Spin-offs can be tricky things. Sometimes, their success will hinge upon a certain level of foreknowledge stemming out of the source material from which they spring, making it tricky for casual audiences to fully engage. The very best examples are those which are inclusive of people coming to something anew, as well as enriching the experience for members of the existing fanbase.
Cuataway Comics are doing a phenomenal job of expanding upon the wider world of Doctor Who, delivering adventures which are not only offering something of worth and merit to the fans, but are also able to stand up in their own right, and be accessible to anyone without the necessity of being up to speed when it comes to the programme’s 57 years’ worth of backstory and continuity. Comic readers can pick Cutaway’s titles up and be able to enjoy them fully, while aficionados of the series are also being well served.
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Two issues in, and you would hardly believe that Omega was Mark Griffiths’ first time writing a comic book, as his work on it so far feels so accomplished; however, a huge advantage of his having worked chiefly in other media is that he brings an outsider’s perspective to things, and uses all his storytelling techniques to great advantage here, offering something far broader and deeper than you might otherwise expect. Here, Griffiths brings us a mythical tale of gods and monsters, set against the backdrop of Doctor Who.
Omega gives us a study of a civilisation in decline, following the deleterious impact of an outside influence trying to give help, but ultimately causing more harm than good. Elements of the tale here feel as though they harken back somewhat to Erich von Däniken‘s writings such as Chariots Of The Gods?, or 2001: A Space Odyssey; it is therefore quite the refreshing surprise to learn that Griffiths’ main influence was actually a painting by the artist John Charles Dollman, which beat 2001 to the punch by several decades.
We also get to see something going beyond the usual trope of the harm that can be caused by religious fanaticism, as in most cases it tends to be presented as a case of psychosis or delusion; here, however, we know the ‘god’ in question is real and exists, so this is far more than just a case of blind faith. Douglas Adams once said that where deities are concerned, proof denies faith; in Omega, the proof only strengthens the resolve and devotion of Omega’s most faithful adherent, the politician Oxirgi.
In using comics veteran John Ridgway, Cutaway has selected exactly the right person to give Omega the epic scale which is needed here, with Ridgway also managing at one point to depict the kinetic action of a fight without any cartoon-style sound effect captions to accompany it. In fact, this proves to be the perfect counterpoint to Cutaway’s other current title, Lytton, where its writer Eric Saward uses sound to heighten the tension; by letting the visuals do all of the work instead, Omega offers up a very different and distinctive atmosphere in comparison.
Those visuals are helped further by colourist Andrew Orton’s work in giving Ridgway’s art an outstandingly rich palette; on the first page alone, there is the burning vista of a sunset on display, and the silhouettes of buildings on the city’s skyline twinkling with a myriad of bright lights. The vivid neon pinks and purples of a dive bar are just gorgeous, and the vast and intractable reaches of deep space have seldom looked quite so beautiful as they do here. Griffiths, Ridgway and Orton all work in perfect harmony as a single unit.
Making up the other part of a glorious twofer in this issue is the second instalment of Ian Winterton’s tale ‘The Demons Of Eden’, which is a very different beast altogether, but no less enjoyable for it. Winterton manages to evoke The Most Dangerous Game, along with some elements of Aliens and Predator, and hints of Nunsploitation to boot. This backup strip is an awful lot of fun, and evokes a very different feel to the main feature, acting as an ideal palate cleanser, as well as a bold contrast of tone and style.
As with all of Cutaway’s previous releases, anyone who buys Omega #2 direct from them gets a bonus disc full of superb extras, which include a newly-recorded commentary for the Doctor Who story ‘The Deadly Assassin’ with producer Philip Hinchcliffe and designer Roger Murray-Leach. Griffiths et al. continue to put the ‘OMG’ firmly into Omega, and long may it continue.
Omega #2 is out now from Cutaway Comics.