Of the three Doctor Who titles Titan Comics currently has going, The Tenth Doctor continues to show that it is far and away the best of the bunch. Issue #5, the conclusion of the two-part “Arts in Space” arc, further illustrates that this incarnation of the Time Lord, along with his travelling companion Gabby Gonzales, are easily the most relatable, connected duo running around the comic book pages, while also showing that writer Nick Abadzis isn’t afraid to take his time in letting a story or thread unfold and evolve.
The plot picks up where we left off last time, with the pair searching for the Doctor’s friend, the block transfer manipulation artist (don’t ask) Zhe, running from the male/female split personalities of the Apprentice. Still framed, at least in part, as a letter from Gabby to a friend, the action is harrowing and dark as the two search for answers, all while dodging things their enemy twists out of reality, like dragons, sculptures come to life, and a whole space mansion in a state of angry flux.
But the story is not as simple as merely running from a bad guy. The Apprentice is not so one dimensional, and the male and female pieces are actually the personification of different sides of its personality, and as the Doctor and Gabby’s true intentions become clear, due almost entirely to her enthusiasm and earnest interest in art, the narrative shifts and changes.
This issue even delves into the origins, uses, and meanings of art. In exploring this, Gabby taps into something much older and more universal than herself. Everyone in the galaxy makes art, and after our basic needs are met, that’s the first thing any conscious species in this universe gets up to. It helps them make sense of their surroundings, interpreting what they see, and forms the basis for language and numbers. The biggest theme running through “Art in Space” is the idea of seeing the world from another perspective. This begins as a discussion of art, but evolves into something much larger and more collective. As it grows and progresses, the story taps into themes of self-doubt and self-confidence, creativity, loneliness, friendship, and connection, as well as trying to look at the world from new angles.
Gabby’s letter to her friend encapsulates all of this. She’s on this crazy adventure with this strange man, travelling through time to distant planets. In the process, she’s definitely experiencing the world in a new way, and bringing her own unique perspective to the adventure. Unsure of herself, unsure what to do, she has to tap into her own self, what makes her special, to discover what she has to offer. Her drawings that illustrate her recollections are one way of trying to make some semblance of sense out of all of this apparent chaos. Trying to explain what a jaunt with the Doctor is like is just as much for her benefit as for anyone on the outside. It’s a crazy experience, and this comic does a solid job of capturing what that feels like.
Not only is this a piece of the two-part “Art in Space” arc, this issue is really the conclusion of the first chapter of the saga of the Doctor and Gabby together. It isn’t until the very end that she really becomes his fulltime companion. Initially, this was just supposed to be a quick, one-off jaunt, a thank you for her help in the first couple chapters. In reality, this one issue is a piece of a larger story, and a piece of an even larger story beyond that. That may frustrate some readers, as there may not be an easy resolution at the end of each issue, but it illustrates exactly how patient the creative team on this run is with letting their story unfold. They don’t rush it to fit into page constraints, and it took five issues just to fire what is essentially the opening salvo. The narrative is that much stronger for this approach, and this is a huge reason why The Tenth Doctor stands so far above Eleven and Twelve.