The Eleventh Doctor Volume 2 – Serve You
Tony Fyler goes on a comic book box-set binge.
The second collected Eleventh Doctor comics continue the ultimately enormous story arc from Volume 1, involving the Doctor’s amorphous companion, ARC, and the thing of which it’s part, annnnd the horrifying corporation of wish fulfilment-merchants, ServeYou Inc, who may or may not be behind the whole thing.
As in Volume 1, there are stories here that are experienced out of sequence, and the Moffatiness of the whole thing is really rather admirable if you happen to be a fan of his time-twisting, consequence-avoiding, stake-building storytelling style. It makes you wonder who in their right mind first devised the overall arc of this monster, and whether along the way, various chunks of the story were left greyed out, for the individual segment-authors to fill in as they went along, like maps of unknown coastlines on the way to an ultimate destination.
Certainly there are plenty of treats here – a back-and-forth-in-time Nimon story, a genesis story for the Big Bad of ServeYou Inc, the Talent Scout, and a journey into darkness for the Eleventh Doctor when his ultimate wish is revealed – to him and to us – and fulfilled. It takes his companions, ARC, Jones and Alice, through hearts of their own respective darkness – grief for her dead mother in Alice’s case, separation from the other half of itself for ARC, and the haunting possibility of a meaningless existence for Jones the showman – and by the end of this second collection we’re still not entirely done with the convoluted story of ServeYou Inc. But along the way there are stories in the future, stories in the past, stories in the present of 2015. Punch-in-the-gut stories as Alice’s grief actually saves her life, and Jones’ too. Stories of how you bring down a very unusual monster, and how, if you do it wrong, it doesn’t so much bring you down instead, as swallow you up and make you smile about the whole thing. There are happy zombies, three Doctors, the rock and roll adventures of Xavi Moonburst, the return of the regenerated Bessie, and did I mention the Nimon?
The really sick, clever thing is that it all fits together to make a kind of sense in context, even if, as in some of Steven Moffatt’s TV scripts for the Eleventh Doctor, while it happens you have abbbbsolutely no idea how it will, or even could in the long run. This is, if anything, the mark of the Eleventh Doctor – he exists in a very tangential on-again, off-again relationship with causality as we mere mortals understand it, so getting and keeping your head around the story of his life is more than usually difficult. But it does, ultimately, make a very beautiful kind of sense when you look back on it in retrospect, as these collected issues give you the chance to do. More than reading the individual issues as they come out, the collected editions give you at least a fighting chance of seeing the whole story in a kind of grander, more objective way, a 20:20 vision that you can’t particularly achieve while you’re experiencing the story episodically. In essence, the collected editions are your chance to box-set binge your way through a story of intriguing individual tiles, and finally see the full mosaic at a distance where your eyes can make some sense of it.
While writers Al Ewing and Rob Williams take us on a bunch of wild rides in this collection, there’s also plenty for your eyes to feast on – the essence of the Eleventh Doctor is here in the writing, from the talking to himself about how clever he’s being, to the darkness, to the rage, to the slightly boyish old man desperation for a purpose – but the images are what stay with you longer: fantastic space battles, superb cityscapes, futuristic spaceshpis, places from which you shouldn’t be able to look away (no pressure there, artists!), and so very much more besides. Simon Fraser, Boo Cook and Warren Pleece do what should be either impossible or insanely difficult, and render the many worlds and scenarios of this demented collection in ways that make them believable and fantastical at the same time – there’s barely a page without some delight from which, story be damned, your eyes don’t want to move on. If the individual issues are what you buy because the story intrigues you and you want to know what happens next, immediately and hot off the presses, like the hard copy versions of broadcast episodes, these collected editions are the box-sets you still buy, despite having all the individual issues, because somehow they’re more complete, and even though they’re the same stories, there’s that sense of satisfaction, and scope, and (not least, in a story this long and convoluted), easiness of back-reference that makes the whole thing right.
So, should you buy this? Who are you kidding? You know you should – it’s the second of three box-sets that together form a great lost season of Eleventh Doctor madness, sadness and danger to know, on a scale the TV show probably, these days, could conjure, but equally probably wouldn’t. Get it, put it proudly on your shelf next to the first collection, then prepare your eyes for a feast and your brain for a cool, cool bath.