WRITERS: GEORGE MANN & CAVAN SCOTT
ARTISTS: IVAN RODRIGUEZ & WALTER GEOVANNI
COLORIST: NICOLA RIGHI
LETTERER: RICHARD STARKINGS
AND COMICRAFT’S JIMMY BETANCOURT
DESIGNERS: ANDREW LEUNG & ROB FARMER
ASSISTANT EDITORS: JESSICA BURTON & AMOONA SAOHIN
SENIOR EDITOR: ANDREW JAMES
MAIN COVER: ALESSANDRO VITTI & NICOLA RIGHI
Released: August 17th 2016, TITAN COMICS
Four Doctors, occupying four very different time zones and places, but sharing one common denominator: an old enemy, who spearheads the ambitions of a race of perennial foes. There is much chaos to cope with, and many problems to solve for the grey-haired Doctor and his predecessors - who favour exclaiming "Allons-y", "Fantastic!" and "Geronimo" respectively to signify reaction to major developments.
Silurians have upgraded to the Cyber Race, and prowl the startling environment that is prehistoric Earth. The Sontarans are desperate for an unusual alliance with a Time Lord, as they gather their armies together in their native Sontar system. And back in 2006, in a council estate area of London, the Ninth Doctor and his closest friends try to save London from devastation by Cyber Forces. The most pivotal action is on Gallifrey itself, in a time of unrest and anxiousness, as the recently Clara-deprived Doctor tries his best to figure out the plans of his mortal enemy, who was once a Time Lord deity: Rassilon!
"The Cybermen bend their knee to me, Doctor. We are Time Lords. We mold eternity."
That quote from the ex-Lord President, that the Doctor so efficiently deposed in Hell Bent, is a fine way to solidify just what power ratio exists between The Gallifreyans and the Cybermen that have joined forces. (I also cannot help wondering if some Game Of Thrones in-joke is operating, given that Donald Sumpter has also portrayed the rather more moral Maester Luwin). There also is the fine concept of there being factions on the home planet of the Time Lords, which perhaps was not always explored in Doctor Who as much as it might have been over the many years since The War Games first was transmitted.
Rassilon works well enough as an engaging antagonist that clashes with the current Doctor's familiar righteous fury. It is also useful to have a clear figure that gives the Cybermen foot soldiers that extra dimension, even if all their dialogue remains much the same.
Also, he seems to be the exception to the rule that a Cyber Leader or Controller has all his emotions removed to the core. If anything this character at times is that bit more moustache-twirling and revelling in evil than any onscreen or off-screen depiction of the Time Lord's founding father from the parent TV show. And for the purposes of a mini-arc series released over summer this is acceptable enough.
Perhaps, however, writers in general could resolve to abandon one of the less engaging Who catchphrases. The Cybermen look great here, but some of their dialogue could be better, not least a certain catchphrase of theirs. I really do scratch my head that "Delete! Delete!" is still alive and well, eleven or so years after it's 'premier outing'.
Some of the Doctors get to shine better than others here. Obviously, the Capaldi incarnation cannot be shunned as he is the contemporary one, and he has all the sections most pertinent to the main plot. Tennant's doctor is bustling and full of giddy energy too, and quick to adjust to changes of circumstances like a top level pro chess champion. I also enjoy the interplay with his two female companions, and appreciate there is little reliance on continuity references, given that quite a few readers will not be reading the Tenth Doctor range that often, if at all.
The material for Doctors Nine and Eleven must be declared as rather ordinary in comparison to their counterparts. The Eleventh Doctor shows he knows the Silurians but there is no need for his keenest wit or skills. Someone else who had taken moments to read the TARDIS logs or diaries could easily have the same thing to say. Perhaps the most appropriate substitution would be River, who knew Madame Vastra, and would have some emotional engagement as a result. Things do pick up later on, when the Doctor uncovers evidence of the grander scheme by Rassilon and his armies, and explains to Alice the threat of 'Ark' ships.
The Ninth Doctor sections can border on the run-of-the-mill, barring a potentially decisive accident that may leave this TARDIS team stranded or severely wounded. This last development is one of the quite common 'mini cliff-hangers', that immediately precedes the actual one to end this instalment on. The knowledge that Rose will encounter the Cybermen for the first time, with the Tenth incarnation of her best friend - at least if the Web of Time is restored to normality - makes her sections with them here feel very ephemeral, but also interesting in that these remorseless beings are such a menace to her beloved home city. (And as Noel Clarke once commented, the Cybermen have that raw physical intimidation to them, in that they can kick down the front door of your home.)
I am still hopeful that the various plot threads that intermingle in this epic crossover event will become less opaque. This progression would then allow for a fine execution of the core premise, and perhaps bring some new groundbreaking changes for the various ongoing monthly series, including: the well-established one for Doctors Ten and Eleven, the increasingly confident sequence for Doctor Twelve, or the fledgling first year proper for the much underused Ecclestone Doctor (after Scott's splendid miniseries).
Art is generally of a pleasing quality, although I again find myself struggling to hear Tennant's voice carry through during the Tenth Doctor sections, as the likeness here for this ever-popular incarnation is not the most representative. This has been a problem several times in the main range involving him before, and is somewhat puzzling.
Colouring is something I almost take as a given when I do these reviews, but in these two issues of the mini-arc so far, I feel like some attention is necessitated. With such a busy storyline, and so many characters involved it is welcome that Nicola Righi manages to make everything cohere that bit more, such is his considered use of palette. A lot of scope is required of the pencils/inks, and they need a particularly illustrious colourist to breathe full life. Consequently this is one event series that will reward re-readings simply for the enjoyment of scrolling through the visuals.
Two variant covers are presented both in mid-size, and full-page variants. The first is a photo cover, and the second is a striking effort by Fabio Listrani.