Tag Archives: Star Trek

Ben’s guide to too much Star Trek Comics goodness

HumbleStarTrekBundle

IDW and Humble Bundle have teamed up to deliver 50 Star Trek Trade Paperbacks for the 50th anniversary. Whether you’re a casual fan, or an avid collector like me, there’s a little something for everyone. Humble Bundle works on tiered payment system, some comics for $1, some for $8, some for $15, and even greater bonuses for $25. It can be a little difficult with a bundle this size to really know what’s worth your hard-earned money. That’s where my years of collecting Star Trek comics are here to help.

Should I spend $1?

The Good

Both the TNG collections here are pretty good stories. Ghosts is a classic TNG tale with a little of the supernatural thrown-in. Hive shows a world in which the Borg are finally victorious, and details a rebellion led by Locutus to change the past using post-Voyager 7 of 9. Countdown serves as a nice bridge between the old and the new, filling in some of the background before the first Abrahms Star Trek movie (and firmly establishing Data’s resurrection after Nemesis). It also sets up Nero as a relate-able and complex villain, more so even than the movie.

The 3 Classics volumes are just that, some of the best work that came out of the DC Wildstorm era of Star Trek comics. I covered one of the stories in the second collection a few weeks ago. The three volumes are a mix of Voyager and TNG tales. Voyager’s Avalon Rising in Volume 3 is an unexpected treat. The Gorn story isn’t my favorite, but the artwork is beautiful.

The Bad

Ever wonder what the first comics page of Star Trek looked like? Probably not what you’d expect:

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The Gold Key collections are sometimes beautifully drawn, but lack an understanding of Star Trek technology, how the characters act, or Starfleet values. Issue 1 ends with a mass genocide of an entire planet encouraged by Spock. These comics do sometimes fall into “so bad it’s good” but not often.

DS9 Fools Gold isn’t much better. It’s set between seasons 3 and 4 of the show, but lacks any tie-in to the larger mythology of the show. Sisko (and many others) look comically angry at many points, and the story meanders and retreads to a bland conclusion. Nicely drawn, but little there.

Star Trek Ongoing Volumes 1 – 3 are largely retreads of classic TOS episodes with the new cast. Often it’s a direct retelling of the episode with maybe one minor detail changed. Outcomes are occasionally different, but few of these tales rise above the source material. And the two issue per story format feels at times too short and too long.

The Meh

The Movie Adaption is okay. The artwork is typical of the brothers Tipton of whom I’m not a big fan. The 6 issue format gives the story room to breathe, but nothing is really added.

Countdown to Darkness doesn’t live up to the previous Countdown series. It’s a depiction of the Mudd incident (which would be more appropriately named the April incident, but whatever), which basically explains how the crew got that one weird ship the flew during Into Darkness. Not bad, but not great.

Bottom-line: Spend the $1 if you like trek. There’s definitely something for you at this level (the Classics if nothing else). And it can be fun to make fun of just how bad the Gold Key stuff is.

Should I spend $8?

The Good

The Classics series continue with the first TNG comics series and the finale arc of the first DC TOS series. The TNG series is a mixed bag, but does feature the only Christmas Star Trek episode I’ve ever read. It also portrays a human Q long before the series did. The “Who Killed Captain Kirk?” story is Peter David at his prime. It’s funny, well-drawn, there’s a wedding, a trip through hell, what more could you want?

The Archives line is similar to Classics, but covers more of the DC run. I’ve written about volumes 1+2 before (as part of my hidden Amazon Star Trek Comic gems). The quality in the Humble Bundle coloring is better than the Amazon transfer. The 3rd collection is two Gary Seven stories, the excellent Peacemaker, and the so-so Convergence arc (in case you wanted to know more about the aliens from TNG: Time’s Arrow).

Star Trek Ongoing Volumes 4-6 tell more original and character-driven stories. We get individual stories on Uhura, Chekov + Sulu, Bones and, Scotty that provide some background on how these characters came to Starfleet. We get a neat tale from a redshirt’s perspective (loosely based on The Apple). We learn more about Keenser, Scotty’s littlest assistant. More personal and less epic, and much better than the first three volumes.

The Bad

Nero is terrible. It completely undoes the good work by Countdown. It has V’Ger, and Nero stuck in Rura Penthe for 20 years. Enough said.

The Meh

New Visions is a great idea. They’re photo-novel episodes of Star Trek, made with a combination of CG sets, and stills from the original series. Some of the stories are quite inventive, but the art is lacking. And given Byrne’s excellent artwork on other Star Trek tales, I always find myself wanting him to have drawn these rather than photoshop.

The Gold Key stories get better. The Enterprise Mutiny is actually a pretty good tale.

Spock Reflections goes back over significant moments in Spock’s life, as he makes the decision to go to Romulus. It’s another brothers Tipton tale, and kind of melancholy, but better than some of their other work.

Bottom-line: IDW steps up its game on Ongoing, there’s a ton of the best of DC here, and New Visions is entertaining if not perfect. Plus this is the level where you’ll probably be getting New Visions Vol. 2, Ongoing 7-9 (which includes a fabulous Q arc) and Doctor Who crossover vol. 1. $8 is probably a good investment.

Should I spend $15?

The Good

The two Year Four volumes are great, particularly The Enterprise Experiment which features the return of the female Romulan from The Enterprise Incident and is written by DC Fontana. Assignment Earth tells lost tales of Gary Seven by John Byrne at the top of his game.

The Bad

I’ve written before about Harlan Ellison needing an editor. This version of City on the Edge of Forever is definitely not better than the original. Artfully done, yes, but badly structured.

The WTF?

So yeah, crossovers. Star Trek with Doctor Who, Green Lantern, Legion of Super Heroes, and Planet of the Apes.

The Doctor Who cross isn’t as good as you’d think. They make Picard kind of petulant, and frankly the Doctor having to convince Picard of the right thing to do rings wrong for me. There’s a nice bit with Doctor 4 and the TOS crew, and the artwork is great but otherwise this is long and kind of less then I thought it would be.

The Green Lantern arc is … weird. Want to see which crew-members get which rings? Want to see General Chang from Star Trek VI? Then this is the book for you… I guess?

Haven’t read Legion of Super-Heroes, but the cover art is cool.

Planet of the Apes is an equally weird premise, but think of this. What would it be like if Shatner and Heston acted in a scene together? That might make this worth-while.

New Visions Vol. 3 is really okay, but we do see TOS encounter the Borg which I think is almost as stupid as when Enterprise did it. And is that Scott Adsit from 30 Rock in the last story? Yes it is.

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Bottom-line: $15 dollars is a lot of money. The Ongoing volumes are good, but not as good as 4-9. Year Four is great, but these cross-overs are kinda painful. Why IDW doesn’t cross Star Trek with another property it owns like Ghostbusters, TMNT, Back to the Future, or Galaxy Quest I’ll never know. There are still gems here, but maybe only for hard-core fans. And if you like Green Lantern? Hey man, you do you.

Should I spend $25?

Ask your mom.

Seriously, I’m not sure if this story will appear later in a less expensive cheaper form. If you’re willing to spend $15, then it’s only another $10 to get this one-of-a-kind artifact, but I think most of you will be just happy with $8. Or going outside if you’re weird like that.

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Ten Forward: TNG – Perchance To Dream (Comic Book)

Perchance To Dream (Collected in Star Trek Classics Vol. 2: Enemy Unseen)

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Writer – Keith R. A. DeCandido, Artists – Peter Pachoumis, Scott Benefiel, Lucian Rizzo and Jason Martin

This 4-issue mini-series was part of the short but largely successful run of comics from Wildstorm DC. DC comics had long held the Star Trek license (from 1984-1996), but briefly lost it to Marvel from 1996-1998. When they reacquired the license in 1999 instead of picking up a new ongoing series, they ran a number of mini-series and longer graphic novel stories, create some of the most interesting, moving, and beautiful Star Trek comics to date.

Perchance to Dream takes place between All Good Things (the TNG finale) and Star Trek Generations (which shows the destruction of the Enterprise D). Worf and Deanna Troi and in a relationship, and many of the crew have transitioned to wearing the DS9 style uniforms. Data is exploring his dream program, and contemplating the ramifications of installing the emotion chip (which he later does in Generations).

Data’s anxiety about the emotion chip is expressed in a dream about the destruction of the Enterprise, specifically the Enterprise crashing into the surface of a planet (something we’d see in Generations). Data experiences fear, anxiety and helplessness for the first time, and is unsure where these emotions are coming from.

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Meanwhile the Enterprise is dispatched to Damiano to beef up security for the inauguration of their new leader. The Damiano are a three-gendered species with no direct equivalents to male or female (leading to some interesting drawing choices by the comic’s artists). Their new leader Ra’ch is in a relationship with only one other person, a taboo among religious extremists but largely accepted by the planet’s majority. The moralists have threatened to assassinate the Governor if she does not step down.

After several attempts to assassinate the Governor are thwarted by the Enterprise crew, the leader of the moralists, Je’tran, unleashes an ancient weapon called the Chova upon the Enterprise which attacks people in their sleep and with waking nightmares of their greatest fears and failures.

Star Trek doesn’t have much of a reputation for dealing with LGBT issues and when it does they kind of run both ends of the gambit. Episodes like The Outcast do an okay job of setting up the allegory for intolerant society, but episodes like The Host still demonstrate fairly conventional ideas about gender (though to be fair to Dr. Beverly, two body switches would be a bit much to take in).

Perchance to Dream does a little better in some regards, while still falling prey to Star Trek’s weaknesses at other moments. Ra’ch is self-assured in her identity and is defiant and powerful in her defense of her choices (as a leader should be). So too the Starfleet crew is largely supportive and does not even treat her choices as an issue except in dealing with the threat of the moralists. I even think the comic gets points for breaking gender binaries, showing men with breasts and mustaches, women who are stronger or equivalent to males, and its that never seem to have much of a clear definition. Thankfully the comic doesn’t get too indulgent on this front, and handles the issue tastefully if a bit comically at points.

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BTW, the horns are not part of the headgear, but are actually coming out the Damiano’s heads. Makes you kinda wonder how they get the headgear on.

The moralist dialog is pretty bad, and makes me kind of wish the comic had left these scenes out. These are clearly the bad guys to the point that they actually have lines like “we have an assassination to plan.” Oof, a little on the nose. I’m not saying these characters should be sympathetic, but making them so comically evil removes the discussion of changing attitudes or why people think the way they do. Another Star Trek comic (which I’ll cover later), does a better job of delving into why people might have intolerant (if incorrect) attitudes. Tolerating or changing peoples minds on an issue involves understanding how they think. Instead of making Je’tran comically evil, I think it’d be better if it was a faceless plot, or one that came from a more nuanced place (from a storytelling perspective at least).

One of the highlights of the issues is how the Enterprise crew ultimately defeats the Chova. Apparently the device can’t function in people with multiple personalities. And who on the Enterprise crew has more than one person swimming in their head? You guessed it, Picard.

TNG never really explored the psychological impact of Picard living an entire adult life in the space of 30 minutes, being assimilated, and mind-melding with elderly and emotional Vulcan. To defeat the Chova, Picard must undergo a mind-meld to bring these parts of himself to the fore, and then battle to keep other parts of him from becoming too dominant. If the whole comic was just this, it would be worth the price of admission. The way in which Picard keeps himself centered on reality (“There Are Four Lights”) also speaks to some of the trauma he’s been through. This is a rare peak inside a staid exterior to see the turmoil within.

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There are other gems too. Explorations of Worf’s motivations for self-control. A lot of callbacks to previous TNG episodes from every season. There’s a sense of continuity of experience here that is usually lacking in the show. Points deducted for another alien race with apostrophes for names (you could have just called them Rach and Jetran). Bonus points for making Je’tran a television host of his own show a la The O’Reilly Factor. The thought balloon stuff was a little much, and Worf would definitely have check security outside the arena but these are nitpicks.

This comic would have made a great episode, even while it demonstrates the things that are better conveyed in comics. One of the better entries from Wildstorm’s brief run, and definitely worth your time. This story and two other TNG tales are collected in digital form in Star Trek: Enemy Unseen, available as part of the Classics series from IDW.

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Ten Forward – Stone Trek

Apologies to Mr. Buckley. Back when I showed him these in college it nearly ended our friendship.

In this installment of “Ten Forward” (covering the Star Trek official and fan expanded universes), I thought I’d bring out a real “blast from the past,” Stone Trek by Brian Matthews.

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Stone Trek chronicles the adventures of James T. Kirkstone, Mr. Sprock, Dr. RcKoy and the rest of the crew of the stoneship Magnetize as they explore the galaxy while watching out for the deadly Kingosauruses.

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As you can probably guess Stone Trek imagines Star Trek as a Flinstones style cartoon, complete with animals manning all important ship’s systems. The gags show a decent amount of knowledge of both shows, as well as numerous other sci-fi franchises including 2001 and Star Wars.

Highlights of the show included the two-part “Cave Man Trap” in which Captain Kirkstone must deal with a rock salt vampire in order to get Professor Crater to sign over two tickets to a planet “where the oceans are made of beer,” the Stone Trek version of the Firm’s classic Star Trekkin’, and the ways in which redshirt deaths are accounted for throughout the episodes.

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Only a few episodes were actually made, though the website features stills from potential future episodes and parody titles. The end credits show some of these as well, including a personal favorite of mine with pointy tribbles.

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By no means the cream of Star Trek fandom, but a rather unique take that oddly works. I could see Shatner fitting into the Fred Flinstone role quite naturally.

Anyone else watch this nonsense back in the day?

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10 Forward: DS9 – The Fallen (Video Game)

As a life-long Star Trek fan, there’s a lot to celebrate this year: a new movie, a new TV series, and the franchise’s 50th anniversary. For my own small contribution to the festivities I’ve decided to do a series of posts (one every week or two), detailing little-known corners of the franchise’s licensed (and fan-made) works. This week I’ll be covering the Deep Space Nine PC video game – The Fallen:

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Plot: In the last days of the Cardassian occupation of Bajor, a scientist named Terrel attempted to unlock the secrets of an orb of the Pah-wraiths, only to be forced to abandon the project when the orb became unstable. Six years later her secret lab is discovered aboard DS9 and forces within the Dominion, Cardassia, and the Cult of the Pah-Wraiths all seek to gather the three orbs of the Pah-Wraiths for use as a weapon, or to create a new wormhole. Playing as Sisko, Worf, and Kira, the player must find the missing orbs, and stop the forces trying to control the Pah-Wraiths before it’s too late.

Pros:

  • Well-versed in DS9 lore. The game itself takes place toward the end of the 6th season, but contains many references to episodes throughout the series including the mining operation on Jerrado (“Progress”), Kira assuming a Cardassian appearance (“Second Skin”), secret areas and defenses from the Cardassian control of the station (“Civil Defense”), the telekenetic abilities of the Vorta (“The Jem’Hadar”), and Dominion prison camps (“By Inferno’s Light”). The game also foreshadows the later events of the series including the final confrontation with the Pah-Wraiths, Dukat being possessed, and the Pah-Wraith cult.
  • The game is re-playable through each of the three main characters: Sisko, Worf and Kira. The storylines run in parallel but feature different levels and gameplay for each.
  • One mission involves exploring a crashed Miranda class starship. The level design for this sequence is excellent, climbing through a hostile jungle to see your first glimpse of the ship, fighting Jem’Hadar on the outer hull, then diving inside and having to work your way through submerged sections to a hidden lab.

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  • Your default weapon is useful throughout the game and is good for almost all light combat encounters. This is good since the heavier weapons may not always have plentiful ammo.
  • Terry Farrell reprises her role as Jadzia Dax for the only time after her character’s death at the end of the 6th season.
  • The game uses a beta build of the Unreal Tournament engine, one of the first game engines to feature truly expansive environments. Both the Ulysses mission and the reveal of a buried Pah-Wraith temple move from tight confined spaces to expansive open levels. This engine was in a sweet spot for games of the era. Next generation engines would feature better graphics, but the level design was much smaller and featured more loading (see Deus Ex vs. Deus Ex: Invisible War). Even with its old and outdated graphics, the level design is on par with the best games of today. You can look out the window of Sisko’s office or the Promenade and see the rest of the station.
  • A mod for the game (titled Convergence) was created by one of the level designers for the original game, and includes another twenty or so levels of gameplay (on top of the 24 base levels). A lot of enjoyment for a shooter.
  • The music is atmospheric and chilling, and in MP3 format easily accessible in the game’s install directory. More than 90 minutes of DS9 game music.

Cons:

  • Avery Brooks and Colm Meaney were unavailable to provide the voices of Sisko and O’Brien. The Sisko performance is okay, but O’Brien is pretty terrible.
  • An early mission features an enemy that you need to scan with your tricorder before being able to shoot them. This can be a bit of a barrier to entry for someone just getting used to the game’s controls.

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  • The default auto-targeting doesn’t always work well. It removes options for destroying explosive containers to kill enemies by always targeting the combatants.
  • The story can feel disjointed and incomplete until you play through all three characters. Some missions, like the Ulysses aren’t explained well initially until you read through tactical briefings, and watch later cut-scenes.
  • Some people criticized the lack of multi-player, which would have been cool in a few places. For me the game doesn’t suffer without it.
  • The game isn’t easy to run on a modern system, though I was able to get it running pretty quickly by installing a program called nGlide. I’m re-playing on my ASUS Windows 8.1 machine with no problems so far.

Bottom-line: The game would be a reasonably good third-person shooter without the Star Trek trappings. Weapon balancing is pretty good, and requires a more considered and tactical approach. The level design is epic in feel, and there are lots of things for the DS9 fan to enjoy, including walking into Quark’s bar, talking conspiracy with Garak, and walking on the hull of a crashed ship (seriously, that is still cool 15 years after the first time I played it). The plot would have fit well as two-part episode of the show (and is partially based on the Millennium series of DS9 novels). Definitely the best DS9 game made for the PC and still fun today.

FallenOps

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