16 February 2009

Good Comics Not Many People Read: Scarlet Traces (Dark Horse, 2003)

What happened after the events in H.G. Wells's The War of the Worlds? The Martians have been defeated, Britain is victorious. So then what happened? That is the premise of Scarlet Traces, a comic book sequel to Wells' seminal work.

10 years have passed after the doomed Martian invasion and England has prospered, thanks to the alien technology that the British have exploited. Spoils of war and all that. But not all is well. While England has advanced with an industrial revolution powered by Martian knowledge, Scotland has been under martial law with government troops disptached there to quell any resistance by any means necessary. The other worldly technology has meant that one machine can do the work of a hundred men and that has resulted in unemployment and massive resentment amongst the people.

In the middle of all this, our protagonist Major Robert Autumn is thrown into a mystery when his valet's brother (a Scots) has been arrested in London for trespassing in an abandoned government building. He claims to be looking for his daughter who came down to London answering a job advertisement and was never seen or heard from again. And she wasn't the only one. It seems many young women from the impoverished North have answered the same advertisement and travelled down to London only to suffer the same fate. Major Autumn, feeling left out in a world moving too fast into the future for his taste, eagerly takes up the challenge to solve this mystery and I'm not spoiling anything when I say it won't end well for some people.

I was a bit sceptical at first when I found out that this book was a sequel to a classic novel. These kind of sequels never turn out to be good, never mind the fact this version was done in a sequential art form. It's still a sequel not written by the original author. I was afraid it was going to end up like that
Gone With the Wind sequel that no one talks about nowadays. I'm glad I was wrong.

The mystery moves along at a brisk pace and since the Martian invasion plays a major part of the story, you know those pesky aliens are involved in this somehow. Ian Edginton has pulled off a miracle by writing a sequel to a classic novel that did not suck. D'israeli's art is beautiful eye candy especially when it comes to the futuristic cityscape of Victorian London. It did make me stop and wonder whether they could have achieve all this within 10 years of accidentally defeating the Martians. Mastering a new piece of technology is one thing, mastering an alien technology within 10 years during the Victorian-era is incredible. Then I realise it's just a comic book, so screw logic!

Scarlet Traces is one of those books that flew under a lot of comic book aficionado's radar when it came out 6 years ago but if you like to read a darn good story, this book should be right up your alley.

1 comment:

Maxo said...

I sorta remember when this came out, but I never heard much about it. I think I'm going to have to check this one out now!