‘Lytton’ Issue #1, Down These Mean Streets a Man Must Go

❉ Eric Saward’s comics debut brings the SF noir of Blade Runner to the seedy badlands of 1970s Soho…

Steven Moffat once remarked of the toll Doctor Who takes on writers: that on a weekly basis it burns through ideas that could sustain feature films. The upside of this is that the show is fertile ground for spin-offs: not only the likes of K9 & Company, The Sarah Jane Adventures, Torchwood on television but the Brigadier, the Daleks, Cybermen and even non-TV companions and concepts such as Charlie Pollard, Bernice Summerfield and Faction Paradox have sustained their own spin-offs in other media.

What the more successful spin-offs have demonstrated is that the trick is to remind the audience what they loved about the character while carving out a distinct niche for them, to tell stories that wouldn’t really be of a piece with Doctor Who. With that in mind Lytton, the mercenary seen on television in Resurrection of the Daleks and Attack of the Cybermen, is an ideal choice to launch the Cutaway Comics imprint. Eric Saward’s version of Doctor Who was a distinctive version of the series, which, particularly in Saward’s own stories, dragged the Doctor into grim worlds where moral compromise was the best option. It’s a distinctive take mired in the culture of the brutal anti-heroes of the late ’70s and early ’80s, and it’s also one which transfers surprisingly well to a modern comic.

That tone should be clear from the issue’s title, borrowed from Raymond Chandler’s famous line about the anti-heroes he wrote so well. Saward might initially seem to be simply using Chandler’s sensibility, but it ends up as closer to the SF noir of Blade Runner if it had been realized in London rather than Los Angeles. That it establishes this world so vividly is a huge credit to Baz Renshaw, who brings L Saigon, the seedy neon badlands of 1970s Soho or the more fantastic locations this issue to vivid life. Renshaw’s painted colours give each location a distinctive feel, with the locations all feeling beautifully lit.

A  landscape panel of Soho a particular highlight, capturing the glamour and decay of shows such as The Sweeney and Gangsters, and is key to establishing the tone of the story. He also captures Maurice Colbourne’s cool but intimidating presence perfectly, an immovable object who seemingly wouldn’t be ruffled by Armageddon descending directly on his head. It’s worth picking up Lytton for the artwork alone.

Like all good first issues though, this doesn’t just set up the world it establishes multiple mysteries: of Lytton’s henchman Wilson, what happened to him between the prologue and main story and why the mysterious Shend is seemingly willing to offer any price for him. And just how and why is Lytton running a jazz club? It all creates an intriguing cocktail which plays to Saward’s strengths as a writer and reminds us what was so interesting about his work in the first place.  From this issue, you wouldn’t know that this is his first attempt writing for comics, with all the easy pitfalls of the first-time writer in a medium deftly avoided. This is a strong start from Cutaway, and promises much for their future ventures. These mean streets are worth venturing into.

You can order Lytton #1 directly from Cutaway Comics at www.cutawaycomics.co.uk – 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’. 

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