Writer: Robbie Morrison
Artist : Daniel Indro
Colourist: Slamet Mujiono
Lettering: Richard Starkings + Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Editor: Andrew James
Assistant Editors: Gabriela Houston + Jessica Burton
Designer: Rob Farmer
Released: December 23rd 2015, Titan Comics
Note: Some major spoilers are brought up in the course of this review.
"A generous offer, Time Lord: surrender the TARDIS and your death shall be quick, merciful. Resist, and you shall burn forever in the fires of Hyperios."
A bleak proposition from the Hyperion known as Zraa-Korr.
The final plans of the ruthless, truly despotic fire beings are coming closer to fruition, despite the efforts of the Doctor, his friends, and his various allies headed by UNIT. Warlord Dra-Khan is confident that he can counter any resistance, including some technology beyond the scope of planet Earth in this century. Thanks to the betrayal of self-serving politician Grove, the Doctor may now be a Hyperion prisoner, and so unable to offer his customary heroics. The Earth, its Sun and wider planetary systems are all at stake as the Hyperion Fusion Web nears final completion. Can the TARDIS possibly play a role though in preventing all-out catastrophe?
This latest epic for the team of Clara and the Doctor has done well to make the most of its four-issue story-telling space. Thanks to some good build up - in the very first story of Year 1 - there was always plenty of room for the already established Hyperions to be made out as an all-consuming threat, and thus deserving of a Doctor who is very much on-song with his intellect and application of centuries' experience.
Amongst all the rushing around, and name checking with UNIT, there has also been a fine exploration of the central relationship between the savvy Coal Hill school teacher and her grey-haired genius friend. Much of Series 9's goes onto see a warm relationship, and that was partly done to make Clara's exit that much more affecting. But 'The Hyperion Empire' can be regarded as a spiritual sequel to Death In Heaven, and one that could be of a significant collection of non-televised stories set between the first and second Capaldi TV seasons.
The Doctor is certainly still full of vanity and self-importance, but does have that element of winking and revealing a tender side, especially when he and Clara finally reflect on the sum of their efforts. A gun toting and militaristic Clara is perhaps a reminder of the odd characterisation of Nightmare In Silver but when not engaged in the frenetic action directly, is quite well portrayed by scribe Robbie Morrison. I enjoyed especially her slap to the head, when the Doctor claims to only have 'shared' when he actually has stolen a vital weapon from the "Elementals of Vortice City". Another fine moment comes when her unpredictable partner in crime unashamedly explains how he can break a promise and yet technically still be honest, by stating that crossing 'one' of his hearts is not the same as crossing 'both' of them.
There was also a certain amount of set-up over the course of this Four-Parter that never quite pays off, which arguably came at the whim of the creative team. Sam was a character that perhaps did not make much new ground, but still had enough to him to be likeable and relatable, and would have offered a point of reference for forthcoming stories set on contemporary Earth. But Morrison chooses to both deny him a potential future role, and fizzles out any fleeting hope of a romantic link with Clara, into the bargain.
But a redemption of sorts is achieved for Colonel Weir, and it brings back memories of the somewhat disturbing fate of Astrid Peth in the 2007 Christmas TV special. Despite her family relatives having featured in a handful of panels, and being a case more of 'telling' rather than 'showing', it is still praiseworthy that the story ends with a final coda that is elegantly bittersweet.
The artwork has again reverted back to Daniel Indro, and perhaps due to the locations and character actions featured, there is less of the heavily gritty and jagged style and somewhat more of the expansive and 'big sci-fi concepts' visuals instead. To have a story with the art changing twice over the space of three issues is curious, but since Issue 15 is one of the best Twelfth Doctor comics in some time, I am inclined to accept this inconsistency.
No humour strip is included, but some alternative covers feature.
The second of these below is courtesy of Neil Slorance, who has previously done many humour strips. The first and third are by Will Brooks and Simon Myers respectively.
Also, a black-and-white preview of the art of Rachael Stott for Year 2 Issue 1 is on show. On the evidence of this single page, it is most welcome to have more work from her, following the excellence that closed the Ninth Doctor Miniseries recently.