When discussing morality in comic books, the argument usually goes that it’s mostly a question of how a hero was raised which determines how he approaches the world; Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman – they are all defined by where and by whom they were raised – what then makes these heroes personal quests more invigorating is how the world around them is constructed – how exactly does it respond to them?
There isn’t one fixed answer to that question: it’s largely a matter of what an audience desires to see – do we want a Batman who addresses the here and now, who makes clear the murky, morally grey times we find ourselves in? Or do we want to run head long in the other direction and have him punch a man who dresses up as an egg?
Where things get interesting is when that fictional world starts to form opinions of our heroes that then marry with our own or even make us question whether that opinion is in fact the path of least resistance – that it’s easier to assume this is how it should be, that those little lapses we choose to ignore have no consequences.
Take the Doctor for example. Titan’s anniversary comics event, Supremacy of the Cybermen, could easily have been retitled, The Fallacy of the Doctor, because, at the heart of it all, lies an assumption that we’ve all accepted; that once the threat has been dealt with and the foe has been vanquished, the Doctor will leave and everything, because he has stood by and dealt with a moral objection to a threat, will right itself – as though the universe owes him that much.
Much of that has to do with who the Doctor is. As a Time Lord, he’s expected to right the anomalies that time travel throws up, the events that should not be. But it’s his spirit that stops his adventures from being little more than a bureaucratic tidy up – he’s only governed by the Time Lord code, not their attitude (or, let’s be honest, their attitude to that same code either).
So it’s interesting when, in this issue, Rassilon reveals part of his endgame, that it presents us with a side to his character that we’ve not seen before – sure, he’s imposed his will upon the Time Lords before but it’s always had the interests of Gallifrey to, at the very least, cover any little indiscretion or trip into swivel eyed madness – here, his head appears to have been turned by the promise of the Cybermen.
Of course, this could all be a mere ruse to reinstate the Time Lords as the dominant species in his now, Cyber fixated head, but it’s this hint of damage, of being literally put out by his exile during Hell Bent, that breaks new ground here.
The beautiful opening page of an under siege citadel sets the tone for the second issue of Titan Comic’s Cyber-anniversary event, Supermacy of the Cybermen, perfectly – there’s a perilous threat hanging over the universe and there’s no time for pleasantries.
An angry, exasperated Twelfth Doctor, confronts the exiled Time Lord Rassilon and his legion of Cybermen; the Eleventh Doctor stumbles upon a newly upgraded army of Silurians with a scheme that has far reaching consequences for his future selves; the Tenth Doctor suddenly finds himself at the helm of a Sontaran army brought to its knees; and the Ninth Doctor’s attempts to flee the Cyberhounds reach an explosive conclusion. It’s a whirlwind of broad, exciting ideas that, while expanding on the shock and awe of issue #1, gives us enough plot to really get a sense of just how comprehensive their scheme is.
If the Issue #1 was designed to induce fanboy squee’s with the promise of an absolute Cyber-victory, then, driven by an exchange by the Twelfth Doctor and Gallifrey’s new Cyber captors (it’s the Twelfth Doctor who carries the heft of the story here), issues #2 does a fair job of grounding those ‘WTF!’ moments in enough story to maintain the threat and pace – it’s not that everything is answered but, rather enough is divulged to keep us intrigued by an expected reveal down the line. We understand enough to be able to draw a conclusion as to why the Cybermen are acting this way – and there are some lovely parallels with Revenge of the Cybermen and Attack of the Cybermen – even though we know that, in story terms at least, we’re on some fast sinking, temporary ground in terms of this alliance. Conversely, George Mann & Cavan Scott give us enough of a potential route to victory for the Cyberman that there’s a lot to enjoy in seeing the trap being set.
That said, the even-number Doctor’s seem to get the lion’s share of interesting story points; the Tenth Doctor breaks new ground with the depleted Sontaran army – and, I won’t spoil it here, but suffice to say, it’s so obvious for a race whose DNA is coded with conflict, that they would start experimenting with endgame strategy, that you wonder why no one has done it before.
However, while the Ninth Doctor sections do evoke his era – well the shouting at Jackie parts of his era – there’s not a lot of story leading into a conclusion that requires a little explanation beyond its explosive full stop. The same goes for the Eleventh Doctor, who ultimately, gets to be very excited in a way that’s pleasingly similar to how he would react when presented with something entirely new. It doesn’t move the story on until the end but it at least has far-reaching ramifications for the other Doctors too.
One mild criticism of the issue – and perhaps the run – is that the artwork by Ivan Rodriguez & Walter Giovanni isn’t quite as spot on when it comes to capturing the essence of the Doctors. It’s by no means bad, in fact, some of the single page panels are wonderful but sometimes the Doctor’s aren’t quite on model which wouldn’t be a problem if they captured some of the feel of each character, be it in pose or attitude but they’re curiously static too. Some of the key poses don’t suggest movement and often feel stilted, more caught in motion like statues rather than suggesting kinetic movement.
The same too can be said for the backgrounds which often feel sparse or a little rushed – Gallifrey for one is curiously empty and lacking a little shading amongst its usually rich burnt sienna tones – if you were feeling charitable, you could describe this problem of ambition meeting resources as a very Doctor Who problem to have.
All in all, Supremacy of the Cybermen #2 has much to recommend it and is an excellent stepping stone on the way towards bigger and more dangerous adventures for the Doctors.
Supremacy of the Cybermen #2 is available now from all good comic retailers and digitally via Comixology.