Steampunk murder mystery 

Book Review

Sean Hanson
Book Review Sean Hanson Scarlet Traces By Ian Edginton; illustrated by D’Israeli Dark Horse Comics; $14.95 Written by Ian Edginton (Kingdom of the Wicked), illustrated by D’Israeli (Kingdom of the Wicked, Lazarus Churchyard) and published by Dark Horse Comics, Scarlet Traces is a steampunk murder mystery comic set 10 years after the Martian invasion. All seems well in the post War of the Worlds universe, circa 1898. Industrialization of the technology left behind by a failed Martian invasion force (which was killed off by microbes, ironically enough), has left Britain with superior technological standing and an empire that covers close to two-thirds of the world’s available landmasses. Everything seems relatively uneventful until the bodies of young women are found in the Thames, drained of life’s essence. When Maj. Robert Autumn (retired) and his former Sgt. Maj. Archie Currie look into the disappearance of Currie’s niece, they stumble onto a world that is not what it seems. The factories that were once filled with underpaid wage-workers are now fully automated. So, while the Haves can enjoy mechanical carriages and superior lodging, the Have Nots are stuck in an economic corner from which there is no way to maneuver out. And there are much more rotten things at the core of this new British Empire. Edginton’s writing is sharp with an ear for dialogue. Every character, whether Cockney, High English, or Scots, feels real and keeps a hold of you during the course of events. D’Israeli, for his part, renders beautiful, and occasionally heart-wrenching, depictions of the world according to the fiction. Tech-enhanced, Greek-influenced architecture, hand-held heat rays, arachnid-style attack vehicles and torture facilities all make perfect sense under his guiding hand. The hardcover edition contains a section on preplanning, sketch art and unused panels with commentary written by D’Israeli. The spiritual sequel of Scarlet Traces (Scarlet Traces: The Great Game) is coming out this May as a miniseries, set 40 years after the events of this original.

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