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Scarlet Traces: The Great Game

Perhaps surprisingly (or perhaps not), I've never really liked HG Wells. I read The Time Machine and War of the Worlds when I was round eleven and thirteen, and found them dry, boring, and rather lacking in any kind of entertainment value. Perhaps I was just too young.

But I do have a special spot for works that have come out of Wells, and in particular War of the Worlds. The Welles radio play is one example, and so is Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, volume two, in which the martian invaders subjected to British germ warfare. Spielberg's film, like all Spielberg films, was a sack of sugar that someone tried to drown me in, and I hated it. Yeah, yeah, I know, keep the Spielberg hate wrapped up. What can I say? It slips out. Sure, the tripods were cool, but... well. Cool tripods don't mean shit. Anyhow, one of the other things to come out of Wells' book that I've enjoyed has been the Scarlet Traces series by Ian Edginton and D'Israeli. The first one put a Britain some ten years after the original alien attack, and now vastly altered by the captured technology, and with a mystery within it. It was a good little mystery with a nice twist of an end. I recommend it. When I heard that both Edginton and D'Israeli had signed on for a second series, taking place as the British invaded Mars, I was all there.

Called The Great Game, this slim collection is, for the first half, much like the first series: a personal little mystery contained within the larger war. Edginton has even gone a step further to layer his story with references to today's political climate with Australian and Scottish terrorists taking it to the Commonwealth Empire. The comic begins with the return of his heroine, Charlotte Hemming, a photojournalist, to London just in time for a terrorist attack and, through her connections with a Left Wing paper, ends up in disguise and on her way to Mars, to uncover the truth about a war that the public does not know the truth about. A mouthful of truth there. Anyhow, unfortunately, once she gets to Mars, the whole thing goes rather pear shaped, both plot wise for Hemming, and narrative wise, for the reader, as the second half of the collection is reduced to a quick tour through Martian history, and their evil plans to rule the universe, or some kinda thing like that. To do this, Edginton's script has had to do away with any of the personal conflicts that existed, and the pleasure that did exist in the first half is lost, sadly--especially when the end arrives with all the dramatic tension of a potato being handed to you. That potato is not warm, either.

However, it's not all a loss, since even in this second half, D'Israeli provides some really fine visuals and set pieces. Yet, still, compared to the first collection, it's really not something that gets a recommendation, which is a bit of a shame.