Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen #1 presents fans of the franchise with a shaky introduction to what could either be a fantastic story with a massive scope, or a blatant rehash of tropes we’ve seen too many times before.
The first thing you see when you open the book is an introduction to the incarnations of the Doctor that will be involved in this tale; those being 9 through 12. While they’re fairly cursory, they’re accurate in what they do say. Still, the question that arose was “Is this necessary?” For the most part, the individuals reading this book aren’t likely to be new to the character of the Doctor. In fact, they’re more than likely fans well-versed in the modern incarnations we see here. It would have made more sense to give short introductions to the comic-specific companions (Gabby Gonzalez, Cindy Wu, and Alice Obiefune), as a portion of the readers are bound to be fans of the show who have never picked up a single issue of the comics before jumping into the medium. Given that the comic treats these characters as the established companions that they are, it would have been more helpful to new readers to get a snippet of context for their involvement than the Time Lord we’ve seen on screen for 50 years.
The story itself opens on the familiar planet of Karn, where one of the Sisters discovers a crash-landed TARDIS. The art here by Alessandro Vitti, Ivan Rodriguez, and Tazio Bettin is a bit of a conundrum for me, and stays that way throughout the book. It’s hard to call the art bad, the colors by Nicola Righi and Enrica Eren Angiolini are beautiful, the set pieces well defined and clear, and yet, and this is especially true of the characters, it’s not exactly pleasing to the eye. Faces in particular can be quite jarring throughout the book, and might take you out of the story if you’re not able to look past them. Despite this, the highest praise I can give art in a comic can be given here: It is clear and extremely communicative. There isn’t a confusing panel in the book, the reader can very easily tell exactly what’s happening, which ultimately is the most important task for art in comics, and it’s not something they always succeed at.
The setup for the story is just vague enough to keep an interested reader wondering what is going on. It is a tactic Doctor Who has used since its inception, and feels mostly natural here, if uninspired. Writers George Mann and Cavan Scott hint in the introduction that Rassilon will likely be involved, although it’s very unclear to what extent. What we do know is that the Cybermen are, throughout multiple time periods, conquering various civilizations and converting the inhabitants. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, and the issue is fairly basic throughout, Doctor and companion(s) are on a romp through time and they run into a threat where they weren’t expecting one. It’s par for the course for us Whovians. With the exception of the 10th Doctor, they all run into the Cybermen, where they shouldn’t be.
That’s where the story can get interesting, the question of how the Cybermen, who have always been potentially threatening, but generally easily defeated, suddenly became powerful enough to overtake entire civilizations like the Silurians and modern era humanity. The 9th Doctor himself says something else has to be helping them. That tale and that mystery could prove to be fun for readers going forward. The most interesting part of the book is the final page, where they leave the reader with a pretty big cliffhanger that I’m personally interested to see how they explain.
The Doctors’ personalities are generally well represented in this book. The Eleventh Doctor says something ludicrous and whimsical about his past, the 10th is conniving and lovingly arrogant, the 9th is sarcastic and pokes fun at Jackie like always, and the 12th is gloomy, in control, and authoritative. The majority of the interactions between characters feel natural, but not all of them. A good amount of the dialogue seems stilted, as if the Doctors are being forced to say something weird and eccentric. Their quirks don’t always feel organic, like when the 11th Doctor mentions wrestling quick-moving haystacks, which seems to just be a forced set-up for another joke that doesn’t hit.
The majority of the dialogue does feel natural enough. It can be a fun book to read for fans of the present Doctors, especially the ones that have regenerated, as it feels like you’re seeing a new, genuine story with them at the helm.
Overall, Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen #1 wasn’t bad, but it isn’t going to blow anyone out of the water either. The art has some glaring problems, namely some jarring facial expressions, but also presents us with beautiful pieces and landscapes. The story could go either way, mediocre and bland Doctor Who Time Conspiracy number 342, or it could tell a compelling narrative while making an old foe truly threatening again. I would be more inclined to wait for the event to be over, and read it as a trade, than to follow it issue by issue.
- Overall accurate and entertaining portrayals of the Doctors
- Mostly pleasant art
- Fairly generic concept for a Doctor Who story
- Jarring facial expressions that can be difficult to get past
- A few stilted lines of dialogue