** Warning! Potential spoilers in the comments on this post!**
UK sales of the first issue of Virgin's new Dan Dare have made the title one of the most requested and most difficult to find in the run up to Christmas.
Specialist comic shops have done brisk business on the first issue of the new title and Virgin reports some disappointed fans of “The Pilot of the Future” have been paying five-times the UK cover price to have copies flown in from the USA.
One downtheubes reader told us London comic shops had been visited by fans of all ages trying to track down the book by Garth Ennis and Gary Erskine, which pits a jaded but still idealistic Dare against a renewed Treen menace threatening Earth.
“We’ve posted a list at blog.VirginComics.com of retailers with copies of Dan Dare on their shelves,” said Larry Lieberman, Chief Marketing Officer of Virgin Comics. “By the time fans arrive at the comic shops they all seem to be sold out.”
Forbidden Planet, the UK’s largest comic retailer, is using FedEx to send more copies of Virgin’s Dan Dare to its stores in time for Christmas.
Comments on the the first issue from reviewers include "a modern comic book take on the classic British kids' comic character, filled with well-executed modern comic book things" (Comic Reporter), "a solid effort" (ComicMix). Over on PopCultureShock, which also features a short review with Ennis, Ernie Estrella gives the book an "A" rating and declares "the first issue of Dan Dare doesn’t bog down the reader with any unnecessary recap of who the protagonist is, instead Ennis places us behind the wheel of a great adventure -- but he’s steering. Whether you’ve read Dare as a child like Ennis, or you’re meeting him for the first time, you’re instantly comfortable and confident in Dare."
"[Garth Ennis'] new version of Dan Dare from Virgin will undoubtedly hit the right nostalgic notes for long-time Dare fans," feels Tim Janson over on Newsarama, "and (thanks to the writer and updated storyline) pull in new readers as well. It's definitely worth checking out."
Kurt Amacker, reviewing the first issue for mania.com, concurs, also giving the book an "A" rating. "Ennis and Erskine have effectively carried Hampson’s character into the 21st Century, with subtle commentary on current events that proves both touching and even-handed – a pleasant surprise from the usual hammer blows Ennis drops on things he dislikes."
"The art has a timeless, independent feel," feels ComicBloc's Doug Zawisza. "While I may not be steeped in the legend of Dan Dare, I found myself able to jump right in, comprehend what was going on and enjoy what I read."
"I really, really liked it," commented Forbidden Planet International's Joe Gordon on his blog The Woomaloo Gazette. "I enjoyed it; I liked Ennis’ take on him, I like the way he has set it years after Dan and Digby’s ‘glory days’ as the prime minister refers to them so we can maintain links to the original but still have something new... Will I be picking up the second issue now? Oh, hell, yes!"
Variety's Bags and Boards is a little more cautious, with Tom McLean praising Erskine's art but adding that "It seems unlikely that die-hard fans of the character will be doing backflips over this first issue — it’s just too heavy on the exposition to really tell how the space stuff everyone wants to see will work out over the next six issues."
On IGN, Dan Dare failed to impress Richard George who gave the book just 5.1 out of 10. "The concept of a disillusioned hero isn't a bad one," he acknowledges. "Ennis pulls off a [end of issue] revelation with great effect, but it's basically the only remotely interesting scene in the entire issue. Due to his isolation, Dare doesn't have much of a supporting cast. Nor does he have much of a personality aside from his hostility at life. It works on some levels but grows old and I honestly don't care to read about a bitter, dull hermit."
"There’s nothing I particularly disliked about this book," writes Wizard's Associate Editor Andy Serwin, "but there wasn’t anything in this ish that made me stop and say, ‘Holy crap! That was awesome!’"
While many seem to have enjoyed the opening issue response from older readers, who grew up on the original Dan Dare in the Eagle, has been mixed, with some prefering the new story featuring the "classic" Dare being published in the quality, licensed fanzine Spaceship Away.
Doubtless the shortage of the new Dare might have readers walking from comic shops sensible enough to stock it with this great magazine instead.
• Read our interview with Garth Ennis and Gary Erskine