December 1, 2022

Gabbing Geek

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Bento Review: Dan Dare

The classic English sci-fi hero returns to face his greatest enemy.

Dan Dare is a classic sci-fi adventure hero from England.  My first thoughts on seeing the guy was he was an English Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon type.

That was more accurate than I realized.

Writer Garth Ennis says in his introduction to his own Dynamite series that Dan is an incredibly idealistic character, not the sort he usually writes himself.   But the thing Ennis emphasizes is that Dan is essentially an English hero.  One of the best issues Ennis wrote of the Hitman series had the title character encounter Superman.  Ennis normally doesn’t care much for American superheroes, and his work when he does do some job-for-hire task or comment on the genre in some way certainly demonstrates that, but it turned out Ennis did have a great love for the idea of Superman.  He respected Superman as a character and wrote him as such.

The same is basically true for Dan Dare.  This was a very respectful work towards Dan Dare and his universe.  It would have been easy to write Dan as a cynic forced out of retirement with the customary Ennis swearing and creative violence.  While this series isn’t in any way filled with simplistic moralizing, it does allow Dan Dare to be his idealistic self, and he does that in an English form different from more American heroes that might be more familiar to readers like me.  What does that mean for Dan Dare?  Well, he doesn’t brag, doesn’t moralize, and essentially inspires people to self-sacrifice for the greater good while leading by example.  He’s polite, humble, smart, honest, and loves his country.  He holds people to high standards, but most people in his vicinity aspire to meet those standards themselves.  The biggest human villain is a treacherous and cowardly prime minister, and when given the opportunity, Dan mostly tells the man he’s not very bright and possibly insane to think his plans will work out.  He does so without raising his voice or even heaping huge amounts of verbal scorn on the man that he almost certainly feels.  It’s the stiff upper lip at work.

As for the story itself, well, it’s actually not that special.  Dan Dare is asked to come out of retirement when his oldest arch-foe, the Mekon, returns after a long absence.  The Mekon is the dictatorial leader of the Treens, a race originally from the planet Venus.  While not every Treen follows their long-lost leader, the massive army that does does so through fanatical devotion but no personal initiative.  They have an ultimate weapon, and the Earth has its own problems in that the United States and China are both more or less out of the picture after a nuclear war, but England is still there to be the world power again.  It just needs Dan Dare to maybe save the day.  What flair comes from Ennis, who does know how to plot a war story and is clearly a fan of Dan Dare.   I’ll even give special note that Ennis did the backstory info-drop on the Mekon in issue/chapter three, insisting on set-up and not bogging new readers down with what came before.  Artist Gary Erskine does a functional job, but his work seems a little stiff in places.  As a space opera, it was by-the-numbers, but this book could act as a good introduction to the character of Dan Dare for new readers like myself, which would be worth something.  Eight out of ten calm refusals to panic.

NEXT BOOK:  Well, time to read something else I’m not very knowledgeable on.  We have a Dark Horse trade of a series based on the video game Halo.  Hopefully this goes over for me better than the last time Comic Bento gave me a Dark Horse video game adaptation.

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