Tony Fyler beats the heart of a classic invasion story.
The Hyperion Empire, as a story, is a second outing for a successful villain, expanding their capabilities and psychology through the medium of an invasion of the Earth. In essence, it’s the Dalek Invasion of Earth, only with living, walking paranoid suns, driven mad by the physical process of supernova in themselves.
It’s come quite some way since the original Hyperions hit the International Space Station and surged towards Earth. We’ve learned about the Scorched – animated ash-zombies of the people originally incinerated (a truly classy, creepy notion from writer Robbie Morrison), been behind a literal firewall to see the enslavement of the human race to the Hyperion designs, and introduced to a female ‘angel’ of the Hyperions, looking sleeker and more inherently humanoid than the rest of the Hyperions tend to do – and also potentially more dangerous; they’re effectively used as sheepdogs to hunt and instil discipline in the subdued human population.
Part 3 is the point in the story where the Doctor gets to insult people, offend people, and face off with a leader of the Hyperions, trading histories, getting threatened and confounding the assumptions of the baddies. It’s that point in a storyline that can feel largely like filler, and there’s a degree to which Morrison falls into that trap here – much of the information that’s exchanged we already know, and there’s not quite enough uniqueness in the ranting of the Hyperion here to distinguish them from Everyvillain, in for instance the way that villains like the Fractures did in earlier Twelfth Doctor comics, which leaves readers with the slightly uncomfortable sense of the servants of Hyperion (the Scorched) being more interesting and more scary than the Hyperion themselves – imagine tuning in to the Dalek Invasion of Earth and being more interested in the Robomen.
That said, there’s some effective character development in this issue – Clara’s fireman friend, Sam comes to the fore, saving the Doctor and Clara from a ‘fusion angel’ in a typically firefighter way, but even more than that, the angel herself becomes a focus for our sympathy, much more than a source of fear. That’s the real point of Part 3 – it gives the invasion of the Hyperions two voices – the voice of the aggressor, with whom the Doctor trades histories, insults, threats and all the usual episode-filling non-banter banter, and more importantly the voice of the victim, the personalisation of the threat the Hyperions – who, let’s recall from the last issue, are aiming to put the sun in a cage and essentially suck it dry and cold to keep their own fires burning without going into supernova. That’s a big plan, and in itself it can work in terms of ‘It’s the end of the world as we know it!’ headlines. But here, the victim allows us to go into the human side of the invasion – the families left without mothers, fathers, sons or daughters, whether they’ve been incinerated, enslaved, or had something else entirely done to them to transform them into vassals of the Hyperion. The point is, it’s entirely possible that if the Dalek Invasion of Earth were to be rewritten in New Who, there’d be a sequence that went this way, humanising the Robomen to make the invasion matter on an entirely personal level. Yes, yes, the tin-pot bastards from Skaro are digging a big hole in Bedfordshire, but look – this is what they’ve turned human beings into. If you think that’s a flippant idea, rewatch The Rise of the Cybermen and The Age of Steel, and particularly the scenes with Cyber-Sally and Cyber-Jackie. In recent years, the Cybermen have been shown as having a tenuous power over the emotions of human beings, leading to the famous Gareth Roberts line ‘I blew them up with love’ – the continuing focus on the human beneath the shell of the monster. That’s certainly the territory we’re in in Part 3 of The Hyperion Empire, and while the aggressive voice of the Hyperions is less effective than might be wished, the voice of the victim works very well here to crack the seal of the great big invasion plotline and get to the beating heart of a people enslaved.
Every great invasion story also needs a weasel, and this story’s chief weasel, the Minister for Public Hygiene, was introduced in the previous issue, but here we see him bargain for his life with the Scorched using information about the Doctor, leading to the assumption that there will be a good dose of turnabout in the next, concluding part of this story.
At the end of this issue, the slave of the Hyperion becomes a special secret weapon against their plans, so it’s likely that Part 4 will feature a plan, a betrayal by the weaselly Minister, probably the noble self-sacrifice of the slave, and the Doctor doing something clever with a bunch of alien tech to save the sun from going phut in a most embarrassing manner.
If the story takes a pause here to delve into the human cost of the invasion, the artwork by Ronilson Friere and the colourwork by Slamet Mujiono maintains the comic-book reality of the world we’re dealing with. Less precisely delineated and sharp than some other comic-books in the range, the sketchier style still renders the world believably, and delivers solidly recognisable characters. It’s particularly apt given the imprecise visual nature of most of the threats – the Hyperions are living suns, the Scorched are ash-zombies – neither lend themselves to the idea of precisely accurate artwork, but Ronilson and Mujiono give the world both a grimness and a sense of impermanence that fits with Morrison’s post-apocalyptic storyline.
Is The Twelfth Doctor #14 a must-buy comic-book then? Well, we’d like to say no – there’s nothing that’ll punch you in the face and make you beg Titan Comics to take your money in this one. But it does contain the fundamental heart of the story, the reason you’ll care about the Hyperion invasion. You probably can read the story without that beating heart – but ultimately, for the price of a single issue, why would you? This one will deepen your enjoyment of the story as a whole, it will enrich the experience and raise the stakes for you. So go on – don’t miss out on the feels; get Part 3 of The Hyperion Empire today.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk