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Monday, 6 July 2009

In Review: Torchwood - Rift War

Torchwood: Rift WarWhen Titan Magazines launched Torchwood The Official Magazine in January 2008, they chose to follow the example of Panini's Doctor Who Magazine and include a comic strip. While the Doctor Who comic strip is an historical remnant of Doctor Who Magazine's beginnings as the Doctor Who Weekly comic, a comic strip in the magazine of the more adult orientated Torchwood was seen as a brave move on editor Simon Hugo's part. It did raise a few eyebrows when in the first issue's comic strip The Legacy Of Torchwood One artist SL Gallant drew the story's main guest star as actor and comedian Bill Bailey while the lack of a comic strip in issue 2 left readers wondering just what was going on. However it was back in issue 3 while issue 4 began the ten part Rift War story arc. Titan's Rift War graphic novel is the first compilation of that comic strip and features the ten part story of the same title plus Jetsam, the Brian Williamson written and illustrated story from issue 3 concerning gigantic alien motorcycles.

Despite the photographic front cover only featuring the season three cast, the stories are set before the deaths of Owen and Toshiko in season two. Cardiff is attacked by the Harrowkind alien warriors who came through the Rift and as the Torchwood operatives battle them they soon realise that it is a diversionary tactic to steal the Rift Manipulator from the Hub. Tosh recovers the manipulator with the help of the alien Vox who remains at Torchwood as he is on the run from the Harrowkind's masters, the Sanctified. After a few less violent Rift disturbances the Sanctified attack once again and Torchwood have to decide if their enemy's enemy can really be called their friend.

While the ten episodes are all called Rift War this is more of a story arc than one subdivided story with some of the episodes in the middle having little to do with the main plot. Of the different episodes the odd Funhouse, in which a giant alien baby is cared for by Gwen and Rhys, sits most uncomfortably amongst the rest while Dino Crisis, as fun as it is, would have made a better Primeval story that a Torchwood one. However the stories are at their best when in full Rift War mode with each eleven page monthly episode becoming part of the greater story as our heroes battle their unseen enemies. The stories here depend more on the full team than the TV series, with its emphasis on Gwen's character, does and while some episodes feel that they could be made on a television budget others are deliberately more outlandish.

The original publication in the then monthly magazine was A4 size but here the pages have been reduced to an American size for this softcover graphic novel. While it therefore sits comfortably with the modern American IDW Doctor Who reprint books, it feels out of place beside the British Panini Doctor Who Magazine reprints that you would have expected it to fit better with. In addition to this, while the creators of the strips are all credited at the front of the book there is no credit breakdown per episode. Since most episodes are preceded by an effectively blank page it would have taken little extra effort to credit the writers and artists at the beginning of each section that they worked on the in the same way that, for instance, Rebellion does in their Nikolai Dante reprint books.

The credits are not as straight forward as you would expect, with Paul Grist illustrating six of the ten parts while only writing four, Simon Furman providing the scripts for the others, while one of Ian Edgington's three stories is with SL Gallant rather than long time collaborator D'Israeli who does the other two. Wikipedia provides a better credit source than Titan do for the reprints in this book.

No doubt the photographic cover will have more people in shops picking the book up to browse through it than a comics cover would have, while the changing of artists throughout the book may prove to be a drawback for the non-comics fans. SL Gallant's art would be the most accessible while Paul Grist's and D'Israeli's more extreme styles may prove to be a turn off to the non-comics reader, yet for the comics reader the opposite will probably be true. Indeed the story is at is best when Paul Grist is both writing and illustrating and this book really should be considered a must-buy for Grist fans.

Overall, the book makes a welcome addition to the comics Whoniverse particularly for those who are not quite interested enough to pay the monthly magazine's cover price just for the comic strip.

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