23 February 2009

Good Comics Not Many People Read: Scarlet Traces: The Great Game (Dark Horse, 2007)

Last week I reviewed a very good but little known graphic novel called Scalet Traces which was a sequel to H.G. Wells' classic invaders-from-Mars novel, The War of the Worlds. Then Ian Edginton and D'Israeli wrote a second sequel, Scarlet Traces: The Great Game.

I call it a sequel but like Scarlet Traces, The Great Game can also be read as a self contained book by itself without any knowledge of the prior graphic novel (or even the source novel that inspired it). At the end of Scarlet Traces, the truth about the missing girls is revealed and the last page shows the British government launching an invasion fleet on Mars and you could have stopped at that cliffhanger and you would have read a very good, albeit depressing, story.

The Great Game takes the reader about 40 years after the events from the first book. British troops are still on Mars and still fighting. The news is always rosy: Our boys are vanquishing the Martians, brave Commonwealth troops captures vital Martian stronghold, yada yada yada. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Britain is gradually turning fascistic with tight controls over the press and freedom of speech. All in the name of security, you understnd. They even locked up Eric Blair (George Orwell's real name). Yes, I thought that was a nice nod to 1984 as well.

But like the first book, there is also something far more sinister going on that isn't very clear at first. By the end of the story the reader may not be so quick to condemn the politicians. Without spoiling anything, suffice it to say that the Martians were not totally defeated in H.G. Wells' book. That was just an advance force. The rest of them are still on Mars. They have learned their lesson and came up with Plan B on how to colonise Earth. Unfortunately, no one on Earth knows about it because the politicians are keeping that under wraps. Why? Well, that would be telling. Go read the book and find out.

The Great Game has the same nice excellent quality that made Scarlet Traces such a pleasure to read. The plot moves along nicely and the artwork is amazing. It also has a lot more in-jokes within its pages, though you would only notice it if you were a fan of British comics and shows like Dan Dare, Dr. Who and Thunderbirds.

If you like to read about old-school adventure stories in space, you can't go wrong with Scarlet Traces: The Great Game. Make sure you read Scarlet Traces as well. Edginton and D'Israeli also adapted Wells' prose novel into a graphic novel but I never read that one so I can't comment on it. Oh, just get all three and have a rollicking good time. Makes a change from reading Batman. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

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