❉ The spirit of Philip Martin’s Gangsters haunts these middle issues of Lytton’s story, writes Jon Arnold.
“As we go from Lytton’s Soho to a strange disused Underground station via an interdimensional portal… it’s notable that throughout these strange events, Lytton remains calm and ahead of the game: he clearly knows what’s going on in other universes.
Given we’ve already met an arms dealer with a dimensionally transcendental warehouse in the first issue, Lytton’s multidimensional underworld has been skillfully sketched in already and looks to be a potentially fertile source of future stories. “
As these middle issues of Lytton develop the mixture of 70s grit and science-fiction promised in the first instalment (Reviewed HERE), it’s abundantly clear that Cutaway weren’t content to simply ask Eric Saward to expand on what we know of Lytton. Instead, they’ve produced something deeper and more affectionate, a tribute not only to the character of Lytton but the man who brought him to life. It’s not just there in the way the image of Lytton dominates the vast majority of panels here, it’s in the back matter and extras – a profile of Colbourne, an interview with the late Philip Martin about Gangsters, the series which made Colbourne’s name, and further commentaries and interviews about that series from Martin. There’s an extra poignancy now listening to Martin talk about a show he clearly (and rightly) remained deeply proud of to the last: he and Colbourne turned what started as a typical late 70s thriller into something verging on avant garde in a prime-time slot.
The spirit of Gangsters also haunts these middle issues of Lytton’s story: we’re a long way from Birmingham but the series starts to deliver on the more outlandish elements of the first issue. The second issue is all about travel and transition: we go from Lytton’s Soho to a strange disused Underground station via an interdimensional portal infested by a pleasingly strange louse-like creature. Along the way we meet some policeman who aren’t policeman – perhaps a nod to Lytton’s situation in Resurrection of the Daleks is forthcoming, and an explanation of just who these policemen were. It’s notable that throughout these strange events, Lytton remains calm and ahead of the game: he clearly knows what’s going on in other universes.
Given we’ve already met an arms dealer with a dimensionally transcendental warehouse in the first issue, Lytton’s multidimensional underworld has been skillfully sketched in already and looks to be a potentially fertile source of future stories. We’re also introduced to the mysterious Artemis Brown, a young woman with a PHD in astrophysics and a Masters in applied mathematics lost in the disused Aldwych West station thanks to getting off at the wrong stop. Whether she’s too good to be true, particularly given what’s revealed about the nature of the station, remains to be seen. The story that unfolds only deepens the mysteries of the psychopathic Mr Longbody of the first issue and Lytton’s fascination with EVE.
Issue three makes it clear that the nature of the story is a descent: where much of the action in the second episode took place Underground, the third part goes even deeper, ending in a catacomb filled with robots: Lytton and his friends here are creatures of both metaphorical and actual underworlds. Issue three’s stunning final image only reinforces that, seeming to presage a final instalment of darkness and death. It’s a culmination of some exceptional art from Barry Renshaw: his art throughout the series nails the calm, controlled presence Colbourne brought to both Kline and Lytton, and brings out the nature of the characters through their body language. His secret weapon though is the mastery of colours he brings to each environment: from Soho to the Underground to an interdimensional vortex, a catacomb and even a Waitrose car park, each place is given depth and character by the way his washes of colour reflect the lighting – indeed the changes of light reflect the story’s fluid moves between genres – noir to SF to horror.
These issues may not provide answers to any of the questions posed in the story’s first episode, and only really add to them, but they leave the story nicely poised. It’s almost a shame that Lytton is only a limited series with the feeling that we’ve only scratched the surface of the worlds created by Saward and Renshaw – perhaps, given the comic’s success, we’ll see more of it in future. In the meantime, the tantalizing glimpses we have promise much for the final issue in the series: as with all the best stories I’m both salivating to see how things turn out and regretful that the story will be over so soon. And that’s perhaps the finest tribute Colbourne and Martin could wish for.
❉ You can order ‘Lytton’ directly from Cutaway Comics at www.cutawaycomics.co.uk while stocks last – each issue ordered directly from the Cutaway Comics webstore will include an exclusive bonus DVD. Follow @cutawayuniverse on Twitter to see exclusive sneak peeks and news about upcoming titles.
❉ A regular contributor to We Are Cult, Jon Arnold is the author of three volumes of the Black Archive series including ‘The Black Archive #1: Rose’.