Garth Ennis & Gary Erskine
Review by Seth
I was inspired at the end of last year. Rebellion were launching the first of their 2000ad “Dan Dare” collections. In case you missed it, these are the strips from the early progs’. Initially drawn by Belardinelli, and then by Dave Gibbons, scripted by Mill,s Tom Tully and Gerry Finley Day.
“I’ll go into the attic, fish out that Virgin “Dan Dare” run by Ennis and Erskine” and a write a review, that’ll be topical and apposite”
Then Christmas and life happened. Not quite so topical now, but hey, here it is anyway.
Dare and Digby are in retirement. Dare lives living on a secluded asteroid hologrammed up to look like the idyllic green and pleasant land of his childhood. His relationship with Jocelyn Peabody failed, she moved into politics and has a position in the (Tory?) cabinet. Following a cataclysmic confrontation between China and the USA, the UK has become the predominant power on the planet. Space Fleet has disbanded, but the Royal Navy rules the Space ways. Dare and co’ have become legends and figureheads for the next generation.
It’s been years since the last sighting of the Mekon – long thought a spent threat. However, at the fringes of the solar system a treen fleet heads toward Earth. The Mekon is returning to carry out his ultimate revenge on his greatest enemy. Square jawed Dan finds himself battling the Mekon and the poison that has infected the the British establishment.
Don’t you just love him?
This 7 parter follows similar themes to Grant Morrison & Rian Hughes’s classic “Dare” strip from “Revolver” : Dare comes out of retirement, a man from a more honorable and “innocent” time struggling with the modern world and dealing with a corrupt government and the bureaucracy that surrounds it. It’s also a typical Ennis comic, all his favourite subjects are here, the military, the corrupt, weak willed cowardly cur of a politician who is prepared to sell out his country, stirring courage, tales of self sacrifice, extreme violence, the plucky rookie and the dogmatic and shallow establishment figures.
As much as I sound a smidge cynical, I think this is fab’ – is a it a Dan Dare tale? Yes, if passed through a “War Stories” filter. More militaristic than straight science fiction although Ennis can do sci fi as he proved in “Caliban” for Avatar. Certainly more hard edged that Frank Hampson’s strips. I can’t speak for the ’80’s “Eagle” version as its been a loooooooooooong time since I read those. Ennis seems to have an interest in classic British comic characters. Like here His work on “Battler Britton” for Wildstorm and his current run on reviving “Johnny Red” for Titan pay respect to the characters and are definitely worth picking up.
I like Erskine and his equipment aliens and technology always look authentic. But occasionally his figures can be ungainly and his art isn’t as sleek as previous Dare artists. His Dare is not as handsome (Hampson?) as he ought to be, and the facial expressions aren’t as clear as they ought to be. Bottom line is that Erskine can tell a story and he carries this well.
As much as I love this, I know it’s a smidge predictable. It has a typical Ennis plot and it goes a bit “Black Hole” but he does this kind of thing so well I’m more than happy to read it, again (and again). Hampson’s Dare was always grounded in real science (or at least sort of). This is grittier, more cynical, but Dan brings back some optimism to the modern world, he’s the epitomy of honour and dignity.
The series was to continue with scripts by Pete Milligan – whether this would have been “Face” Milligan or “First Casualities” Milligan we will now never now. But Virgin Comics were in trouble, the ongoing series became a 7 issue mini, and another “Dan Dare” revival failed to reach orbit (sorry).
My issues come with covers by Garry Leach (another “Dan Dare” artistic should’ve been), Ian Gibson, Bryan Talbot and Glenn Fabry.
Worth picking up if you can find the back issues or a trade