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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Scarlet Traces: The Great Game. Ian Edginton (Writer), D'Israeli (Artist) Dark Horse Books (2007)

Decades of war are consuming the British Empire made strong by Martian technology. The endless conflict is draining the resources of the Empire and its guiding force, Prime Minister Spry is struggling to retain control. Photo journalist Charlotte Hemming finds herself pulled into the secret struggles to retain order and meets Robert Autumn, a man with an astonishing piece of information and a more astonishing proposal to make. Charlotte Hemming is given the chance to travel to the far off front lines of the conflict to see what is really going on. When she does so she finds a greater and mote dangerous conflict that she could have imagined. The reveals are superbly staged and the plot moves with force and precision as the secret plans of all concerned collide in unexpected ways.
Ian Edginton takes the story of the Martian invasion from H.G. Well's War of the Worlds and pushes it into unexpected and superbly thought out directions. The plot mechanics are deeply satisfying, the stakes are satisfying high and the action smart and sharp. The greatest pleasure of the book is Charlotte Hemming, a woman with the astonishing super power of not being stupid, instead she is inquisitive and capable of thinking and acting in a credible fashion. As a photojournalist in an increasingly oppressive society, she is tough enough to recognise trouble and willing to take a risk for a story. At the same time she is not a professional agent or soldier, she has a strong preference for using her mind rather than a gun and that serves the story really well.
Ian Edgintion delivers a familiar context, a society slowly being crushed under the weight of a war that cannot allow any room for dissent. The reasons for the war are long past any relevance, the story is about the spillover and the slowly emerging fact that there may be a genuine threat beyond the simple facts of a conflict that appears to have no point and no end. Ian Edgintion respects the readers enough to give all of the cast enough intelligence to be convincing and convinced about their actions, the conflict of agendas is substantial not simply brave individuals against a faceless bureaucracy with no interest beyond its own preservation. One of the wonderful aspects of the book is that Ian Edgintion knows how to end a story as adroitly as he starts one.
The art by D'Israeli is an object lesson in how science fiction comics can utilise the limitless budget they have and still anchor a story in crisp relevant detail. The cast move in a natural way through the context, they body language is as eloquent as the dialogue. The technology is never obtrusive, it is clearly different while part and parcel of the ordinary working and living lives of the cast. The colouring is fantastic, it supports and extends the mood of the story, subtle where needed and vibrant at just the right times. Brilliant science fiction from confident and hugely talented creators.

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