‘Torchwood – World Without End’ reviewed

❉ This is Carole and John Barrowman’s best work to date!

– Captain Jack Harkness fighting ninjas on flying jet skis
– A woman with the image of the seal of the High Council of the Time Lords on her back
– Sea monsters off the coast of Norway
– Captain John Hart being thrown out of a sleazy bar on a sleazy planet

If any of the above elements sound like the ingredients for an entertaining story, you’ll find much to enjoy in World Without End, the newly released collection from Titan Comics’ Torchwood series. With any established series there’s always a risk of their spinoff stories being treated as merely a product, showing little regard for quality storytelling, let alone an understanding of the series’ fundamental appeal. Titan’s offerings in the Doctor Who universe have been a case study in handling spinoffs properly.

The bar for writing and art in Doctor Who comics has been remarkably high at least as far back as Doctor Who Weekly (probably even further, but this writer has not been able to partake of earlier offerings such as TV Action). Dan Abnett, Dave Gibbons, Grant Morrison, and Steve Parkhouse are just a few of the standout writers and artists who worked on Doctor Who Magazine’s regular comic in the 80s and 90s. The trend of hiring quality talent has continued since the show’s return to TV, with contributors who really understand – and in many cases love – the programme and its characters such as Robert Shearman and Paul Cornell.

This has flowed through to Torchwood as well, where the current comics series is written by Carole and John Barrowman. The pair have been writing Torchwood stories for several years, but this series is their best work to date. What makes it so successful is that they’ve simultaneously managed to reshape Torchwood while somehow retaining its spirit.

After the finale of the second series, the TV program understandably became a more downbeat affair. That’s not to say it wasn’t good – or excellent in the case of Children of Earth – but it could be hard to enjoy. This was most apparent with Jack, who along the way had lost some of the verve that made him so appealing in the first place. In contrast, this post-Miracle Day incarnation of Torchwood is more adventure-oriented and their exploits are presented quite tongue-in-cheek. This keeps Jack’s angst in the background, allowing him to come across more like the dashing rogue the Doctor and Rose Tyler first encountered on “volcano day” in 1940s London, exemplified by the easy banter between him and Gwen.

This seems quite appropriate since this version of Torchwood embraces its connection to Doctor Who much more vigorously than the TV series. Instead of the veiled references, we get tangible reminders that the story takes place in the same fictional universe. Some are subtle, such as a lonely Sontaran in the corner of a panel, while others like the appearance of a “TARDIS knock-off” are more significant to the plot. The key thing is that they all help expand the scope of the action to a universal scale.

It’s that scale that makes comics the ideal medium for this particular take on Torchwood. The audio plays from Big Finish have been a great forum to delve into the souls of the various characters, but there’s an undeniable thrill to seeing a story with this kind of sweep depicted visually. Credit here goes to artist Antonio Fuso who does a lovely job with things of this Earth, things not of this Earth and many others that lie somewhere in between.

Admittedly, even if you’ve read the first couple issues of the next segment Station Zero, it’s not quite clear where the overall narrative is going after this volume. The important thing, though, is that the Barrowman siblings are clearly having fun telling it. When it comes to Captain Jack Harkness, could there be anything more important than fun?

❉ ‘Torchwood – World Without End’ (Writers: John Barrowman, Carol Barrowman, Artist: Antonio Fuso) is out now in comic and book stores. Available in print from Amazon and digitally from Comixology.

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