Review – Star Trek: IDW 20/20

A young Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Stargazer beams down to Tellarux 4 against the recommendation of his first officer Jack Crusher. Their mission: diffuse a violent political dispute between brothers on opposing sides. Of course, things take a wrong turn. Like “bleeding to death on a pile of rocks hoping a medic, who also happens to be the fiancee of your F.O. will rescue you from an alien army” wrong.

A well-written one shot that is elevated to the Hall of Fame of Trek one shots thanks to the art.

IDW 20/20 cover by J K Woodward

For those not in the know, the IDW 20/20 is a slate of one-shot comics from across franchises in their library to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the publisher house. We get to see a new side of our beloved characters as they deal with conflict either twenty years into their future or past.

20/20 is new and refreshing and a great take on the event bug that bites every publisher now and then. Until I get to see a Transformers-Turtles-ROM-G.I.Joe-Star Trek-other IDW franchises whose name escapes me right now – all cross over these will do nicely.

Minor spoilers for Star Trek: IDW 20/20 follow.

Catch me up, Scotty

The plot for this one-shot plays great as a TNG prequel. While the premise is a planetary dispute that demands Starfleet attention it turns into a delightful tale of friendship between Jack Crusher, Beverly Howard and a young Jean Luc with a head full of hair and a heart full of ambition.

Interior art from Star Trek IDW 20/20

The Writing

Peter David is a celebrated comic book writer with a resume that shines with decades of storytelling filled with characters like Aquaman, Hulk, Spider-Man, Star Trek etc. So it is to no one’s surprise that this one-shot is written as well as it is.

The story is perfectly contained in its thirty six pages but like any good prequel it teaches you about the flaws that the characters you love have, and the prospect of revisiting them is even more exciting.

The dialog of characters stays true to who they are at their core but not at the expense of cardboard-cutting present day characters to their present selves. Characters get unreasonably angry, make rash decisions and reflect on their poor choices in this prequel. The follies of their youth are on full display for us to learn from.

The Art

Interior art from Star Trek: IDW 20/20

The page pictured above? That is page one of this one-shot. How can your heart not break watching Picard like this on the very first page and compel you to pick up this comic?

J.K. Woodward is the best Star Trek comic book artist in my opinion. When the painter of City on the Edge of Forever, Mirror Broken, Star Trek/Doctor Who announced his involvement with 20/20, joy broke across the Twittersphere. Woodward has often remarked about his undying love for Trek and it shows in these pages. From a splash page down to a background detail, every dot is painted with love and care. When an artist cares that much about the project and their art, the pages cannot help but bleed with beauty.

The scenes themselves feel much like part of a Next Gen episode complete with alien planet aesthetics, sparkling phaser fire and speeding starfields as seen through windows.  With the right intro and outro music and mouthing of pew-pew and punch sounds, it isn’t impossible to turn this comic into an animated Next Gen special episode.

Interior art from Star Trek: IDW 20/20

What’s wrong, Jim?

It is not long enough. There are not enough pages in this one shot! In all seriousness, this one-shot is a great read and very much worthy of your 5$.

Star Trek IDW: 20/20

Writer – Peter David

Artist – J K Woodward

Final rating: Warp 9.5 out of 10

 

Review: Star Trek Terra Incognita #6

Mirror Barclay is discovered aboard the Prime Enterprise by Mirror Data. The price for abandoning his post on Stargazer is death and Data is ready to bring him to justice. Unfortunately for them, all of this is happening on the Enterprise, a ship whose crew does not take kindly to intruders.

A delightful, action-packed end to a mostly hit-and-miss series.

Terra Incognita #6 Cover by Tony Shasteen

Terra Incognita will go down as a landmark series in IDW Trek’s history if for nothing else then the following two reasons: one – a series that tried something different. Each issue is a mostly self contained one shot focusing on a particular character. Two – the character in focus tended to be overlooked by the cinematic run of TNG and these issues compensate for this and, by giving them a full story, celebrate them.

That being said my opinions on the series overall remain mixed to positive. Some of these single issues landed great. K’ehleyr’s story, for instance, is beautiful and hearbtreaking. The others, like Dr. Crusher’s story? It read like an exposition dump contained in twenty five pages.

But this final issue loses the one-shot narrative structure for something greater: a solid, exciting end to the series.

Warning: Spoilers for Terra Incognita #1 to #5 follow.

Interior art by Carlos Nieto

Catch me up, Scotty

Continuing events that unfolded in Terra Incognita #1 Mirror Barclay’s infiltration of the Prime Enterprise after hiding his mild-mannered counterpart away is halted rudely. In the final pages of #5 Mirror Data corners Barclay, determined to kill him for betraying Mirror Picard and his Stargazer crew.

The resulting commotion alerts the Enterprise crew and a chase across the long halls ensues. Barclay has a bargaining chip but Data is not buying. Luckily for him another member of the Stargazer crew has found his way to the ship also and might be open to hearing him out.

The Writing

I have, in the past, criticized the Tiptons’ writing. Their word bubbles get … well, too wordy for me at times. I’m talking fifty words in a single bubble. Thankfully this issue does not suffer from that at all. Tiptons write this one to the point, letting go of long sentences in favor of phasers going pew pew. What more can a comic book Trekkie ask for?

The Art

Holy Kahless! Where has IDW been hiding Carlos Nieto? With every pencil stroke Carlos captures our beloved characters’ likeness perfectly which, I’m sure, is why he was brought on board. Why is this review going to be a plea to keep him on board?

Because his action scenes are spectacular, that’s why. Just look at these panels below and tell me that is not a great representation of an Enterprise chase scene:

Interior art by Carlos Nieto

What’s wrong, Jim?

No complaints on this issue at all. A great final issue and I cannot wait for the Mirror-Prime adventures to continue.

Glory to the Empire!

Final rating: Warp 9 out of 10

 

Review: Star Trek V/S Transformers #4

The USS Enterprise is now a Transformer called Fortress Tiberius neurologically controlled by Kirk. Klingons and Decepticons have teamed up but that isn’t going really well. Our trusty crew is backed into a corner.

How does this comic keep getting better as the issues go on?

Star Trek V/S Transformers #4 – Cover A

When you are presented with the concept of giant robotic alien machines fighting uniformed, morally complex space travelers it is logical to think “well, that’s goofy”. The creators behind this series, however, seem determined to make sure the last thing you notice about this comic is its goofiness. These are words I thought I’d never type but here we are: Star Trek V/S Transformers is one of the most enjoyable comics I’ve read in the last few years.

Catch me up, Scotty

For those of you who haven’t been on this Trek train: Kirk and co land on the planet Cygnus Seven in the middle of a ongoing war between Autobots and Decepticons. Worse, Klingons have courted the Decepticons. Our crew splits up and each of the two groups find a band of Autobots to help fight off the Decepticons. Kirk and Ratchet are close to utter defeat when Ratchet realizes there might be a way to turn this around: sync the Titan transformer the Autobots came to the planet on with Kirk’s mind and form Fortress Tiberius!

Issue 4 picks up moments after the end of 3. We see the pain Kirk is going through to keep Tiberius running. The already fragile alliance seems crumbling fast as the Klingons experience some of the eponymous deception from Decepticons first hand. Then there is all the Dilithium Crystal – a boost to all Transformers’ abilities – lying around ripe for the taking.

Schematic of Fortress Tiberius by Philip Murphy

 

The Writing

I am out of words to compliment Mike Johnson’s writing. He and John Barber continue to keep up the mix of explosive action and a mix of earnest and cheesy dialog we’ve been loving in the series so far.

Looks like I did find some complimentary words for him after all. Huh.

The Art

Philip Murphy is an artistic juggernaut. With issue 1 I was just happy to see these two cartoons play in a sandbox so well. With issue 4 I am rejoicing seeing this fusion come full circle with Fortress Tiberius. Either his drawing pens contain magic ink or he is just unbelievably talented. Jury’s still out.

Interior art from Star Trek V/S Transformers #4

Murphy, the coloring and lettering teams, are instrumental in this comic’s phenomenal rise. Originally intended to end here this series now has an additional #5 due to unexpected high sales. That is where my minor gripe with this book comes in.

What’s wrong, Jim?

Events happen close to the end of the book that, in the opinion of this reviewer, were hurriedly rewritten to keep it going to the next issue. Decisions are taken by characters that jump at us from nowhere and on the last page you’re left wondering if this was the best decision considering there was a great opportunity to end the issue with #4. I am going to remain cautiously optimistic that with the last issue things end even better than they could have here.

Final rating: Warp 8 out of 10

 

by Shashank Avvaru