The sequel to Scarlet Traces (our review here) takes place in the Britain of the 1930s, with the invasion of Mars by the British Empire going badly.
We follow the Lady Charlotte, a photographer and reporter for The Interceptor, the last remaining liberal newspaper. With an insurgency in Scotland getting worse and branching into suicide attacks, Oswald Mosely as home secretary and the Commonwealth trying to withdraw its troops from Mars, Lotte manages to sneak onto the frontlines only to discover that she is stuck with the rearguard — and there is no rescue coming for them.
Much like the first series, this continues on the same themes, with a worryingly despotic British Empire, conspiracy and technology going out of control.
Unlike the first, this series is much more upbeat about the empire. While plenty of problems remain — which the heroes fall foul of frequently — Britain is at least trying to do the right thing here.
The updating of the Martian-derived technology is great stuff for dieselpunks and particularly dieselpunks who care for Dan Dare-esque space opera with more than a dash of politics.
Much like the first, this is a four-issue series and a real nail-biter. The writing and artwork are by Ian Edginton and D’Israeli again, who provide snappy dialogue, a good story and clean art.
Once more an interesting tale buzzes along at a snappy rate and everything is explained perfectly. (Just why did the British government shoot those returning British soldiers? You’ll have to read it now, won’t you!)
If anything, there are even more cultural references in this than the first series, from Dan Dare to Quatermass to EastEnders. It is a much bigger story this time, what with the Solar System hanging in the balance, but the comic stays true to its roots, even bringing back a surprise pair of characters from the first series in a very welcome return. All in all, a jolly good series by two masters of their craft.
This story first appeared in Gatehouse Gazette #4 (January 2009), p. 4, with the headline “To the Stars! Scarlet Traces: The Great Game”.