Writers: George Mann & Cavan Scott
Artists: Alessandro Vitti & Ivan Rodriguez With Tazio Bettin
Colorist: Nicola Righi With Enrica Eren Angiolini
Letterer: Richard Starkins And Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Senior Editor: Andrew James
Assistant Editors: Jessica Burton & Amoona Saohin
Designer: Rob Farmer
Released by Titan Comics - July 6th, 2016
“You know why I’m here, Ohila. Something is very wrong with time.”
There’s a whiff of The Pandorica Opens and A Good Man Goes to War’s bold, universe-spanning opening sequences about the first issue of Titan Comics’ new multi-Doctor crossover, Supremacy of the Cybermen, and that’s no bad thing. Not unlike last year’s Four Doctors Summer event, scribes George Mann – of Engines of War fame, if the name sounded familiar – and Cavan Scott don’t waste time establishing Supremacy’s similarly ambitious premise; quite to the contrary, within moments of proceedings getting underway, we’re brought swiftly up to speed with the present situations of the quartet of renegade Time Lords headlining this year’s team-up as the Ninth Doctor races to save a damsel in distress from the Powell Estate in 2006; the Tenth journeys with Gabby and Cindy to “the greatest shopping mall in the galaxy” in the 24th Century; the Eleventh and Alice pick up supplies for the Paternoster Gang in prehistoric times; and the Twelfth travels solo to the ever-increasingly popular planet of Karn so as to investigate the aforementioned universal crisis.
One might have forgiven this instantly audacious mini-series’ writing team for buckling under the weight of their own ambitions, particularly when they’ve crammed the various companions of each of those incarnations – as well as a fair few returning villains beyond the titular Mondasian cyborgs – into what would have already been a dense 25-page opening outing without them. Yet anyone who’s been following Titan’s array of regular Doctor Who strips since their debut in the autumn of 2014 will know all too well how competently their assigned strip-wrights tend to handle their serials and indeed, Mann and Scott don’t look set to represent the exceptions to the rule, somehow managing to balance these elements with unmistakable ease, ensuring each sequence has enough time to breathe wholeheartedly and that the reader will thus maintain a coherent sense of what’s occurring in each time-zone rather than longing for the next scene shift to occur in order to relieve their confusion. Just thinking of how critically acclaimed big-screen ensemble pieces like the Avengers or Mission Impossible franchises handle their hefty cast rosters will provide readers with a fair idea of what to expect going into this one, which says plenty for the safe hands in which Titan appear to have placed perhaps their riskiest Who-themed venture to date.
As if this supreme balancing act on Mann and Scott’s parts wasn’t enough of a substantial selling point to warrant a purchase, Supremacy Issue 1 simultaneously alleviates any concerns of lacking the canonical heft of a fully televised Who serial – especially in the absence of the TV show from our screens until December 25th – from the outset. In a welcomingly surprise turn of events, we essentially pick up the storyline of Capaldi’s Doctor straight from where we left off in last Christmas’ The Husbands of River Song as he encounters a face from his recent past, one who could very well hold the key to how the Cybermen have gained such an unparalleled foothold across time and space by the time that his former selves encounter their old adversaries here. Precisely how accurately this mysterious – yet familiar – benefactor is characterised in comparison to his televised self will doubtless define how successful his return in printed form proves with fans, but one would need to have missed the entirety of 2015’s Season Nine to miscomprehend the myriad tantalising implications this antagonist’s presence here will have for future issues so long as he’s portrayed with all of the necessary malice, self-perceived omnipotence and pompousness that many loved him for on TV last year.
Speaking of characterisation, whilst the understandably limited number of panels afforded to each Doctor in comparison to their solo efforts means the jury’s out on how effectively they’ll once again be brought to life here, Mann and Scott have evidently gotten the tropes of the four incarnations involved down to a tee, depicting a Twelfth Doctor whose brash exterior frequently fades to reveal an endearing sense of adventurous bravado, an Eleventh who never misses an opportunity to crack jokes even – or especially – in the face of potentially fatal dangers, a Tenth who willingly misleads his companions, Hartnell-style, in order to seek out intriguing mysteries as well as a gung-ho Ninth who’ll gladly dive into the action alongside Rose and Captain Jack regardless of the costs. Four issues stand between us and knowing for certain whether the scribes at hand will find enough time to offer any of these incarnations, their allies or their foes much in the way of satisfying character progression, but for now, at least we’re left into no doubt as to their understanding of how to provide a clear impression that we’re witnessing a continuation of the TV show rather than a ‘fan fiction’-style take on its leading constructs.
Any gripes? Well, by choosing to zip from planet to planet, timeline to timeline and TARDIS crew to TARDIS crew across their opening 25-page epic, writers George Mann and Cavan Scott don’t leave themselves a lot of time for character development so much as plentiful – albeit necessary – exposition, and despite their admirable efforts to clearly distinguish the dark, sombre hues of Karn and a ruined London with the far more eclectic, whimsical vistas of the Cosmomart and prehistoric Earth, Supremacy’s resident artists Alessandro Vitti, Ivan Rodriguez and Tazio Bettin would benefit from dedicating further time to reassessing their character designs, since some might mistake Jackie Tyler for Rose on occasion given the lack of effort afforded to individualising the pair beyond adding a few lines to the former’s face. On the whole, however, their artwork’s more than on a par with the finest produced in the various Titan ranges so far in terms of unpredictability and visual sumptuousness, with its failings constituting mere nit-picking elements at best.
If it wasn’t already obvious, then, the reasons to miss out on Supremacy of the Cybermen’s stellar initial chapter are so far and few between that they might as well be non-existent, particularly when juxtaposed with the countless reasons to cast aside any doubts and simply plunge straight in. Indeed, provided that the splendid fellows at Titan can keep up the excellent work undertaken here throughout this five-part multi-Doctor crossover, there’s every chance they’ll have a sure-fire critical and commercial hit like no other on their hands.