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Scarlet Traces: The Great Game Hardcover – June 19, 2007
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From School Library Journal
Grade 10 Up—In this continuation of the series that imagines life in Britain after War of the Worlds, photographer Charlotte Hemmings is given an assignment to check out the Martian war zone by tabloid editor Bernard shortly before he is brutally murdered. Aging adventurer Robert Autumn makes sure she gets to complete the assignment. Flashbacks fill in the story of how historical Britain got the advanced technology depicted as well as the current political intrigue. Charlotte has a grand adventure, but also uncovers some secrets about the Martian war that the government would prefer stay covered. The story is drawn in full-color adventure-comic style, and the dichotomies between 1940s London and the technological advances of the Martian world are well done. This graphic novel could extend appreciation of War of the Worlds, but it also stands on its own.—Jamie Watson, Harford County Public Library, MD
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Edginton and D'Israeli's Scarlet Traces (2003), a sequel to H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, depicted an early-twentieth-century British Empire transformed by Martian technology after the invaders' demise. When legions of citizens unaccountably vanished, retired but continually adventurous Major Robert Autumn traced their disappearance to a surviving, sequestered Martian nourished by human blood. Now a less nimble Autumn enlists famed news photographer Charlotte Hemming to investigate a more insidious mystery involving a new war humanity has taken directly to the red planet. After witnessing firsthand the brutal genocide of both humans and Martians, apparently at the hands of British forces, Hemming uncovers an astonishing secret about the Martians' true identity and becomes embroiled in a final interplanetary battle that threatens Earth's very existence. Complete with automobiles sporting insectile appendages instead of wheels, Edginton and D'Israeli's steampunk vision of Victorian England is a colorful assemblage of crisp and imaginative details. Both comics and sf devotees ought to tune in. Hays, Carl
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[However, in a post-literate, XBox- and Playstation- dominated landscape, I suspect that some of the little nudges and sly pop culture references that appear in `Game' may draw blank looks from readers under 40.]
As a sequel to `Scarlet Traces', `Game' deals with the British-led war against the Martians on the latter's home turf. After ace news reporter Charlotte Hemmings (who seems to be based on the pioneering reporter Marguerite Higgins) looks a bit too closely at the political machinations behind the conduct of the war, she finds her life in danger. Aged adventurer Robert Autumn, from `Scarlet Traces', intervenes to save her, and arranges for Charlotte to journey to the battlefield. Once on Mars she discovers that there are bigger stories at play than just the combat with the Martians.
The Victorian-meets-alien aesthetic that defined the artwork of `Scarlet Traces' is thoroughly updated in `Game', which isn't shy about paying homage to the great `Dan Dare' British SF comics of the 50s and 60s.
Anyone who prefers their rocket ships to be needle-nosed, with great sweeping fins and colorful livery, will find satisfaction in `Game'. Both land and space battles are rendered with verve and color by D'Israeli, whose style calls to mind the cleanly delineated draftsmanship of European artists (such as Herge') of the mid-20th century. This may be a reflection of the book's initial incarnation as a web comic; however, it's gratifying to see yet another SF title that doesn't rely on the figurative art style so in vogue in so many horror or fantasy titles on the shelves.
While the first volume is a guided tour of this alternate Britain, the Great Game picks up years later and follows photojournalist Charlotte Hemmings as she journeys to the Martian front, where English soldiers are the invaders. Again, as in the first book, not all is as it seems, and the march of progress steps to the cadence of conspiracy and deceit.
Despite the return of aged adventurer Robert Autumn from the first volume, this book doesn't have the same appeal. The story moves a bit too fast to maintain any real suspense, which drains the life out of the big reveal at the end of the book. A number of story elements have also recently appeared in other contemporary graphic novels; this book could just as easily have been a sequel to Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume Two, or Ministry of Space, by Warren Ellis.
It is still leaps and bounds ahead of most graphic novels on the shelf, and gets four stars. The art is beautiful and will appeal to Dan Dare fans. Though the pacing is rushed, the Great Game is fun science fiction and worth reading (at least once), Also, the thin hardback binding is alluring, and fits wonderfully next to Scarlet Traces and the War of the Worlds graphic novel adaptation by the same team.