Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Volume 2: Hidden Human History
Enrica Eren Angiolini (colours), Jody Houser (writer), Roberta Ingranata (artist), Sarah Jacobs (letters), John Roshell (letters), Viviana Spinelli (colours), Rachel Stott (Artist)
Titan Comics, BBC
28 August, 2019
The Tardis takes the Doctor and her companions Yaz, Ryan, and Graham to the 1500s, at the start of the Guelders War. But while the Doctor is usually the knowledgeable one in the group, enlightening her ‘fam’ about history, the team seem to know a fair amount about this war. All thanks to a podcast called Hidden Human History, or H3. All three are fans, and it seems the Tardis might be one, as well. However, that doesn’t quite explain why their next destination is also from an H3 episode. Coincidence? The Doctor doesn’t think so.
Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Volume 2: Hidden Human History is delightfully quirky and very suspenseful. Unlike the first volume, this book is quite the slow-burn. The majority of the first issue is spent setting up a new companion—Magda, a villager escaping from the oncoming Hapsburgs—and the villains of the story are only introduced at the very end of the first instalment.
I didn’t think we needed to spend as much time on Magda as we did, even though the majority of her arc is about showing readers that even ordinary citizens can be brave against extra-terrestrial threats. But this is something we’ve already learned from the Doctor’s companions, who are also non-powered humans who have joined the Doctor on extraordinary adventures. Magda does end up playing an important role in the story, and even gives the Doctor and her companions a way to fight their enemies. Her buildup in the story felt overlong, especially as she doesn’t appear in the rest of the narrative.
On the other hand, the villains of Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor, the Stilean Flesh Eaters, are fascinating creatures. Somewhat grotesque in appearance, these creatures feed on blood. The Doctor explains that ‘flesh eater’ is a bit of a misnomer—their aim is to get to the blood within the body, not to subsist on flesh. This little detail ends up playing an enormous part in the story, which I love, because it forces the reader to pay attention to every page and panel. One never knows what will turn out to be important.
Once the villains have been introduced, the action moves far more swiftly. I like that two of the new characters from the first volume—Schulz and Perkins—make appearances in this book. It gives the feeling that these comics are tied into their own micro-verse within the larger Whovian universe.
However, much like in the first volume, I really missed the interactions between the Doctor and her companions. With Magda, the Stileans, and the Time Agency, there isn’t enough time for the Doctor and her fam to just hang out. It is a sign of how action-packed this series is, but I still would have liked some of the quieter moments that the show affords us. The Doctor’s relationship with her companions was an absolute highlight of Series 11, and it is a shame that the comics cannot further elaborate on them.
Having said that, there are some hilarious moments when the team show off their newly-acquired knowledge from Hidden Human History. I thought it was hilarious that the Doctor seemed to be a bit jealous of the podcast—a fact that Yaz and Ryan immediately pick up on—because she is the resident history expert, having travelled through time and space for so many centuries. I love that, despite being a bit envious, the Doctor doesn’t denigrate her team for their sudden knowledge. Instead, she applauds them and all but hands the mission over to them. This team works so well together, and they are such a joy to read.
I enjoyed the art in Volume 2, but the subtle changes to the art team was evident in the lack of realism in the characters’ faces. Their expressions are far more blank, less layered, whereas in the first volume, the art team tried to mimic the expressions of the actors on the show. This second instalment moves away from realism, adopting a more flat style for the art. It’s still beautiful, but for the most part, the characters barely look like facsimiles of their live-action selves. It’s something you can get used to, but I would have preferred a touch more realism.
As a newfound fan of Doctor Who, all because of Jodie Whittaker and her crew of diverse companions, getting to read these comics is a thrill. Even though I felt like there weren’t enough character moments in this volume, we still get to see the dynamics of the relationships, which is always my favourite part. As filler material before the next season, Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Volume 2: Hidden Human History has been an enjoyable and thought-provoking read. If the team behind this series continue at this rate, I will gladly read every single Thirteenth Doctor book. Any excuse to spend more time with the Doc and her companions.