Friday, 30 January 2015

Scarlet Traces

Ian Edgington & D'Israeli
Dark Horse Comics

It was the cover of the first of the two Scarlet Traces books that caught my eye.  A Lovely deep mottled green, the blood splattered title, the small blue planet sat neatly within a square frame and most crucially of all the D'Israeli.  That one name meant I was sold but reading the sentence across the top of the cover, 'A murder mystery sequel to H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds' certainly didn't put me off.

I've been a fan of the artist since way back when he drew the Warren Ellis book 'Lazarus Churchyard'.  I'm a sucker for nice cartoony art which is something that delivers in spades and never more so than here.  The writer, Ian Edgington, is someone I've been reading on and off for years now mostly through his work for 2000ad.  He's not someone whose work I seek out but is someone who I generally enjoy when I do find something.

Scarlet Traces

The story in 'Scarlet Traces' takes place 10 years after the events of the classic H.G. Wells novel, 'War of the Worlds'. The after-effects of this war are obvious throughout the course of the story, as alien technology is evident everywhere you turn.

Scarlet Traces is a steampunk romp set some years after the Martian invasion.  It tells the story of Major Robert Autumn and his batman Colour Sergeant Arthur Currie as they investigate Currie's missing niece in a world where the Martian technology left over from the war has been reverse-engineered to make England the most affluent and powerful country in the world.  Their investigaton leads them inevitably to a corruption within this brave new world worse than they could have imagined.

The world, it's technology and it's denizens are rendered beautifully and the story flows effortlessly to it's conclusion.

The War of the Worlds

In the closing years of the nineteenth century, the genteel tranquillity of Victorian England is shattered by the arrival of an invasion force from the red planet-Mars! Methodical and merciless, the Martians are intent on nothing less than the conquest and subjugation of the human race.
Told from the point of view of an ordinary man caught up in the carnage and chaos, we witness firsthand how the then-greatest empire in the world is brought to its knees by the Martians'cool alien intellect and the implacable heat ray!

Following S.T. the pair went the prequel route and told the story that triggered the whole thing.

I'm not a huge fan of adaptations. I much prefer originals but this one is beautifully rendered - have a look at the sheer size of the martian capsule he's managed to convey in this illustration

- and the text has been translated to the comic medium with a delicate, respectful and expert touch.

Wells' original book was a sparse and tightly plotted novel and the adaptation is the same.  There's a lovely continuity between the books that show just how prepped Edgington and D'Israeli  were before embarking on S.T. and the little hints and references to characters featured in the previous book help to tie everything together.

The Great Game

The front line of the War of the Worlds has been taken to the red planet itself! After almost four decades of conflict, the British invasion of Mars has ground into a bloody stalemate. The nation is cracking at the seams, and liberties are being revoked as Prime Minister Spry struggles to maintain order at home while waging war another world away. What does Spry have up his nasty little sleeve? Robert Autumn, aged gentleman adventurer and hero of Scarlet Traces, is determined to find out!

The final volume returns us to future and Britain and it's colonies are fully committed to and thoroughly embroiled in the invasion of Mars.  

Major Autumn,  now much older and in drastically altered circumstances from how we left him, recruits crusading photo journalist Charlotte Hemming to investigate and expose the truth behind the seemingly endless war and the brutal government regime that maintains it.

The scope of this book is considerably wider than it's predecessor and although maybe a little too fast in the telling, probably due to it's limited page count, it is a glorious end to a very satisfying romp to Mars and back again.

BTW - should you be interested there's also a website dedicated to annotating the references and allusions contained within the series.

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