Historically, the results are mixed when the actors involved in a franchised creative property decide to seek artistic fulfillment at the planning level. For every great director or writer discovered, there are twice as many hacks who forsake the usual tone of the series in order to build monuments to their and/or their character’s glory. For every Voyage Home, there is a Final Frontier.
Fan-favorite John Barrowman has thankfully proven to be more Nimoy than Shatner. Writing with his sister Carole E. Barrowman, the two have crafted a children’s book series (The Hollow Earth trilogy), an Arrow tie-in comic detailing the secret life of Malcolm Merlyn and a number of Torchwood tie-ins.
Torchwood: The Culling is the third of these Torchwood mini-series published by Titan Comics. Set immediately after the events of Torchwood: World Without End and Torchwood: Station Zero, the story also draws off the Torchwood novel Exodus Code as well as the short comic Captain Jack and The Selkie.
That sounds like a lot of back-story (and it is) but The Culling does a fantastic job of establishing itself without an overly-long explanation of what came before. A cast list at the start of the issue gives us all of the major players we need to know and the dialogue handles the rest of the exposition before we jump into the action with a sequence that seems to pay homage to the films of John Carpenter.
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Having just thwarted an attempt by the plant-based lifeforms known as The Vervoids to conquer the Earth, Captain Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper – acting leaders of The Torchwood Institute – have returned to Torchwood House in Scotland to do a bit of cleaning-up. They’re shortly contacted by Captain John Hart – Jack’s ex-partner in every sense of the word – who has news regarding a Vervoid scheme Torchwood didn’t know about. Namely, that the Vervoids were trying to create a Human/Vervoid hybrid that could move undetected on Earth.
Most of the action of the comic concerns one of these hybrids, who somehow survived the destruction of Station Zero in the last Torchwood mini-series. The hybrid takes the name Sladen (A clear tribute to actress Elizabeth Sladen, who played the character of Sarah Jane Smith on Doctor Who) and sets about learning and evolving while running into another of Torchwood’s enemies who is out for revenge.
Dry as this synopsis may sound, the execution is top-notch. The Barrowmans fill the script with the sort of humor Torchwood fans have come to expect as well as the harder sort of science-fiction that informed the television series. Artist Neil Edwards does an equally fantastic job on the artwork, capturing the likenesses of the established actors perfectly and choreographing the action of the issue well.
The only respect in which the comic falters is that, accessible as it is to new readers, it’s still primarily aimed at those who have been keeping up with the story so far. Longtime Torchwood and Doctor Who fans will love it but newbies may feel like they’re not in on the joke.
Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.