Nowadays, it seems spin-offs from successful properties are a real commodity, and franchises truly live up to their names. Look at the dozen-or-so new Star Wars TV and film projects recently unveiled by Disney, for example. Similarly, the Star Trek saga seems in particularly rude health, with a number of TV series already airing, and more in development.
With the drive to develop new material comes a need to push the envelope and explore new territory, such as in the case of Discovery and Picard both taking the opportunity presented by not being shown on regular network television, and firing out ‘F-bombs’ like Photon Torpedoes. Veering things off into more adult territory does not come without controversy, and so it had proved to be the case with Torchwood, the spin-off from Doctor Who which made its debut in 2006.
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For some fans, it was hard to reconcile that a show with such concepts as an alien sex gas cloud that lives on the energy of orgasms could somehow co-exist comfortably with a family programme which had brought us a robot dog, and a creature that was made out of oversize Liquorice Allsorts, amongst so much other child-friendly whimsy. However, Torchwood did manage to carve out a niche of its own, and even crossed over with its parent series on one occasion.
It clearly demonstrated that there was a market out there for stories with a darker, more mature subject matter, but which still occurred within the confines of the fictional universe in which Doctor Who took place. This just so happens to be the shadier, more morally ambiguous and violent world in which Lytton happens to reside. In this miniseries by new publisher Cutaway Comics, we see the seedy world of mid-1970s Soho gangland turf wars collide with science fiction.
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Having found the sanctum of his territory, the Jazz Soirée, to have been breached by a violent attack, Lytton sets his sights firmly on tracking down the perpetrator, the mysterious Mr. Longbody. Following the trail to Longbody takes Lytton and his associate Wilson down a path which sees them entering a different reality to their own, in the process coming across a mysterious object – and an equally mysterious woman – in a disused and abandoned Tube station.
Writer Eric Saward once again demonstrates the dangerous life Lytton leads, thanks to the circles in which he moves, by showing us the bloody and lethal consequences of messing with the wrong people. He manages to mix all the trappings of a perfectly decent gangster tale with SF elements, adding an extra level of intrigue and depth to the story, and creating something of an unfolding and developing mystery element at the same time, giving lots of extra texture.
The whole atmosphere is helped greatly by Barry Renshaw’s art, which has a roughness and grittiness perfectly matching the tone set by Saward’s script. His choice of a colour palette to distinguish each location works beautifully here, from the rather opulent and lavish gold and green of the Art Deco Jazz Soirée, to the sodium-soaked pall of the Soho streets. Using techniques like a concave distortion in one frame, replicating the mirrors found within Tube station passages, keep things visually interesting.
As with the first issue, buying directly from Cutaway Comics gets you a nice little disc of bonus features, including a video commentary by Saward and Renshaw, with lots of insights into the creative process; it also points out Easter eggs in the artwork which would be of interest to fans of Quantum Leap and Millennium. The disc also has audio commentaries for Saward’s Doctor Who tale ‘Attack Of The Cybermen’, which featured Maurice Colbourne as Lytton; and the second part of Gangsters, which also starred Colbourne, and was written by the late Philip Martin, who was luckily able to participate here before sadly passing away last month.
Absolutely not just for Doctor Who fans, but anybody with a love of British comics and solid storytelling, Lytton should be a surefire addition to your subscriptions.
Lytton #2 is available now from Cutaway Comics.