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Scarlet Traces (Dark Horse, 2003)


Scarlet Traces.

When you think about it, there is a pretty obvious question to be asked about the aftermath of The War of The Worlds and quite amazing that no one has thought to pose it before. What would Victorian England have become in the aftermath of the Martian attack and what would we have made of all that advanced technology just left lying around? Well wonder no longer, because Writer Ian Edginton and artist D'IsraeliI have gone a long way toward answering this intriguing question in their quite superb graphic novel Scarlet Traces.

Set 10 years after the failed invasion, we find an England transformed by this cosmic windfall, and not in a good way. Edginton and D'Israeli assume that the Martians attacked only England, (which is an idea neither contradicted nor confirmed by the original novel) and hence the country is the sole owner of this sudden technological legacy. In fact, I'd add a little plot twist of my own here; that had events gone like this, it would be fairly certain that England would have found itself under attack from neighbours near and far hoping to pick over her bones. However, in this history, England has survived and prospered. Horse drawn carriages have been replaced with multi legged vehicles and the power of the heat ray has been harnessed to drive a new industrial revolution, but this sudden seismic shift in technology has also driven an economic revolution that has thrown thousands out of work. The north of the country is wracked by unrest and crack government troops are engaged in secret suppression of the protests.

Interior Scarlet Traces.Major Robert Autumn is an old soldier trying to find a place in a world he no longer understands, bereft of purpose in this strange new society. When his servant's brother is arrested breaking into a deserted government building, Autumn welcomes the opportunity to get involved in solving the mystery. What was the purpose of the recruitment agency that seemingly occupied the building and what happened to all the women, including his servants niece, who were lured to London from the deprived north?

The world of post invasion England is cleverly crafted, though ten years seems too short a time to account for the massive scale of the rebuilt London that D'Israeli so vividly brings to life. His background art is however extremely striking and beautifully coloured, with the contrasts sharply defined between the wealth and opulence of the upper class society and the squalor of the slums, though I think the way he draws his characters is likely to be something of an acquired taste. I've not seen enough of D'Israeli's work to say if Scarlet Traces is indicative of his regular style, but on a first reading, I found them a little too posed and lacking in dynamism.

That's a minor quibble though and the more I look through the book the more it does grow on me. Edginton's story is really first class, with great fun dialects and a hell of a cliffhanger ending. In summary, this is a clever and satisfying sequel to the War of The Worlds that deserves to see many more stories unfold, the first of which, The Great Game is to follow in early 2006. I for one can't wait.

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See also in:

Comics

2003
Scarlet Traces

Scarlet Traces: The Great Game. Sequel to Scarlet Traces in which Earth launches an invasion of Mars.

2002
The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. A bold reworking of the story and a masterclass in the power of Comic Book writing from Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill.

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