A little slow off the mark as it’s been on the stands for a few months now, Luke takes a butchers at the latest Dan Dare revival. Will it go the way of the last few?
Dan Dare : He Who Dares 1-4
By Peter Milligan, Alberto Foche, Jordi Escuin Liorach
and Simon Bowland
Review by Luke Williams
I’m always up for a bit of space faring with Colonel Dare. I have a run of the original Eagle Annuals (1-11) inherited from my Dad and my uncle. 2000AD’s revival bore little resemblance to the character I had been introduced to and I only briefly read his adventures in the Eagle revival of the 80s. Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes’s anti Thatcher diatribe of the 90s published in the late lamented Revolver is a favourite; and of course there was Garth Ennis’s more militaristic but faithful interpretation published by the short lived Virgin Comics.
Peter Milligan is known for sparkling dialogue, clever wordplay, unexpected plot twists and strong character development. But he is an unexpected choice of writer for a property that needs to remain faithful to the original strip, yet appeal to modern comic readers.
As part of Space Fleet, Dare and his allies have repelled the Mekon’s attempts to enslave the human race, his final attempt ending in ignoble failure. Imprisoned on the Moon, the Mekon appears rehabilitated, taking to gardening with a relish.
Peace reigns in the solar system, but Dare is at a loose end. What do you do when your greatest enemy retires from megalomania on a galactic scale?
He needn’t have worried. A mysterious ship suspected to be of Treen origin enters the solar system, heading for earth, destroying Neptune’s moon Triton as it passes the planet. Dare visits the Mekon, but he is disinterested in the UFO and would rather tend to his cabbages. Dare takes his chances and enlists the apparently indifferent super treen’s help in decoding the encrypted signals coming from the ship. Pursuing the mysterious ship on its flight through our solar system is a vengeful alien named Au Tween out to destroy all treens. In the face of certain death, and the destruction of his home world, Dare comes alive.
Milligan uses the strip to make some thinly veiled comments about the state of our political system and the influence that social media has on society. Milligan used to be known for his sharp scripts, witness the first half of “Shade, The Changing Man”, “Sooner Or Later”, “Enigma” etc. But here his ear for dialogue fails him, extra cheese with a side order of chunky exposition.
Ennis and Morrison played up what Dare meant to them in their interpretation of the character. A stiff upper lipped moralistic man of the establishment. Both runs demonstrated the affection, or at least respect, that the writers had for the strip whilst still remaining faithful to the character. I’m not convinced that Milligan has the same attachment. Lately, his work has been quite hit and miss, for every “Britannia” we get a “Bad Company”. This doesn’t plumb the same depths as that latter poor excuse of a revival, but he has done better.
Foche is a good choice for art. Stylish, but in keeping with the tone of past incarnations of the strip. Nicely redesigned uniforms and spaceships, clear, bright art, which is akin to damning with faint praise. Titan missed a trick here, Chris Weston is probably the best modern artist for Dan Dare that has never drawn him in a strip (see “Ministry of Space” by him and Warren Ellis for what could be). But Foche brings a European flavour which is welcome.
Issue 4 ends with a cliff hanger. As much as I feel a little let down by this, I’ll be around for book 2, in the hope that they sort out the little niggles. This passes the time, but is hardly essential.