The third book in Ian Edginton and D’Israeli’s Scarlet Traces, a sequel to H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, is a culmination of the events in the first two books. If you recall, the first book charted the original invasion, while the second showed an exploitative British government taking the war back to Mars. This third book offers something slightly different, as it expands out into the wider solar system, building up a bigger picture of the plethora of alien life that was hinted at in the second book.
Now a generation has passed and the Martians are back with another invasion of Earth. Having developed superior technology that’s resistant to the best attacks that Earth can muster, the balance of power seems to have swung back in the favour of the invaders.
To wrap up even some of the threads that have been unravelled in the previous books is a mammoth undertaking and, as a result, not all of it is done thoroughly. We drop in on a few subtexts (racism, genetics) but not with enough conviction to particularly say much about them.
What’s left of the plot is really more of the same, though without the dropping in of any further new concepts (at least until we hit the mother of all last page cliff-hangers). This is probably for the best – if you’re looking for a The War of the Worlds sequel, you ought to be able to expect a war between worlds. However, I can’t help but feel that as we move further away from the core text, the process seems to be losing the lustre that had my interest piqued in the previous volumes.
D’Israeli’s art certainly helps lift the package, with a brilliant ability to juxtapose the grandiosity of a war in space with the grimy horror of a ground war. There’s detail, pacing and depth of character in every panel, and the colouring is deftly used to convey mood and atmosphere.
It isn’t quite enough to carry the early momentum, though. Is it a lull that precedes a brilliant next act in Volume Four? Keep your fingers crossed, as it would be a shame for this series to fizzle out without a fitting climax.