Thursday, 3 July 2008

Review: Virgin Comics Dan Dare

And So for my first review, my blog's namesake, Garth Ennis' new Dan Dare series.

For any Briton who reads comics, Dan Dare's name should resonate, Its a sad fact that in most cases he probably doesn't, but he should because Dan Dare was Britain's Superman, in fact Ennis says as much in his introduction which shows that he understands the weight of his writing responsibilities on this one (I say this 'one' because Ennis had been working on so many series I've lost count, but more on that later).

I must confess that I myself haven't had that much experience of Dan Dare, connaisseur of all things comic that I am. Apart for a brief tango with the 2000ad era Dan from my Annual collection, and an on off dislike for the CGI tv series, I can honestly say that I've logged in more times with 'Supes' than I have with poor old Dan. Ennis' writing compensates for all this however, and as soon as we meet Dan he is instantly recognisable and easy to connect with, he's the mild mannered heroic Englishman we all secretly wish we were. Dan Dare is Blake, Ace Rimmer, James Bond, Doctor Who and even deep down John Constantine.

So, What of the story then? Dan's settling into his retirement when old enemy The Mekon steps out of the shadows and Dan has to return to action once more. So far, nothing we haven't seen before (Cough *Die Hard 4* Cough *Indiana Jones 4*), but Ennis handles the set up so well that we're left constantly on the edges of our seats, never quite sure under what conditions Dan will return to the action. Ennis spin on Dans world is subtly satirical with post apocalyptic undertones and the type of backlash against the image of 'Harmless old Britain' that was so common in post colonial literature. The exiled Mekon's situation also draws parallels to Osama Bin Laden and 'On the Run' Saddam and the like, and the contemporary design of the 'future' soldiers fighting is a desert environment is a nod current affairs I have admiration for.

And having said that, the stories a great nostalgic action packed romp, with far and away great artwork from Gary Erskine, who seems to nail Dan Dare without the exaggerated grin, but keeping those iconic eyebrows (Just how does he get them like that, I want lightning bolt brows). Considering the collection is only three issues long I extracted a lot of enjoyment from it without feeling as though I've seen it all before (Hello Heros!).

And now onto the criticisms, because no review is complete without small quantities of hate being excreted. Dan Dare seems to be aimed at a broad audience, with Ennis' characteristic language and violence absent but not conspicuously absent, however there is rather a lot of talk and while I appreciate and enjoy the scene setting and construction of the stories background I know I would have hated Issue #1 if I was 14, wanting more action of the kind found in issue #3. Also, despite how much I like the slightly political undertones of the series, some of them fall into being a little bit too overt, the Prime Minister in the story is clearly supposed to be an analogue of Tony Blair and a badly represented one at that, and therefore its criticisms on old Tony's policies are rendered null and void anyway when the plot twist comes along.

The Mekon also seems to have a lot in common with the Daleks in the new series of Doctor Who in the sense that everyone is brown pants scared of even the name being mentioned despite the fact that their plots and schemes were foiled on a weekly basis.

But really I'm just knit picking now, Ennis' Dan Dare was great fun and I'd recommend it to anyone, even the international market, and despite it only being three issues long it is well worth the entry price, and I look forward to the continuation of the plot, Keep rocking Dan.

Best Panel: Dan makes sure you all know your history

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