Good Book Readin'!

Here is were I will be reviewing a variety of comic books in my own inimitable style. Which hopefully is good.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Scarlet Traces

In addition to their more high-profile books like Conan and Hellboy and whatnot, Dark Horse is putting out a lot of top-notch material no one seems to be talking about. Like, for instance, Ian Edginton and D'Israeli's whole new look at War of the Worlds. Originally begun in 1993 for a young, headstrong Internet, Scarlet Traces eventually became a hardcover graphic novel some ten years later. To follow it up, the two creators decided to first adapt War of the Worlds itself, and then move on to a 4-issue miniseries picking up from their original sequel. And because I just confused myself while writing that sentence, I'm going to discuss all three segments in chronological order.

I read War of the Worlds at a tender age, went on to listen to it in audiocassette form, am a big fan of both film versions, and was even a regular viewer of the semi-lousy television program. That said, I think this graphic novel may be my favourite form of the story. As my age is no longer tender, it has been some time since I've read the book, so I certainly can't analyze the accuracy of the adaptation to any great extent, but I do greatly appreciate is the use of the original setting. The modern day settings of the movies worked, but there's something very effective about seeing science-laden alien beasties lay waste to our own past. Which, I know, obviously wasn't H.G. Wells' original intent, but that's why I like it anyhow. Plus, it's the very reason why the sequels go on to be so interesting. So let's take advantage of this little segue way to talk about them now.

The Scarlet Traces hardcover original graphic novel picks up roughly ten years after the Martians' attempted invasion, placing us in a very different England. The Martian technology has been adapted for every day use, and the British Empire pretty much has the run of things worldwide. Sounds great, but of course there's a seamy underbelly to things. When a couple of semi-retired military officers investigate the disappearances of several young ladies they uncover a belly of seaminess they were simply unprepared for. I will warn you now, the ending is not especially conclusive, but that's not so big a worry thanks to the follow-up miniseries.

Scarlet Traces: The Great Game leaps ahead just a little farther, following yet another protagonist. Lady Charlotte Hemming is a bitter, disillusioned reporter chock full of righteous indignation, and she's off on her biggest and most dangerous assignment yet: covering Britain's invasion of Mars. There's still one issue left to go in the series, but it's been amazing so far, with a revelation in issue #3 that really stirs up some silt. If the previous book is anything to go by (and I'd wager it is), the final issue promises to be quite something.

Ian Edginton's giving us a harsh potential look at the world H.G. Wells left off with, combining a looming 1984 and V for Vendetta-esque governmental terror with classically fantastical science fiction ideas and imagery. Still, it's D'Israeli's art that really steals the show and then sells it right back to you. Although fairly cartoony, his work is incredibly expressive, and never goofy. The Martians are almost viciously grotesque, and the humans are all very distinct and rife with emotions. To top it off, his colouring is some of the finest in the business today, richly textured with a palette that's nothing short of beautiful. Together, these two gentlemen are providing us with a modern yet classic science fiction adventure that's both fun and horrifying, and which hopefully will continue well past the current miniseries.