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Comic Book Review
“Things are progressing well above stairs, Mrs Tillsley. The visitors have all arrived.” “Excellent, Mr Harris. Now all that remains is for you and I to complete the circle.” “Before this night is out, Mrs Tillsley, the Nixi shall rise!” Briarwood House, 1932. As a jazz party preoccupies the English upper-crust, the Doctor and Josie discover a terrifying secret below stairs – the servants are beginning to sprout branches! While the forests of Briarwood besiege the house, the Doctor must uncover an ancient ritual and the truth behind an ancient sacrifice…!
There’s a somewhat manga-like quality to Emma Vieceli’s artwork, which comes to the fore in her depiction of the wide-eyed little boy Bertie, who assists the Doctor and Josie in Briarwood.
However, before the TARDIS travellers arrive in 1932, they visit an auction, apparently at some point in the future, where they successfully bid on a portrait of a countess, the relevance of which has yet to be revealed. (Next issue is the last one, though, and we are promised some answers…) This detour does not help the pacing of the rest of the story, which feels constrained within a single issue. There is little time for build-up before the encroaching Nixi make their move, with the foliage taking over the house within the space of six pages. Briarwood might have worked better as a two-parter.
On the upside, there are some great images of invasive roots and creepers. The Gothic associations of the tree spirits and the country house setting suit the Eighth Doctor down to the ground (as recounted by Bertie, the back-story of the Nixi becomes the stuff of fairy tales). And for the second time in a row, Josie looks good in a period outfit (but still sporting her distinctive cyan and magenta hair).
There’s plenty of reading in this issue, because in addition to a packed episode there is also a two-page interview with Paul J. Salamoff, who has renovated the beautiful TARDIS console prop from the 1996 TV movie and exhibited it at conventions.
With the mini-series heading towards its conclusion, set your TARDIS co-ordinates for issue #5…!