Cutaway Comics: ‘OMEGA’ reviewed

If you’ve any interest in Doctor Who’s extensive comics history, ‘Omega’ is an essential purchase.

Cutaway Comics’ second Who related comic is a very different proposition to Lytton’s mixture of ‘70s grit and parallel worlds. Where Lytton firmly embraces the vision of Eric Saward, Omega is a loving tribute to Bob Baker and Dave Martin’s ambitious and distinctive brand of science-fantasy. And in a move to gladden the heart of fans of the ‘80s and early ‘90s DWM strips, it marks the first sustained return to Doctor Who for one of the finest artists to grace the pages of the Magazine: John Ridgway. I swear the craggy features of Voyager still haunt my dreams…

Omega #1 (of 4) (Cover A – Martin Geraghty)

First-time comics writer Mark Griffiths’ script is pleasingly inventive from the off. Rather than taking the obvious route of showing Omega in his prime, in the days before he became trapped in his black hole prison, Griffiths’ swerves into another element of Time Lord mythology: the after-effects of the bungled interference with the evolution of the Minyans established in Underworld. The story opens with a recap of Minyan history, making good use of Ridgway’s expertise in crafting striking, mythic images, before opening in the direct aftermath of the Minyans’ rejection of their former Time Lord gods.

Oxirgi, who appears to be the planet’s new ruler, has somehow made contact with Omega and is looking to spread fear and dissension in a bid to provide Omega with enough power to win his freedom. It’s a striking way to make the idea of Omega relevant again: instead of being rooted in the 1970s world of power cuts, he becomes a mythic equivalent of a disaster capitalist, exploiting chaos and uncertainty for his own ends but never having to get his hands dirty. And of course, for all Oxirgi professes to represent a break with history he’s instead perpetuating the Time Lord interference in his planet’s development.

It’s a lovely twist on Omega’s status as the Time Lord equivalent of Satan. Opposing Oxirgi and Omega is Princess Malika, the last of the former royal family of Minyos. As you’d perhaps expect from a new republic, Malika is unpopular to the point where she has few allies to trust: how do you save a planet when you can’t trust anyone? Malika’s nature provides episode one’s smartest twist, before the second issue sees her assemble a small but desperate band of allies to attempt to thwart Oxirgi’s plans. The nature of these allies allows Ridgway to have the kind of fun he had when Frobisher was in his prime.

Griffiths’ script is almost custom-designed to stretch and test Ridgway: the story demands an artist comfortable with fantasy, science-fiction, fight scenes, imagistic cuts and big spaceship battles inside just these first two issues. Ridgway’s mastery of shading, allied to Andrew Orton’s moody colour palettes, remains a detailed treat for the eye and would be worth your attention even were it not allied to such a strong story.

Pleasingly for a company founded on the love for the back-up strips of Doctor Who Weekly, there’s the bonus of that tradition being resumed: The Demons of Eden is one of the tangential stories set in the kind of shop-worn, lived-in worlds the likes of Star Wars, Alien and 2000AD made fashionable around the time of DWM’s early days. The first instalments add warrior nuns and an apex predator called the Sarzok to the drug addiction angle: Despite barely a glimpse of a Mandrel, Martin Geraghty’s dynamic art allied to Ian Winterton’s action-packed script provides a pleasing contrast to the slower burn of the main feature.

And if that’s not enough, the issues come with Cutaway’s customary value-packed extras: not only do the accompanying discs provide informative commentaries on the strips themselves, there are also commentaries on Underworld (with Louise Jameson and Bob Baker) and Philip Hinchcliffe and Roger Murray-Leach for The Deadly Assassin, as well as interviews with Jameson and Baker from Manchester convention appearances. There’s also a teaser for their forthcoming Paradise Towers: Paradise Found series, which promises to be very different kind of story again. If you’ve any interest in Doctor Who’s extensive comics history, Omega an essential purchase.

Buy and pre-order OMEGA and other titles from Cutaway Comics here: Cutaway Comics: @cutawayuniverse on Twitter, @cutawaycomics on Instagram. Visit the Cutaway Comics website.

❉ A regular contributor to We Are Cult, Jon Arnold is the author of three volumes of the Black Archive series and co-editor of Me and the Starman, (now available by Cult Ink on Amazon)

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