Saturday, May 31, 2014

Scarlet Traces

This is 2000AD related as it appeared in the Megazine, and it's by two of Tharg's finest droids, Ian Edginton and Matt 'D'Israeli' Brooker. The front cover of the edition I have describes it as a murder-mystery sequel to H.G.Wells' War of the Worlds and it is a rather splendid bit of sinister steampunk.

Set about ten years after the events described in the original novel the British Empire has harnessed all the technology left behind by the Martian invaders and used it to ensure that Britain remains a world superpower with flying machines and advanced weaponry. Major Robert Autumn and his redoubtable butler Archibald Currie are two retired soldiers who investigate the case of a number of young women who have gone missing, but of course they are going to discover much more than that.

The original idea and the execution by Edginton is nearly flawless. Not all of his 2000AD projects meet with universal approval but his writing here is superb. The clever integration of Martian technology into everyday British life is extremely good, and the murder mystery is also very well done. Meanwhile fan favourite D'Israeli delivers lovely coloured art which is full of vibrant details. If you enjoyed his recent work on Ordinary then take a look at this.

The steampunk world that they create is just great fun, so much so that it deserved and got a sequel called The Great Game which advances the story into the 20th century and adds a new twist. Both books are also filled with lots of clever references and nods to various other classic science fictions ranging from Quatermass to Thunderbirds. Some might find these in-jokes intrusive or tiresome, others will just love that kind of thing. I am so much in the latter camp that I went so far as to compile a website listing all of these references which you can find here.

The only downside to Scarlet Traces is that the original book is now out of print but second hand copies are reasonably easy to get hold of. The sequel The Great Game is still available, as is the pair's comic book adaptation of Wells' novel itself.

If you like a bit of the old steampunk delivered with D'Israeli's lovely art then track this down. Recommended.

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