Dan Dare should be one of the great ongoing comic strips, like Judge Dredd, Tex, Dick Tracy, Dennis the Menace (both versions), and more. But it just hasn’t happened (a whole ‘nother story). So it falls to Titan (after Virgin Comics before them) to do their (super effective) IP management magic and make this work again.
And it does… kind of.
Peter Milligan wrote one of my favourite comics books of all time, Hewligan’s Haircut, and along with Jamie Hewlitt (Tank Girl, Gorillaz) they created a perfect little zany world at 2000 AD. It was a crazed, lopsided brilliance that you’d want it to carry on forever. It didn’t, which was for the best, but Dan Dare? Dan Dare needs to be one of the permanent fixtures of comics. As a property, it should also lend itself well to modern storytelling, too, since they traditionally liked to tell longer stories in the pages of a Dan Dare story. So why do I say “kind of”?
Perhaps it’s the pensive, dull unease that I felt after the (slightly clunky) expository beginning. It’s entirely possible that feeling was the intended result, but even now I don’t feel completely sure about that. It also felt like it was treading water for a long passage in the middle of the book. That said, on the flip side, they are establishing these characters solidly in said middle, so there are silver linings everywhere. Indeed, this development is quite key to finally giving us the answer to the question: “What’s going on, Mekon?”
Obscure breakbeat references aside, “rehab” is what’s going on. Rehabilitation is a nice, progressive ideal not unlike the recent efforts of the Big Two’s chief evil masterminds (to with good effect), Doctor Doom and Lex Luthor. So why shouldn’t the Treen’s creation of an ultimate evil mastermind (predating M.O.D.O.K. by 17 years) be any different? Well, I’m not going to say, because that’s not how I roll. It’s worth the read, but maybe not for that one element.
Utopian ideals, though, do draw me to one of the small failings that I see here. Where are the black characters? Sure, this bouncing baby comic will fill out, but surely a utopian future would have a decently mixed society. On the flipside of that, at least this bolsters that ’50s sci-fi tone even more.
That look, feel, and tone is right on the money, too. The contents of which actually end up as a firmly all-ages book, any kid could wallow in this happily. Perhaps that’s exactly because of the pacing and expository nature. Here’s a book that kids could easily jump in on with little to no idea who or what Dan Dare is.
Since I haven’t read any interviews on this, I can’t comment on its intention, but it’s ideal for the property, if an audience can be found out there. Part of this comes from Alberto Foche and Jordi Escuin Liorach‘s modern comic visuals which still ape those more static older strips. See Dan and his team bursting on to a scene below — it still feels like Dan Dare.
But should they have made that move? There’s bonus content in this book at the back, some initial character sketches from Foche, and I feel like the colouring here is slightly more restrained. I actually like it a lot more; it has a lot less sheen, and as a result feels a bit more modern. Perhaps I’m just dreaming; though I’m happy to discuss it in the comments.
All in all, it’s solid. Solid is a good look with a number one issue. Screw this up, and no one is coming back, and I think that they give us just enough. “Just enough” is is slightly unkind, too, because it’s long by modern standards; 24 story pages, and no wasteful double-page spreads. But that “enough” is an old-school, cliffhanger, an abrupt development (indicating a short arc) that snared me for issue two.
Get Dan Dare; it’s worth the punt, especially if you’re giving it to a kid to read afterwards.
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