It’s an absurdly good issue, starting with Dan Dare having a showdown with the little shitheels currently calling themselves British officers. He and companion Digby are on a desert planet, trying to evacuate the civilians before they and the garrison have to shoot it out with literal monsters, and some officers are whining about their tours being over soon.
Ace start from writer Garth Ennis. The issue is a mix of talking heads and action, with some history lessons in between. As Dan and Digby walk the remaining colonists (including some of the Venusian Treen aliens) through the desert in hopes of a more defendable position, Dan gives the Dan Dare: The Original Series recap in a page or two. There aren’t any scenes, just a pin-up and great writing from Ennis, who gets to a sad and sweet finish with the scene touching on Dan’s failed romance with previous companion Jocelyn.
The action unexpectedly goes to Jocelyn back on Earth. Her boss, the Prime Minister, has sold out humanity to the enemy, only she doesn’t know it. She does find out, however, there’s something extraordinary going on, and she’s going to figure it out. Her scenes are entirely talking heads; giving an assignment, getting a report, making decisions, but it’s all incredibly tense because the reader knows she’s on the right track and she’s got to save the world–excellent, efficient plotting from Ennis. The series is so far along at this point; despite literally being a handful of conversations and an interrupted space voyage, I thought we were on issue four, not three.
Ennis toggles the tone again when the sci-fi military action starts. Dan gets the soldiers into an infantry square to protect the civilians, and even though they’re doing better than they thought, they don’t have an infinite ammo cheat code.
The cliffhanger’s nice and dry, nice and British—the first time I read Dan Dare, I’d never read any 2000 AD; now I have an Ennis and Gary Erskine’s format homage is cool. It’s good either way, but it’s cool to see what they’re doing and where they got it.
Dan Dare delivers. Erskine’s art is his series best this issue; he’s got the pacing for the talking heads, which usually aren’t in close-up, so there are just lots of panels of people walking and talking, and it’s captivating.
Damn good comics.