I’ve only seen one copy of any Virgin comic in any of the shops in my area, and it was a copy of “Dan Dare” #1. Many comic shops, I assume, forgo the entire Virgin line, assuming that the two or three copies they might sell aren’t worth the risk of the extra inventory. “Virgin’s just going to slam out a trade paperback in a few months, anyway,” thinks the shrewd shop owner, “and then I’m stuck with these twelve “Dock Wallopers.” As much as the kids are hip to Edward Burns, I just don’t think The Brothers McMullen fandom is enough to move a dozen copies of his comic.”
Luckily, my area is filled with such logical minds, because I don’t have to worry about clutter like Garth Ennis and Gary Erskin’s “Dan Dare” taking shelf space away from “Gotham Underground” or “Fin Fang Foom’s Circus Adventure.”
And, honestly, I wasn’t in much of a hurry to read “Dan Dare” anyway, and I ignored that first issue when I saw it. I was just going to maybe, possibly, check out the trade like everyone else
But now that I’ve had a chance to read issue #5, I know that I’ll definitely be picking up the trade, and I also feel like this is a comic I should have been reading since the first issue.
“Dan Dare” is “War Stories’” Garth Ennis, not “The Boys’” Garth Ennis, and that’s not a bad thing at all. The two Ennis’s may coexist in the same body and share the same name tag at Wizard World conventions, but the “War Stories” version of Ennis writes stories of loss and noble failure, of integrity and honor. “The Boys” version writes about poop and sex and combinations thereof. Sometimes, Ennis straps these two selves together and rides them into the desert for a few years on something like “Preacher,” but most of the time, he leans toward the one who’s most crass. “Dan Dare” is Ennis restrained, Ennis the conservative with a story to tell, and while that might sound Ennis-lite, it’s not. Not with “Dan Dare.”
“Dan Dare” is, historically, the icon of conservative values. Originally published in the 1950s in the Christian comics magazine called the Eagle, “Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future” was Robert Baden-Powell’s wet dream of a future: a lushly illustrated vision by Frank Hampson where boys would go on great adventures into space to defend the upstanding British traditions from the corrupting influence of alien forces. I’ve dipped into several of the hardcover reprints of those stories, and they aren’t what you’d classify as “action-packed.” I seem to recall a lot of people in uniforms standing around, talking.
And that’s what Ennis and Erskine give us in this new “Dan Dare”: people in uniforms, standing around, talking. And Erskine’s naturally stiff artwork lends itself perfectly to the task. But what makes the comic goodÃ¢Â€”very goodÃ¢Â€”is not only that the illustrations mesh with the tone of the narrative, but that Ennis allows Dare to appear to be standing around and talking while he’s actually manipulating events of interstellar importance. Dan Dare is not Buck Rogers, and he was not meant to be, and Ennis doesn’t allow himself to fall into that trap. He allows Dare to be heroic with dignityÃ¢Â€”his Dare doesn’t blindly follow orders, but he also doesn’t shoot first and ask questions later. Rather, Ennis’s Dare knows the answers before anyone else figures out a question has been asked. He’s a cerebral, fascinating hero.
I’ve only read this one issue, which I assume is building to the climax of the first story arc, but if this issue represents the quality of this series, it’s something you’ll want to check out.