Torchwood is the sci-fi franchise which just will not die. Ten years after it debuted it’s now hard to quite believe that the BBC once commissioned a raunchy Doctor Who spin-off in which a bisexual immortal former Time Agent leads a ragtag team investigating alien incursions under the streets of Cardiff. But of course these were the glory days of the new incarnation of Doctor Who and, understandably, the BBC were keen to tap into as much of the show’s Russell T Davies-led alchemy as possible. Torchwood was always a mixed bag and the show only reached its full potential in the 2009 mini-series Children of Earth and with the drawn-out ten-part US co-production series Miracle Day in 2011 it looked as if the series had finally reached the end of the line.
Yet the show has kept ticking over with the odd original novel (the most recent of which, 2012’s Exodus Code was also written by the show’s charismatic star John Barrowman with his sister Carole) and new audio releases from the ubiquitous Big Finish. Now there’s a new comic book series courtesy of Titan who are all over virtually every incarnation of Doctor Who in a dizzying array of comic releases. It’s difficult to assess quite where a multi-episode comic book story is going on the basis of its first instalment, but on the evidence of World Without End – Part 1 we’re on narrative territory we’re familiar with from the TV series but also, perhaps inevitably, this is a Torchwood aimed squarely at the show’s hardcore fans as it makes no concession to anyone who hasn’t kept up with developments in the Torchwood universe in other media since the series ended. So if you haven’t read Exodus Code and you’re not up-to-speed with Big Finish, there’s a chance you might find yourself a bit lost as this new adventure kicks off. As World Without End opens, Captain Jack is still travelling with the crew of the ice-rigging ship Ice Maiden, augmented by alien tech (see Exodus Code), something mysterious appears in “Sully Bay” in Wales, an old figure from the show’s past resurfaces at Torchwood House in Scotland (birthplace of the whole series in the Tooth and Claw episode from season two of Doctor Who) and in Newport Gwen Cooper and her long-suffering husband Rhys are enjoying some time away from their daughter Anwen (presumably on the basis that young kids don’t have much dramatic value in a comic strip). Before long Captain Jack is back in their lives and they’re being attacked by ninjas on flying jet-skis.
Quite where all this is heading is anyone’s guess at this stage; this first issue is about putting the story’s players in place and setting up mysteries which will undoubtedly unravel as the series progresses. As a first issue it can’t help but feel a little bitty and uninvolving and it’s certainly not designed for casual viewers who quite enjoyed the TV series but haven’t kept up with developments since the series went off air. But maybe that’s how it should be; Barrowman continually hints that a TV resurrection isn’t impossible but for now Torchwood belongs to its most earnest followers who will feel amply rewarded by this hectic, pell-mell romp which is written with some verve and brought to the page by illustrations which only occasionally resemble the main characters as seen on TV. It’s an intriguing, if hardly inclusive, start to this latest chapter in the Torchwood saga and if it doesn’t exactly scream ’essential purchase’ it’s good enough to make sticking with it a worthwhile investment just to see how and where the story is heading.
TORCHWOOD – ISSUE ONE / WRITER: JOHN BARROWMAN, CAROLE BARROWMAN / ARTIST: ANTONIO FUSO, PASQUALE QUALANO / PUBLISHER: TITAN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW