John Barrowman clearly loves Captain Jack Harkness, a character he’s been playing since 2005. It’s been a long time since Jack has appeared in live-action, but Barrowman and his sister Carole Barrowman are now co-writing a brand new Torchwood comic that allows them to once again revisit the seemingly immortal adventurer.
Torchwood #1 isn’t the first time that the Barrowman siblings have chronicled a story in this world, and that turns out to be a detriment in this issue. The issue directly follows the Barrowmans’ novel, Torchwood: Exodus Code and uses most of the supporting cast that was introduced in that series. Even with the recap page, longtime Torchwood fans may feel a little lost. None of the newcomers really pop on the page, and the only thing we learn about Hollis is that he’s Jack’s newest lover and that he’s on a hugging basis with Rhys. A caption tells us that Hollis is a weapons specialist, but that’s not the same thing as seeing him in action.
After Exodus Code, Jack apparently joined the crew of the Ice Maiden, a ship equipped with alien tech. The ship’s captain, Dana, doesn’t seem to have any personality beyond the scars on her back. The ship’s A.I., Mary Shelley (yes, inspired by the real one) has one personality trait – a desire to be captain herself – and that’s it. A random girl named Rona accidentally ends up on the ship as well, which means only two things: she’ll either die horribly or join Torchwood. It seems like most of the agency’s recruits just stumble upon it by accident.
Unfortunately, the first issue suffers from lackluster artwork by Antonio Fuso and Pasquale Qualano. Aside from occasionally capturing the look of Barrowman’s Jack and his signature facial expressions, the characters are almost indistinguishable from each other without the hair and color differences. Gwen doesn’t look like Gwen, and the new crew certainly wasn’t done any favors in this regard. Fuso and Qualano are at their best early in the issue when Jack is on an alien planet filled with tentacles and eyeballs, as well as late in the issue when the Ice Maiden comes under a very unexpected ninja attack. If Fuso and Qualano had a better handle on their human characters, this issue would have been a lot better.
Some of this does fall with the Barrowman siblings. Their scenes with Jack have a life that just isn’t matched by any other character interactions in the book. Again, their love for Jack shines through, but the other characters are badly in need of the same kind of attention.
The Barrowmans’ story is also muddled and unclear. We don’t even get to see Jack and Gwen interact in this issue! Outside of Jack himself, the most memorable moment is the return of a fan favorite frenemy from his past. But that’s all of one page, and the subplot didn’t make much sense on its own. Perhaps those side characters appeared before in Exodus Code, but we honestly couldn’t tell if we were supposed to know them or not.
Ultimately, this was a frustrating read that didn’t have the fun or the charm of Torchwood’s best moments. More stories about Captain Jack are always welcome, but this was incredibly unfocused and unsatisfying. A few genuinely fun moments weren’t enough to make this revival work, but we definitely hope to see it get better in future issues.
RATING: 1.5 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS
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Images: Titan Comics