British sci-fi hero Dan Dare returned to comics a few months ago with this series from Titan. Does this issue keep up the momentum of those first two issues? Read on to find out, and watch out for spoilers!
Written by Peter Milligan
Illustrated by Alberto Foche
Colored by Jordi Escuin Llorach
Lettered by Simon Bowland
The classic British hero returns for brand-new adventures, written by Peter Milligan with art by Alberto Fouche! Featuring cover by superstar artist Christian Ward (ODY-C, Black Bolt)! For the first time in human history, the Sol system is at peace and Dan Dare, pilot of the future, is bored out of his mind – and praying for something to break the monotony of peace. When an unknown alien vessel of biblical proportions arrives in the solar system and obliterates a moon of Saturn in a show of strength, Dare finds himself thrust back into a new adventure that threatens not just Earth – but all life in the entire universe!
Having had zero familiarity with British sci-fi hero Dan Dare, the first issue of this book surprised me with its unexpected use of comedy and inversion of sci-fi tropes. Now that we’re in issue three, the game has slightly changed. Things have become much more in line with standard sci-fi. But, beyond the surface plot and art, “Dan Dare” retains its refined creativity to set it apart from other sci-fi.
From the art, one would assume that “Dan Dare” was just like any other sci-fi book. This isn’t a knock on the art team so much as a sign that they do well in that area. Foche’s character designs are great, giving each character a distinct look within his realistic round style. They can be fully expressive from face down to body language, though never in an overly-exaggerated way, things stay firmly in the realm of realistic sci-fi. The spaceship designs look varied, though they too rarely escape sci-fi expectations. As mentioned, it’s all solid work that fits the genre, even if there’s nothing to make specific note of. The one exception is the page where Foche tries to visualize Milligan’s concept of a spaceship’s fourth-dimensional interior and makes it look like a lesser version of an Escher piece. Foche does his best when he sticks to the conventional.
Following on Foche’s illustrations, the Llorach’s coloring and Bowland’s lettering tend to follow standard sci-fi conventions as well. The spaceships are mostly bluish-gray, the alien characters are blue and green with orange and purple outfits, and everything looks well lit. The fonts also stick to conventions, using one font throughout and only occasionally using italics to separate certain forms of text, like thoughts, from others, like dialogue.
Milligan’s plot, too, seems fairly conventional on the surface: Dare’s team must board an alien spacecraft and take it down from the inside. His pacing does give everything a madcap forward-moving momentum, where one thing leads to another and on and on until everything has been resolved. The team boards the craft; they shoot some aliens; they find the computers; they release a plague; they return home, sick; they cure their sickness. There is a certain level of clarity in the way one thing leads to another, and this allows Milligan to go a bit wilder with the pacing. Beyond that, though, most of the execution also follows the standards for this sort of story. The crew gets found out just as you expect them to, the raid goes exactly as most of these sorts of raids go, and on and on.
But, and this is what sets “Dan Dare” apart for me, Milligan spices up his conventional plots with ridiculously unconventional details. Once aboard the ship, the crew has to gradually adjust their brains to the fourth-dimensional space they’re existing in, something only briefly mentioned and lightly dealt with. They manipulate a computer virus to turn it into a literal plague, something that would be a deus ex machina if it didn’t fit so well with the script. And never forget the reformed villain Mekon, whose help always has unintended consequences that make us question how reformed he is without ever providing a concrete answer. When done within such a straightforward story that has such straightforward visuals, these small details stand out and help change the impression of the entire comic. I love that Milligan never feels like he has to abandon his favorite writing devices in order to write a licensed character, and, both as a fan of Milligan’s writing elsewhere and as someone otherwise unfamiliar with the Dan Dare character, that makes this work much more fun to read.Continued below
I definitely enjoy reading “Dan Dare.” This issue was the perfect encapsulation of everything I like about the book, as well as the reasons I think it will never attain any especially notable praise. It’s a standard sci-fi hero story, from art to plot to most of the execution, yet Milligan always throws some of his trademark madness into the proceedings. I tend to stay away from genre-conforming sci-fi like this, but these creators give “Dan Dare” just enough of its own personality to keep me reading.
Final Verdict: 7.3 – A solid read for fans of the genre, the character, or the creators, “Dan Dare” shines the brightest in its small creative details.