J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek hits the big screen this Friday. IDW published a four issue comic series that sets the stage for this project, now available in trade paperback edition.
Title: Star Trek: Countdown
Author: Story by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, script by Mike Johnson and Tim Jones
Illustrator(s): David Messina (artist and additional colours), Giovanni Nero (colour artist) and Paolo Maddaleni (additional colours)
Cover Date: January through April 2009
Cover Price: $3.99 US for each of the four issues. $17.99 US for the TPB
The star of the Horus system within the Romulan empire is growing towards a highly unusual nova. This is unlike any naturally occuring nova that has ever been seen, which could be why nobody on Romulus believes Federation ambassador Spock when he warns them this disaster may expand and consume the entire Romulan empire, if not the entire universe. Captain Nero of a Romulan mining vessel does believe him, as his crew barely escaped from the danger once already. He joins Spock on a trip to Vulcan to seek a means to halt the expansion of the star, but the Vulcan leaders are as blind as the Romulans. Spock teams with some of his old Federation companions to try and find another way to save the star, but they are not in time to save Romulus. This loss sends Nero over the edge, and he embarks on a mission of vengeance.
The Enterprise captain suggests a means of obtaining decalithium.
As this is a movie prequel, there are a lot of unresolved plot points. There doesn’t seem to be much reason to read it if you don’t plan to see the movie.
There are original elements when we learn the current status quo of the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast members we meet in this series. This has a major impact on the political aspects of the Next Generation worlds, as well. Sadly, the primary plotline is neither unusual nor able to stand on its own. I give it 4 out of 6.
The artwork is quite good. There’s no question about who we are looking at at any given time, despite the fact that the artists have also aged the characters a bit. I give it 5 out of 6.
The story is somewhat limited by the nature of the project. According to Wikipedia, this was conceived as a way to pass the baton from the Next Generation characters back to the original crew, much as the baton had been passed for Star Trek: Generations. It serves that end well, showing more of what happens to the Next Generation crew after Star Trek: Nemesis. Simultaneously, it also does a good job of showing how the formerly normal Nero will become the villain in this Friday’s movie. What it doesn’t do is tell a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The main plotline is strong enough for an expositional backstory for a character in a feature film, but it’s not enough to carry a four issue comic series in and of itself. I’m sure the writers would have structured it differently had they not been aiming for where the movie begins, but it’s still not an entirely satisfying read on its own. The structure is also a bit repetitive. Three of the four Next Generation characters we’ll encounter here are introduced in the same manner; a disembodied voice on page n (where that page appears on the right hand side of the open book), which then becomes a full character reveal on page n+1. Two of these three even appear on the last page of an issue. I give it 4 out of 6, with some forgiveness due to restrictions of the nature of the project.
The characterization works well. The familiar characters are all acting as we expect them to, with the possible exception of Spock, who seems to be more in touch with his human side than he used to be. The primary new character, Nero, is well defined, transformed from a typical captain of a mining craft into a vengeful adversary capable of mass destruction. I give it 5 out of 6.
The emotional response is good. Others may be less satisfied with the Next Generation characters they chose to use, as there are only four of them, but my two favourites are here, and those we do see are here naturally, so I’m happy. The main plot falls a little flat, but I wasn’t expecting much from it. I give it 4 out of 6.
The flow is smooth. There’s no problems reading through from frame to frame in most cases. There are some two pages spreads that are easy to spot as such, but some aren’t. The normal visual cue to a two page spread is some sort of object spanning the page split, or a panel that clearly crossed the line. Most use this technique, but there were two in particular whose only page-spanning panels had nothing but the stars of space between them. The “conversation” panels on those pages had to be read across the spine, but ended at the spine. In both cases, I missed the visual cue of space and had to double back to reread a couple of panels to follow in the intended order. I give it 4 out of 6.
Overall, this is a decent miniseries, and certainly worth a read if you’re a Next Generation fan who intends to see the new movie. I give it 4 out of 6.
In total, Star Trek: Countdown receives 30 out of 42.