Page 45 Review by Stephen
Well, it says vol 2 and we certainly have SCARLET TRACES VOL 1 but I started here, and when you turn over the first four pages you'll want to too. This is exceptional: scathing socio-political satire made sweet by being British speculative fiction through and through.
With more than a nod to Frank Hampson's DAN DARE, D'Israeli has excelled himself. There's an enormous weight to the gravity-defying aircraft, detail galore in the smallest of panels, and the semi-futurist cityscapes come with a vast sense of space and a commanding control of light. You wait until you fly up to Mars!
Coloured to rich, warm perfection, I have rarely seen four more stunning pages kicking off a sci-fi comic, as the tranquillity of a bloody big British loch is shattered by something resembling Thunderbird 3 which catches the lake's surface with one of its three jutting jet-engines, then nose-dives into what cannot be warm waters.
Fortunately there's a rescue party immediately to hand at the shore's edge. *checks definition of rescue mission*
Oh. Unfortunately what looks like it might be a rescue party turns out to be an assassination squad and the craft crew's buoyancy blues are compounded by laser beams shot straight through their space helmets. We're not really talking "injury-to-eye" motif; we're talking brain-matter skull-'splode.
D'Israeli ain't finished, either. The very next page boasts an orgasmic aerial shot of Crystal Palace Aerodrome rising high into the sky above a lean, clean city with space for verdant parkland and the full majesty of the original giant glasshouse still standing. The lines are crisp, the light is lambent and the design of the leviathan coming in to land - vertically like a Harrier - is so exquisite in red and white that the six-year-old still very much alive in me would dearly adore a heavy model metal version to hold aloft and sweep around my playroom while going "Neeeeeeeeyyyyyyaaaaoww!"
Fans of LUTHER ARKWRIGHT or MINISTRY OF SPACE are also going to get a kick out of this alternate history in which Britain has retained the power it lost with its empire and made leaps in technology before its time - in this instance by reverse-engineering the spoils from a thwarted Martian Invasion.
In retaliation Britain has taken the fight to Mars with Field Marshall Montgomery in charge, but after 40 years of futile fighting - with national and international opinion set dead against them - things are growing dirtier. Abyssinian Emperor Haile Selassie, Secretary General of The League Of Nations, comes out with a speech astonishingly similar to Kofi Annan's condemning Israel mid-2007; Canada, New Zealand and Australia are all set to secede from The Commonwealth; and you just know we're in trouble if Sir Oswald bloody Mosley is Home Secretary. So you can kiss freedom of the press good-bye, and you can be equally sure there'll be the thuggish boot boys to beat out insubordination, subversion or subterfuge should anyone get too close to the truth of what's happening on the red planet.
Photojournalist Charlotte Hemming is determined to have a go, in spite of the odds, and after a treacherous journey finds evidence of a civilisation far older than their enemies, the reason that no one is coming home, and Earth's Final Solution to its problem.
It's all very slick, with winks here and there (an ancient mural depicts Doctor Who's Silurians and Sea Devils as the contemporary, dominant species on Earth!), and Edginton fills his news reports with all manner of sly contemporary references before things turn very, very brutal indeed...
"In the East End of London, Scotland Yard's Special Branch and the Metropolitan police raided a house in Sydney Street where Scottish seditionists 'The People's Caledonian Militia' had established a hideout. After a heated gun battle, many of the insurgents took their own lives rather than face capture.
"However, it is suspected that several escaped in the confusion.
"Detective Inspector Craven of Special Branch anticipates their immediate arrest but warns that if you should see any individuals with a Scots or Northern appearance, do not approach them, but dial 999 immediately."
Do it, please, for all our sakes.