Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dare and Doonesbury

Here's how this works: I finish reading something, and I tell you about it, and I try not to bore you to death. This time, reviews of Dan Dare: Reign of the Robots (Titan, 2008) and Doonesbury: The War Years (Gramercy, 2006).

The previous Dan Dare serial, also available from Titan (and reviewed by me in brief here) had ended with a spectacular twist: Dan and company, having saved the day in a remote galaxy, would be returning to Earth a decade after they left. Then they return to find that the old home was conquered by the Mekon's robot army nine years ago, the entire population enslaved in his immortal enemy's concentration camps, providing fodder for bizarre scientific experiments. Since this is a 1950s kids' serial, little space is devoted to the horrific premise, but the only time this really felt to me like something truly dated and eye-rolling comes in the follow-up serial, also collected here, called "The Ship That Lived." Having liberated Venus and Earth in a rollercoaster thrill ride of unexpected, weird plot developments and derring-do, Dan's first priority is not to oversee the great redevelopment and economic recovery that must come, but to... well, extract his old spaceship from a bog. It takes weeks. It's mostly wonderful, but I can't call this a real priority.

For much of the last decade, Doonesbury has been compiled in 150-page editions which aren't complete. You can always tell, because they lay them out with a week of dailies over two pages, but slowly the storyline starts to creep because a strip gets left out. And there are no dates for you to confirm when they originally appeared either, making it a real chore to go look up the missing ones on the web site. Doonesbury's remarkably poor track record in collected form is one of my biggest bugbears about the comic hobby, which is why I feel quite strongly that it should be reprinted properly, and soon.

But, lacking any progress on that front, we make do with the books we've got. The War Years is an omnibus reprint of the earlier collections Peace Out, Dawg! (which I bought) and Got War? (which I should've), in hardcover for about the original price of either of the originals. So this covers most of the material from 2001-2003, tracking the deterioration of G.W. Bush from beleagured all-hat-no-cattleman into wannabe imperial. Duke gets some great storylines playing fast and loose with double-crossing Enron execs (was Jim Andrews "born" for that role or what?) and their wives, and setting himself up for a reconstruction role in Iraq that leads to him working the black market. Zonker wages war against David Geffen and Boopsie coaches B.D.'s football team, and it's genuinely great stuff. Which I'd swap in a heartbeat for a complete edition with some annotations. Sorry, I know I harp.

(Originally posted July 16, 2008 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

No comments: