Sunday, September 12, 2010

Torchwood #1: Guest Review by Simon Breeze

I'm delighted to present another 'guest review' from artist and writer Simon Breeze - this time it's not a title I personally would have picked up without his recommendation, but having done so I was glad I did ...

Torchwood #1

The Selkie
Story by John Barrowman & Carole E. Barrowman
Art by Tommy Lee Edwards & Trevor Goring
Lettering by John Workman

Broken, Part One
Story by Gary Russell
Art by Adrian Salmon
Lettering by John Workman

This is the first official comic from the popular Sci-Fi television show Torchwood. If you know little about it or have never seen it before, Torchwood is about a team of agents (called the Torchwood Institute, or simply just Torchwood) charged by royal appointment with protecting Earth from space- and time-traveling aliens. The team operate outside of the law and of the government and seem to pretty much do as they please to get the job done, the reason for this being that they were formed by Queen Victoria in 1879 after a less then joyful encounter with an alien (namely The Doctor from the television show Doctor Who). This leads to an adult (in every sense of he word) television series with one foot heavily based in British culture and the other in the often bonkers world of time travel and interesting visitors and monsters from other worlds.

So where does the comic fit into all this?

Quite well actually!

There are two stories in this fantastic first issue of Torchwood. The first is called "Selkie" and could be set anywhere in the show's continuity (series four is being filmed as I write this) and there is no real indication in the story as to where it sits. However this doesn't affect it in anyway due to its nature. Story 2 - called "Broken" - is clearly set between the television shows second and third series and unlike the one shot Selkie, is the first in a five part run.

Where to begin the review then?

I'll start with a general overview ... It is about flippin' time!

This is first comment about the comic I'd like to make. The nature of the Torchwood show, its characters and encounters makes it perfect for comics. So my next question is an obvious one, but just why has it taken so long? Who knows? However the wait has paid off. The issue starts with a forward introducing the comic and it's two stories (by John Barrowman, one of the stars of the television show and contributing writer to this issue) followed by the one shot "Selkie" and then the first of the five part story "Broken." The issue has four different covers and is twenty-eight pages long (with only one of those being given over to advertising) so all good, and fingers crossed that the two story content continues in the following issues of the comic, I really liked this feature.

On with the first story then, Selkie.

Selkie is written by John Barrowman and his sister Carole E. Barrowman and is labeled as "A Captain Jack Tale" and as such focuses on the Torchwood teams leader, Captain Jack Harkness. The story starts with Jack arriving by helicopter at Seal Island to investigate the mysterious discovery of several of the the towns men found washed up skinned on the islands beaches. It isn't long before Jack has figured out that it is monster called a "Selkie," an old Scottish mythical creature that is said to haunt the oceans of Seal island that is killing the men. As the story progresses it comes to light that the creature is in fact an alien that Jack brought to Earth many years ago from a dying world, and now he has to clean his mess up. The story then begins to twist further when he also starts to suspect the women of the island are involved with the deaths too.

This story is brilliant and is worth the cover price of $3.99 alone. The story is dark and has a few twists and turns that keeps you engaged from the first to the last page. Helping the story along is the fantastic art of Tommy Lee Edwards & Trevor Goring, their work really brings the rain soaked island in the cold north of Scotland to life just as much as it does the bright and dying alien world on the other side of the galaxy. It is fantastic, I can't praise this story enough, it really backs up my earlier statement that Torchwood lends itself well to comics.

Now onto the second story, Broken.

Broken is written by Gary Russell and is illustrated by Adrian Salmon and is quite different - but equally enjoyable - to the first story Selkie. This is not to say it is bad, however the stories and the art are very different to one another. Broken sees the return of an old Torchwood "bad guy" called Bilis Manger who traps the team in a temporal prison within a hotel built for the "Rift" (a rip in space and time that is located in Cardiff, South Wales), implying that it is capable of thought and self awareness. The team split up (Jack Harkness, Ianto Jones & Gwen Cooper) and become lost in the shifting and changing rooms of the hotel. The first part ends with the team being sucked into the Rift and Jack being told just before hand that the Rift is looking for something and if he can findout what it is and give it to it, then they may just survive.

Again, another good story, Gary Russell real knows his Torchwood, lots of little hat tips throughout the story and the characterisations are very good also. The first part ends on a great cliff-hanger which will leave you curious about just what is going on? Adrian Salmon's art is very stylised and my first read took me some getting into (remember, art is a subjective thing) however upon my second read, the art worked a charm, it is bright, colourful and chunky and it really works well with the story. So as with Selkie, another fantastic story.

I am going to give this comic a 4 out of 5, it was a really enjoyable read and it is great to finally see Torchwood hitting the comic presses. The only thing I would say against it (hence the 4) is that if you are not a watcher of the show, you may find yourself struggling in places. None the less, I still believe that there is enough story and suspense to engage even a casual viewer of Torchwood, and as for the fans like myself? Well, all I can say is this is what we have been waiting for, go out and buy it now!

As I say, thanks to Simon for another great review. Unlike Simon I've never seen Torchwood and I must say I certainly enjoyed reading this title. I found the first story - Selkie - more accessible to me as a 'non-watcher' than the second: as much as I quite enjoyed the Broken story I did, on occasions, find myself puzzling to understand just what was going on. I think as Simon has demonstrated in his review, some background knowledge certainly enhances the storyline.

Don't forget you can find more of Simon's writing and artwork at his
DeviantArt site as well as his work and family blog.