Is There Life In Mars?
Tripwire gave its Contributing Writer TIM HAYES a fast ship to review Ian Edginton and D’Israeli’s Scarlet Traces Volume One, out from Rebellion
Scarlet Traces Volume One
Writer: Ian Edginton
Rebellion chose wisely for their first purchase of existing creator-owned material, picking up Ian Edginton and D’Israeli’s Martian invasion story Scarlet Traces with the intention of taking the story forward to a new audience 13 years after it first began publication. As part of the grand plan, here’s a collection reprinting in narrative order the pair’s 2006 adaptation of the HG Wells War Of The Worlds novel, retooled just slightly to fit into the Scarlet Traces universe, followed by the original Scarlet Traces series itself from 2003.
Both are a showcase for D’Israeli’s art, every face a moment of peace or panic in a vividly identifiable style, traditional in its framing but radically expressive in the figurework. It’s a very productive friction, beefing up a robust science-fiction air for the Wells adaptation and emphasising the physical impact of Martian war machines, laying waste to pastoral Surrey and ingesting plenty of the population.
The main Scarlet Traces story runs with the steampunk idea that Edwardian Britain took technology from the defeated invaders for its own gain, including a gleaming crystal skyline for London that flaunts the British Empire’s African colonies, no doubt without doing their citizens many favours. Sleek transport planes fly to Scotland with their passengers seated in wing-back armchairs, although the capital has left Caledonia to devolve into poverty and child prostitution, as an old-school Victorian adventurer discovers when he goes looking for one missing child in particular. Following a bunch of ideas to their logical conclusion, Edginton sees all this as good old British colonialism turned sour, along with the timeless temptations of political expediency. “We need a good war,” observes a government man. “Who will give a damn about a few lost girls?”
The sight of upstanding historical figures who do give a damn, before discovering the true nature of the world and suffering the consequences, inevitably echoes the spirit of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s Extraordinary Gentlemen. But Scarlet Traces has a bigger sense of adventure and of the wide universe to be explored; whatever horrors are out there, it’s not as indifferently callous as Moore’s cosmos. The more recent chapters in 2000AD have followed the story’s consequences off-planet, although it’s at its best when grounded like this in the English dirt.
Scarlet Traces Volume One is out from 12 January 2017 published by Rebellion.