In Star Trek: Year 5 #20, a temporal accident casts Spock back to the time of the Vulcan civil war, and he discovers much about the legendary Surak that is disturbing. Will Spock’s reactions undo the web of time? Find out in your next mighty Major Spoilers review!
STAR TREK: YEAR 5 #20
Writer: Brandon Easton
Artist: Silvia Califano
Colorist: DC Alonso
Letterer: Neil Uyetake
Editor: Chase Marotz
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Release Date: May 19th, 2021
THE BEATINGS WILL CONTINUE UNTIL MORALE IMPROVES
Star Trek: Year 5 #20, for all its talky nature, is a compelling, at times upsetting, issue in this excellent series. An away mission to Vulcan goes horribly wrong when Spock is cast back in time to the final days of the Vulcan civil war. There, he will find the history that has been written by the victors is nothing more than a sham to hide the horror of what legendary Vulcan, Surak, did, in the name of victory.
The older one gets, the more your attachments to what you learned about the past shift and change. The ra-ra way history was taught when I was younger, of upright Englishmen penetrating the heart of Australia to learn, map and better understand it, has changed to the point where a more balanced view, including what happened to Australian Aboriginals, is included as a matter of course. You can see it elsewhere – when I was a boy, the bombing raids of the Allies over Germany during WW2 was an almost unalloyed good, but in time, the carpet bombing of civilian targets has seen Bomber Command excoriated time and time again.
Brandon Easton has done the same here with Star Trek: Year 5 #20. Spock has long been a heroic figure in Star Trek, and on that basis, many fans have decided that because Spock is good, then the society that produced him, Vulcan, must be good also. Sure, there’s been that tension between Spock’s twinned heritage, but overall, Vulcan is great, and those thralls to emotions, the Romulan’s are bad.
Easton complicates things nicely, by using time travel to allow Spock to journey back to the formative days, where the civil war irrevocably split Vulcan society. By having Spock fall in with the rebels, those fighting against Surak’s emotion free innovations, Spock is given a positive insight into those who would preserve their instincts, feelings and emotions.
MODERN HISTORY IS BAD HISTORY
Easton goes further, deliberately (as I interpret it) twinning Surak’s efforts (re-education camps where children are taken from their families and taught the ‘right’ way to think) with the horrors currently being inflicted on the Uyghur people today. A very real cultural genocide is taking place as you read this review, and while Star Trek: Year 5 #20 can only be a pale reflection of what is happening in western China, it should give the readers cause to pause and think about what is happening to their fellow humans.
What Spock witnesses shakes him to the core, and results in quite an effective cliffhanger.
Elsewhere, artist Silvia Califano does stellar work in bringing well known actors to life in comic form. Where some might have used photo references to get that static look I don’t really like, Califano does it all free hand, from what I can see. This means that the artwork has a more naturalistic look, never feeling posed or overly polished. Good use of angles give a sense of dynamism to panels, and there is one small panel, where Spock gives what can only be described as epic side-eye, that conveys in one image what a thousand words would hopelessly fail to do.
BOTTOM LINE: CONFRONTING
Star Trek has always relied on mining contemporary events to undergird its storytelling. The racial politics of the 60s found itself expressed in episodes of the series, and Star Trek: Year 5 #20 is no different. Easton manages the difficult task of combining a hard nosed message with Spock’s reaction to his people’s true origins and does so with effortless ease.
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Star Trek: Year 5 #20
History isn’t all you thought it was, as Star Trek: Year 5 #20 demonstrates. The self evident truths that some have held up for generations tend to turn to mush when they are examined with a critical eye. Spock’s reaction to Surak’s efforts to purge his people of emotions effectively balances his Vulcan and human heritage, resulting in a surprising ending that promises more entertaining storytelling in the next issue.