Friday, October 1, 2010

Dan Dare: Collector’s Edition HC Review

UK Week continues here at The Weekly Crisis, and I decided to check out a paperback of an old and popular British hero: Dan Dare. Created by Frank Hampson in the aftermath of World War II, Dan Dare is a space faring action hero, much in the same vein of Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon.

Throughout the years, he’s appeared in many different books, and even in other media like radio shows. The version that I checked out is a recent series, written by Garth Ennis and Gary Erskine, which was published by Virgin Comics a couple of years ago. Hit the jump to see my review of it.

Dan Dare Collector’s Edition HC

Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Gary Erskine
Collects Dan Dare #1-3

The story takes place seemingly years after the original 1950’s strips, and Dan Dare has retired from his space faring to lead a quite life in a small British town with his two dogs. Or so it seems. As it turns out, Dan Dare is really living in a small cabin in an asteroid, with all his old trophies, and the town around it is just a computer simulation. The implication is that Dan Dare would not enjoy modern life as it is now, and he has retreated to live the rest of his life in solitude.

Ennis portrays Dan Dare as a man that is disillusioned with the current state of things, whether it’s the state of his former Space Fleet, international relations, or the Prime Minister. Ennis is probably known for writing cynical and violent characters, from Punisher to Hitman, and the cast of The Boys, but it’s not the style he uses for this. Dan Dare sees himself as a man out of time, and instead of trying to change things, he just goes back to what he loved, even if it’s mostly a fake construct. He is nostalgic about the past, but he remains a true British gentlemen even if he doesn’t agree with the way things have turned out.

His retirement is interrupted, however, when the Prime Minister comes to visit him, and request his help to fight an old enemy that has popped back again: The Mekon. Who’s The Mekon? Former leader of the Treens (an alien race from Venus), he is Dan Dare’s former arch nemesis. Even though Dan strongly dislikes the current Prime Minister, he still agrees to fight to protect the homeland. Like I said, a true gentleman, putting the protection of people above his personal opinions.

Throughout this, we also check on some of Dan Dare’s former friends, who have gone in different directions with their lives. For example, Jocelyn who is an old flame of Dan’s, is now working with the Prime Minister. I figure this might be a nice treat to older fans, but since I haven’t read any of the original tales, it wasn’t as effective with me. Meanwhile, The Mekon has started attacking the Space Fleet, and Dan Dare must jump right into action. Along the way, we meet Lieutenant Christian, one of the few survivors of the initial attack, who is quite star struck to meet the legendary Dan Dare, and she plays a larger role later in the story.

What follows is him leading a squadron to fight back against The Mekon, only to be sidetracked in a rescue mission to save some civilians in a planet Dare and his crew crossed on their way to the rendezvous point. Ennis does a great job in portraying Dare as an idealistic and thoroughly good person without coming across as preachy or insufferable. There’s a really good scene where two officers from the squad Dan’s leading say that they should leave, because their talents might be needed elsewhere in the war, not rescuing civilians in some backwater world. Dan allows them to leave, but only if they leave their uniforms and armor behind. You see, a British officer would not put himself above regular people, so they are not fit to wear the uniform anymore.

Dare and the people he has rescued must face these beasts called Torr and they are about to be overrun, meanwhile Jocelyn has discovered a nasty truth about the Prime Minister: it seems that he is being controlled by The Mekon! Everything is about to come to a climax when... the book ends.

Wait, what?

Yes, you read that right. This book ends in a “To Be Continued”, which is fairly unusual for a collection. I’m not talking about teasers, or hints at upcoming story lines, this thing ends right in the middle of the arc. Dan Dare literally sees a huge threat coming in the horizon, but we never actually see what it is. You can imagine my frustration, so I went to check online, and it turns out that even though this collects the first three issues, this mini series was seven issues long. What’s even more ridiculous is that there is no way to just get issues 4 through 7 alone. There’s a collection that has all seven issues, but that would mean paying twice for the same material.

It really is a shame, because I was enjoying Ennis’ take on Dan Dare, and Gary Erksine’s art was pretty good as well. You can tell he was having fun drawing sci-fi tropes such as interstellar ships and space monsters, all while still maintaining that retro touch. There’s some uneven faces, but overall, it was a pretty solid looking book. The larger page size also helps out a whole lot, as the space visuals look astonishing at this size. Also, I’m guessing that the weird eyebrow style that Dan Dare sports must be a visual throwback to the older series.

Verdict - Avoid It. The rating is not for the content, which I was enjoying, but rather for the incredibly stupid decision to not collect this series in an logical way. I feel like I was suckered into buying this, the only satisfaction being that at least I didn’t pay much for it, only four pounds. If you want to check out this series, you are better off buying the Dan Dare Omnibus that collects all of the issues.

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Flip The Page said...

I feel for you Matt. you paid £2 more than my LCS is selling it for and they can't even shift it for that. you have suffered for your hobby.

Matt Duarte said...

Life wouldn't be the same without these little experiments!

That being said, I was pissed when I saw in Amazon that people are selling it new for two dollars. I wish I had known before hand.

Jikorijo said...

I like space opera and I'd love to read the original Dan Dare. When I do, maybe I'll read this in the future.

Anonymous said...

You do know that almost every popular comicbooks were British ?

Anonymous said...

had british writers I mean

Matt Duarte said...

Yes, I am aware of that, but I wanted to check out a truly British book, with a British hero, written for the British market, etc.

enrique said...

are there many famous american writers?

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