The first act is wild and weird, with an energy and pace that's unprecedented in this series. For the first time, the Odhams editorial direction has achieved something interesting. Yes, it's stupid and hostile to explanations, but that doesn't matter on a roller-coaster flight of fancy like this. I wouldn't have been surprised had someone said it had been an inspiration to Steve Parkhouse in his DWM work.
I like the opening. One of the Mekon's old gang has escaped from Venus Rehabilitation Centre and is intent on becoming a suicide bomber. The military mobilise to stop him, which is all looking exciting until, for a few panels, the story turns into a Big Finish audio. I fell about laughing. What kind of writer decides to tell an action story through clunky info-dump dialogue... IN A COMIC STRIP?
The Treen flies his ship in. "Die, puny Earthlings, in the name of the Mekon!"
Sounds good, right? What comes next, though, is men talking about events we don't see. "That was a near do, he just missed the tower." No one shot him down. No one did anything clever. This Treen simply couldn't steer properly and flew his spaceship into the side of a hanger. Awesome.
Anyway, Dan and Digby end up flying into space. There's a leak in the "coma-gas pipe" and they fall asleep on the floor while the ship keeps travelling ever further from Earth. "How long do they sleep?" I hear you ask. Answer: "We must have been unconscious for years, and the ship will have flown out of the solar system."
Let's examine this, shall we? They weren't in cryogenic pods. They inhaled gas and fell asleep on the floor, with no one else in the ship. No medical care. No nutrients or calories for all that time. They should be dead. Our heroes should be skeletons, lying in a dried-up pool of their own urine and faeces. Are they deceased, though? Are they brown and smelly? Have they even suffered any muscle wastage? Ahahahaha, no, no, no.
All this is so mental that it's hugely entertaining, in a TV Comic way.
They then discover the Platinum Planet. It's artificial and made of metal, which is presumably platinum (given the story's title) and looks like it. It's plated and shiny. Get inside and you'll get sucked into a giant fan, as if you'd become insect-sized. ("Honey, I Shrunk the Dan Dare!") You'll see a really wacky city. You'll meet floating metal eggs and be ignored by blue people with hypo-hats. I like this weird planet. Mysteries are cool and this one's delightfully fluid in its flow from strangeness to more strangeness. Gravity lifts! Antuk the slave planet!
Incidentally, the locals judge your worth by how susceptible you are to thought control helmets.
"Transmission has ceased. They have removed the helmets!"
"Then it is proven. They are unfitted for our civilisation. Guard, do what is necessary!"
The story eventually deteriorates into Two Alien Factions and a war to overthrow the baddie, but even so I liked the chap who recruits Dan and Digby. "He laughed when we attacked him, because he was overjoyed to meet such spirited recruits."
After that, though, we're back to the usual load of nothing. Fight war battle dumb comics nonsense zzzzzz. I lost interest fast, but there's last-page comedy. A dictator refuses to be taken alive and leaps out of a window... only to land on a squad car only ten feet down and sit there with his head in his hands. Couldn't he have just jumped off that too? Maybe he's too embarrassed. (He's a storytelling mirror of that Treen at the beginning who couldn't do a suicide dive successfully.)
The editors are losing patience. From Vol.12 No.42 onwards, Dan Dare has to share the front page with a sporting feature called "MEN OF ACTION". The first one is Stirling Moss. Two weekly strip pages have been reduced to one-and-a-half.
I actually like a lot of this. It's the Eagle's most entertaining Dan Dare strip, if you ignore its action-packed but achingly empty void, aka. the second half. Any attempt to take it seriously will lead to Extreme Fanboy Indignation, but for me its silliness is a feature, not a bug. I like the failed suicide, for instance. It's witty. The story's clearly a million miles away from "good", though.