Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Star Trek: Year Four

I would like to praise a comic book-- that's NOT from DC.

I enjoyed the first issue of IDW's new series, Star Trek: Year Four.

I'm not familiar with IDW's catalog of series; I looked at the house ads for other books, but they all seemed rather... unpleasant.

Star Trek: Year Four, however, was quite pleasant. Not groundbreaking, by any means, but I think that's part of the point. The series is intended as a continuation of where the original Star Trek series left off (it was cancelled in its third year, hence the name "Year Four"). As such the first issue is quite traditional; it really does read almost like a "lost episode".

The number of familiar Star Trek notes it hits casually in the course of telling its story is impressive:
  • Gigantic Thing in Space that requires investigation
  • Kirk drinking coffee from a cup
  • Vast discoveries that would probably change the Federation society and get mentioned alot, but which is in fact tossed aside and never mentioned again
  • Red-shirt eaten by monster
  • Kirk killing a monster
  • "He's dead, Jim."
  • Kirk and a horny alien beauty
  • Spock doing research on the ship
  • Kirk putting on a boot
  • Bones drooling over medical facilities
  • Crazed scientists and their tragic outcomes
  • Arbitrary threat to the ship
  • Ending homily

There were less traditional touches I enjoyed, too. I loved seeing two characters from the forgotten or maligned Star Trek cartoon series (Lieutenant Arex and Lieutenant M'Ress) and the subtle incorporation of Trek continuity from other Trek series (Enteprise and Deep Space Nine). And good for James T., who's finally learned a new trick or two, based on his previous away missions!

As for the art, well, there's a little hinkiness in the way humans are drawn. But I very much appreciate the stylized approach to the art. Photorealism isn't appropriate for a Star Trek book; the television series was stylized itself; it was the ideas that mattered, not whether a bridge full of colored lights and matte paintings of deep space made any sense.

The art is used to tell the story; plenty of panels have no background details at all, because they would simply be a distraction. This is an element of Golden Age art that I love, and I'm grateful to see it in Year Four. I dislike the "art for art's sake" that we seen in many modern comics, where incredible attention is lavished on the details in the background of a mall food court, when what we need to be paying attention to is the fight in the foreground.

I also liked that there's a rigid four-panel structure to each page (except for one eye-popping two-page splash) that helps measure out the pacing in steady way that helps duplicate the feeling of watching the television show. The absence of thought balloons or captions helped, too!

I don't believe that subsequent plots are going to be quite so boilerplate, but it was nice to start off from a place of great familiarity and comfort. This is not fanfic; it's focus on using the characters to tell stories, not telling stories about the characters.

Give Star Trek: Year Four a try; I'll be interested to know what you think.


MaGnUs said...

I liked this book, a lot more than Star Trek TNG: The Space between, which had awful art, and a boring an non-sensical plot.

The art here, on the other hand, didn't dazzle me at all... I found the lack of detail lazy, not retro or stylized.

Anonymous said...


gives me hope for IDW's Doctor Who book coming out in a few months.

David C said...

I liked it a lot too. I really dislike (but a considerable majority seems to *demand*) photorealism in licensed comics. Not inherently a bad idea, of course, but in practice, that usually looks awful to me, with an over-reliance on really obvious photo reference, with panels based on the reference material regardless of whether they fit the story or not.

Incidentally, speaking of reference material, did anybody notice the Previews ad for a new Jack Bauer action figure? The ad shows the figure in detail, with an accompanying picture of Kiefer Sutherland as Jack, in the same outfit... and the two look (to me, anyway) almost nothing alike! My first thought was, "Huh, so they're doing action figures of minor *24* characters now? Who's that guy? The bad guy who pretended to be a concerned father in Season One? Soul Patch, maybe?"

Anonymous said...

I think everything you said was spot on, but I have one soft criticism of the book. It felt disjointed and rushed. I felt like it was written to be told in two issues, or something. I'm not sure.

The Shadow said...

When red shirts die, you know it's accurate Star Trek.

Scotus said...

I thought was entertaining enough, but nothing spectacular. It definitely didn't dissuade me from my belief that all Star Trek comics should be written by Peter David.

MaGnUs said...

Don't get me wrong, I'm not asking for photorealism, I'm asking for detailed art where characters faces get draw in every panel, thank you.

If you don't know what I mean, check page 22, panel 2 of that book.