60’s flava returns in IDW series
It was supposed to be a five year mission, but thanks to low ratings, NBC cancelled the series after three. After some 11 movies, five spin-off series, and more individual episodes than you can shake a stick at, there was still the question of what happened to the five year mission to seek out new life and new civilization. IDW has answered with a six issue series aptly called Star Trek: Year Four.
IDW sent an advanced peek at the series. Better set your phasers to stunned as Major Spoilers brings you the advanced review. You better believe there are spoilers ahead!
The mini kicks off with the Enterprise discovering an entire planetary system connected together by long strands – essentially turning millions of billions of miles of outer space into a strand of DNA. Which just so happens to be what “the Strand” is about; a super society that had once prided itself in science and research, but unfortunately fell apart.
At first I thought I was going to see a retelling of Forbidden Planet complete with Krell inspired Monsters from the Id. It’s only when an away team (complete with Red Shirt) beams down to the planet do we really see what is going on. Of the twenty or so survivors, the one that greets the team is Dr. Othello Beck, a brilliant geneticist who is creating a new race of beings that are part human part animal. Of course this means there are problems on the horizon.
Poor Red Shirt, we hardly knew ye.
Essentially this issue becomes Star Trek v. The Island of Dr. Moreau.
There is the requisite Hot Alien, and a mystery to be solved, and by the end of the issue Dr. Beck’s creations revolt. I won’t spoil everything for you because the issue hasn’t been released yet, but I will say there is a “shocking revelation” that puts everything into perspective.
One of the things Star Trek: Enterprise tried to bring to the Star Trek universe was the idea there were other aliens serving in Star Fleet beyond those pointed eared Vulcans. This mini attempts to stay true to continuity by including alien crew on the bridge, however, in light of the story being told, seeing a cat-woman manning the comm, and a three armed guy at the helm is a bit jarring. I much prefer Chekhov, Sulu, and Uhura instead. It makes the connection between the original television series and this comic much more solid. Once I got past the initial shock, I accepted it, but it still conflicts with the god-like actions of Dr. Beck.
While I applauded Paul Dini for reviving really good one-shot storytelling in Detective Comics, for some reason telling an entire story in Star Trek: Year Four seems almost too abrupt. I can’t put my finger on it, but I think it has something to do with the art.
Sadly the art in the series isn’t the greatest. For some reason McCoy always looks like he has a damn fool smile on his face. While I can appreciate the country doctor styling of good Doctor McCoy, even during the worst times, he shouldn’t be grinning. The other thing that bothered me was the layout of the issue. Instead of mixing it up a bit, nearly every single page in the issue is laid out in four horizontal panels per page. After a while, this gets pretty tedious and distracting. One might say this is done to emulate the horizontal aspect ratio of a television screen, but if that were the case, the layout should have been six panels per page which is closer to television’s 4:3 aspect ratio. While the story was reminiscent of the 60s series, the art really isn’t – heck even Silver Age comics mixed it up a bit, and that is what I wish happened here. I think if the layout had been mixed up, with additional panels added, it would have allowed for greater exposition. Was this the worst art ever? Not by a long shot, it was actually really good in places, but those getting off their high horse from only reading the big two, might be slightly disappointed.
On a side note, this review is based on a PDF preview of the issue, which did not include any ads. This is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, I was able to read through the issue without a break right in the middle of an action sequence *cough*DC*cough*, but on the other, Star Trek storytelling needs to be broken into the classic three act structure with breaks between. There were times when reading this issue (especially after Kirk makes his “major discovery” and is knocked out) that I was expecting the music to build followed by a dissolve to black. I’m hoping when the issue ships, those ads are placed accordingly, which will ironically make the story flow better.
- Young, thin Kirk
- Issue is able to draw inspiration from original series
- Kirk has a weapon hidden in his pants, but I’m not telling what it is
- Requisite “He’s dead Jim”
- Nice reference to Bajor
- Set up, conflict, resolution in 22 pages seems choppy for some reason
- Four horizontal panels per page cause pacing to slow to a crawl
- Una – she’s got a horn in the middle of her head, just like a unicorn, or is that Una-corn?
The inaugural issue of Year Four was a good read as it reminded me a great deal of the original series and how those stories were told. And isn’t that the point of the series? If yes, then the issue succeeds, despite some of the art issues I have. While the original Star Trek didn’t premiere to stellar ratings, I’m going to give Star Trek: Year Four #1 a solid 3 out of 5 Stars with the anticipation of issue #2 being even better.