Posted by: Graeme McMillan on December 2, 2007
I’m not sure whether it’s a sign of my age, or the quality of the comics he’s appeared in, that I can remember at least three different attempts to reboot Dan Dare that I’ve read (Plus an additional TV series that I missed, thankfully) before this week’s DAN DARE #1. Of all of those – including Garth Ennis’s latest one – I still think that Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes’ Dare: The Future is the best one, mainly because it works as something other than nostalgia for a character and era long past. Or, perhaps, because it works as commentary on nostalgia for a character and era long past (as well as Thatcher’s Britain, which is in itself a character and era long past. That, definitely, is a sign of my age).
It’s the nostalgia that drags down the newest version of the character for me. Part of it is intentional, of course – Dare’s recreation of a safe fantasy version of England that’s stuck in the era in which he first appeared is, after all, shown to be unreal towards the end of the issue – but there’s this whole additional level of, I don’t know, belief in some ideal of masculinity and heroism that the book is built on that just feels not only old-fashioned but outdated. The idea of Dan’s stoic, silent self surviving the moral decay that lesser mortals (including his former sidekicks) have fallen prey to, leaving him as the one character who can save the day not from the aliens but from everything, feels not only like something from another time, but from nostalgia for another school of storytelling whatsoever; the John Wayne archetype that drove other Ennis books like Preacher. And, for all his genre faults, Dan Dare was never a Western, leaving this new version as something that’s potentially interesting, if miscast and more hollow than it could be.
(Artwise, since I rarely mention that, I should point out that Gary Erskine’s work is solid but unspectacular – His line, at this point, has become so similar to Chris Weston’s, even as his draughtsmanship isn’t as static nor as realized – but there’s something missing in the way the book looks. It feels familiar in the wrong way, as if we’ve seen it all before, but elsewhere, as opposed to coming back home to something from childhood.)
It’s an Okay attempt at bringing the character back, even as it misses out entirely what made him an interesting character to begin with.