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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Scarlet Traces. Ian Edginton (Writer), D'Israeli (Art). Dark Horse Comics ( 2003)

A brilliant follow on from H.G.Wells, "War of the World's" showing the impact of the Martian invasion of Earth on a massively invigorated British Empire. The invaders from Mars were defeated by microbes, their technology has transformed the world, in particular the British Empire which has used it ruthlessly to establish its global dominance. When a relative of his man servant, Archie Currie, goes missing Robert Autumn starts to investigate the case. Autumn used to work for the secret service of the British government until he was effectively made redundant by the new technology. He takes on the case as a chance to be doing something, and quickly finds that there are very unpleasant forces at work just below the polite surface of the Empire. The plot unwinds in expected and unexpected ways as the full legacy of the invasion is revealed for the winners and the losers.
Ian Edginton has taken a stunning leap forward from the original story as the implications of the technology used to travel across space an invade Earth is taken over and used by the survivors of the invasion. Being able to make a gigantic leap forward on the back of Martian technology would give those in control of it a fantastically dominant position. If that group was already a rapidly industralising and stratified society, they they would be quick to grasp the technology and equally quick to retain the stratification. Ian Edginton does very nicely with this aspect of the story, how the impact of the technology is used to entrench existing social structures even further as the gap between those who benefit from technology and those excluded by it grows ever wider. He does even better with the very nasty secret at the heart of the story, it rings true to the possibilities arsing from the original context mixed carefully and skillfully with a bleaker modern sensibility. Matching a meaty plot with a clever way to bring readers into the story context Ian Edginton never betrays the original while delivering a sharp update.
The art by D'Israeli is stunning. Science fiction relies strongly on a clearly realised physical context that establishes the shape of the unknown world. The seamless mixing of Edwardian England with alien technology so that they look natural is an impressive task, adding a cast that move within that context with weight and force is  jaw dropping. D'Israeli has delivered the feel of a James Bond film, with huge sets and global plots driven by shadowy figures and opposed by lone agents and cast it in a new way. Instead of being an unholy mess, an interesting mess all the same, it all logically coheres with the story and acts to deliver it with an unexpected heartbeat.
That is the most surprising and engaging aspect to the story, the way that the human element, the motives of the cast, from the most personal to the most grandiose all spring from credible characters and never feels forced. This gives the story a powerful emotional context that frames the action and gives it a real grip on the reader. A great comic from astounding talented creators.

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