen’s just left Rhys on a windswept Welsh beach beside the ruins of their exploded caravan to go gallivanting on a world-saving adventure.
As we say, there is story development on board the Ice Maiden, there really is – but whereas in the first issue, the action and the story development went hand in hand, here there’s a sensation of ‘hurry up and wait’ – the action sequence is all action, then the story advancement comes more or less independent of that, through some talking that has a typically Torchwood monosyllabic quality. On the one hand, that gives it an authentic feel, albeit that feeling is authentically Torchwood up-itself, the members of the alien-fighting elite seeming to believe more than one word at a time is an unnecessary expense for people as cool and important as they are. But on the other hand, this standing about, monosyllabilising at one another seems oddly devoid of energy after all the toing and froing and James Bondery of the action sequence. In other words, the tone is unbalanced, leading to a feeling of deflation that makes the ramp-up to the issue’s cliff-hanger feel rather more forced than it should.
Now that said, it does look very pretty and effective – the action sequences have a Seventies, ITC quality about them, with just a dash of 21st century GCI, meaning they wouldn’t be out of place in The New Avengers, Danger Man, or The Saint, if any of those shows got a modern remake. Antonio Fuso and Pasquale Qualano on artwork do an excellent job of giving this version of Torchwood its own unique visual aesthetic, a combination of later on-screen versions (particularly Miracle Day – yes, I know, but still…) and something entirely beyond the confines of the screen, something of a size and complexity to match the Barrowmans’ imaginations. And if anything, Marco Lesko on colourwork deserves even more credit this time round, bringing a vibrant life to some sequences that need it, while still allowing the gathering of shadows to represent and enhance the mood of grief and purpose in the Torchwood House scenes. As in issue #1, there’s a solidity to the world Fuso, Qualano and Lesko conjure, at least in the Torchwood House storyline which underlines its indefatigable presence on the map, whereas in the action sequences, there’s a genuine sense of motion, speed, and urgency.
All of which does something to mitigate the storytelling imbalance in this issue – but whether it quite does enough will probably depend on your previous familiarity with the crew of the Ice Maiden. For relatively casual Torchwooders, who take only the four on-screen series as being ‘real’ or ‘canon,’ this is likely to be a sticking point in this issue, the gulf of understanding between our appreciation of the TV Torchwood characters – Gwen, Jack, Rhys…at least one other – and the Exodus Code Torchwood characters proving difficult to bridge as we go along while there’s action to deliver, and broody, cheekbone-heavy monosyllabic speech to engage in. It’s probably one thing too many to ask of the casual, or even relatively geeky reader. Trying to deliver an equality of Torchwood pedigree to characters who went through four series and characters who appeared in one novel doesn’t work here as well as it practically promised to do in issue #1. But for those who live, breathe, eat and sleep Torchwood, and are completely up to speed with the crew of the Ice Maiden, what we’ve got here is…still unbalanced in terms of the ‘hurry up and wait’ element, but several adventure-hooks to take us forward – seriously, jetski-ninjas, what the hell is that about? Why has someone committed a murder at Torchwood House? What was the previous master of the house investigating, and what did it have to do with weird astrological constellations and something happening in a galaxy too close for comfort? And what on earth is going on with the world’s GPS data?
See? Told you there was plot advancement. All that and more is in this issue, but you’ll still likely feel that lull after the adrenaline-rush of the first action sequence.
All in all, Torchwood #2 fails to live up to the punch and the promise of issue #1, and might well leave the more casual Torchwooder behind. Hardcore Jack-junkies though? Strap in and hold on to whatever comes to hand – despite the odd pacing, there’s plenty here to whet your appetite for He of The Insanely Good Coat.