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Torchwood #1

1 of 2 Comic Con covers

By Joe Palmer

Writers: John Barrowman, Carole Barrowman, and Gary Russell
Artists: Tommy Lee Edwards, Trevor Goring, and Adrian Salmon
Titan Comics
Ah, Torchwood! I came to the series late and since BBC America wasn’t part of my cable package I devoured the series on DVD from my library once my curiosity got the better of me. Well, maybe devour isn’t quite right. After watching one episode it was urgent to watch at least one more, if not two, and with three I stopped. Had to make the goodness last a few days because Torchwood withdrawal is much worse than Torchwood over stimulation.

Not so long ago there was news of Torchwood crossing into comics as a regular series. I was both giddy and cautious. It’s easy to guess the giddy part. The cautious approach is just how I deal with comics based on TV series or movies. And by cautious I mean I avoid them after one too many craptacular Batman movie tie ins. The only tie in comic I’ve read in a long time has been Buffy and there are aspects of it that don’t thrill me. But let me try to put that prejudice aside. The simple fact is I needed a Captain Jack fix and I also wanted to see how the “equal-opportunity” hero worked in the two dimensional world of four colors.

Opening piece “The Selkie” is written by Barrowman and sister Caroline and drawn by Tommy Lee Edwards, with a second story, Broken, by Gary Russell, whom ardent Torchwood fans will recognize, and Adrian Salmon. The two story format seems to be the norm for a bit since “Broken” is serialized in five parts, and presumable the lead story will be a done in one, though I’ve nothing to base this on. In any case, it’s a smart and practical arrangement I imagine to accomodate artist Tommy Lee Edwards’ schedule and also possibly as motivation for readers to buy following issues for the second feature. On second thought, the Barrowmans and crew may want to mix it up and have an occasional full length story to give readers an enticement. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Caroline and John take Jack to investigate a mystery surrounding gruesome deaths of several men in a small fishing town near Scotland’s Seal Island. The plot is a plausible set up and given an appropriate Torchwood twist when it’s revealed that Jack has a connection with the Selkie, a fairy tale creature tied to the locals that turns out to be real. The dead men all have something in common, as do their wives which Jack deduces fairly quickly, but the explanation for the Selkie’s connection isn’t fully elaborated. Script pacing is good for two thirds of the story, but the ending seems rushed, even given the alloted 15 pages. Dialog is believable, but it feels different without someone for Jack to banter with, hit on and feel up. This isn’t a bad thing. Certainly there were instances in the show when Jack wasn’t wisecracking or surrounded by his Torchwood associates. [Mr. Barrowman, if you’re reading this, care to go out for coffee?]

Edwards has done an admirable job here with the art. His realistic style sets the appropriately moody tone for a small Scottish town tied to the sea. No need to worry whether his Jack (or should I say Barrowman?) resembles the character. Edwards’ likeness is spot on not only with that handsome face, but also body language. Trevor Goring is also listed under artist’s credits, presumably as colorist and he’s really quite the match to bring Edwards’ pencils to life.

Where Jack is solo in the lead, “Broken” features Jack, Ianto, and Gwen together. I’ll leave the continuity folks to figure out where it fits time-wise before Children of Earth because it just doesn’t matter to me. Seeing Ianto again does and it’s a real delight. Oh, how I wish their relationship had been given more time to play out on the show. There’s no time to get weepy eyed as Russell launches right into strange happenings in a Cardiff hotel that our intrepid trio have come to suss out and fix. The bizarre incidents stretch back 140 years involve glowing skies, oddly colored lightning, apparitions and disappearing people and cattle. Yes, it reeks of Rift energies and in a twist, Jack surprisingly discovers the antagonist is a mysterious character previously encountered before but I won’t spoil who it is with clues. Appropriately, the chapter ends with all three having fallen into separate traps. Russell’s script is chock full of witty banter that makes the characters so much fun in the show. I can practically hear their voices in my head while reading. While shorter in page count, the pacing here seems more on key.

Adrian Salmon’s style is quite different from Edwards. Rooted more in a cartoon aesthetic than (photo) realism, there are good dynamics and layouts, and he’s got Jack’s facial expressions and look down to gestures so one easily knows it’s Jack, and not Ianto, who’s distinctive, as well as their adversary. His rendition of Gwen seems less like the actress than I recall though. It appears Salmon also colored his pencils, which meshes quite well with his style.

My expectations were high, perhaps a little too high. As mediums, comics and television may have lots of similarities, but television will always engage the senses of sight and sound. In other ways the writers and artists allayed my fears regarding comic adaptations, and I’ll be back for more.

August 6, 2010
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