Tag Archives: Star Trek

Star Trek the Next Generation/Doctor Who Assimilation 2 vol 1 review

Star Trek the Next Generation/Doctor Who Assimilation 2 vol 1

IDW

2012

104 pages $17

I have stated before that I do not generally like licensed books.  They rarely managed to capture the certain special something about the franchise that you liked in the first place.  I think it is as much in the reader’s knowledge of the property as anything.  Sometimes it is our preconceived ideas about the characters and how they “should” behave that ruins these books.  This is one of the reasons to me that John Byrne’s Star Trek stuff for IDW and Peter David’s New Frontier series have worked so well.  Much of it deals with characters on the edge of the franchise that we can come to them fresh.  That cannot possibly be the case in ST:TNG/Dr. Who Assimilation2.  (Wow that’s a long name) as this is a book that jumps in feet first and uses all the characters it can.

Written by Tony Lee, Scott Tipton and David Tipton and drawn/painted by Gordon Purcell, The Sharp Brothers and JK Woodward, this book’s pedigree is certainly impressive and these creators do not disappoint.  This first volume of the series does good fan service and represents both franchises well.  At C2E2 this year, I had a chance to speak with Woodward and see some of the completed pages he was displaying.  They were fabulous and he was clearly thrilled to be working on the book.  The final product shows this.  Books like this involve a lot of photo reference and need a lot to look right.  In all the right places, Woodward has used the perfect look of a character and they fit the appearance that the reader expects.  The failing of books like this as far as the art goes is that the characters too often look so different from the expectation of the reader that we are pulled right out of the story.  That does not happen in the Woodward pages.  When a tight close up is not used, the shot is more loose and iconic, giving the clear impression of the character without trying to be an exact look-alike.   The pages by the other artists do not fare quite as well, but to be fair it is a harder trick to pull off in solid line art.  Those pages change in art fits the flashback nature of those pages exceptionally well and the surprise treat(assuming you had not seen the spoiler on the cover of the individual issues) for fans of both franchises is a nice touch in the story.

Speaking of the story, this one is a lot of fun.  Both franchises feel at home in this book and the quirks of both shine through.  Anyone that knows The Doctor from before the 2005 resurrection will likely be aware that the Borg from ST:TNG owe a HUGE debt to the Cybermen.  Created decades earlier, the silver cyborgs from The Doctor’s adventures were scary and threatening long before even Captain Kirk’s earliest adventures.  Putting them together in the same story is inspired and goes exactly as you would expect.  One faction ruthless, cold and emotionless, and yet constantly duplicitous and conniving, the other cold, logical and somehow based on fear and loss, and their interaction is interesting and surprising.  The Doctor and his companions are in fine form here and the TNG crew is just as I remember them.  The intersection of the two universes is handled in a very TNG style, with Guinan and the Doctor being the only ones with any idea at all what is happening, and Picard a bit dubious of this fellow in the blue box.  There is really no point in the story where something pulled me out as can often happen in these kinds of mashup.

I did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did.  I really wanted it to be great and it was much to my surprise.  As a fan of both franchises since the late 70’s, this book was a treat that I don’t expect to see matched for a very long time.

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Review: Star Trek-Leonard McCoy Frontier Doctor

Star Trek-Leonard McCoy Frontier Doctor

2010 IDW

104 pages

$18 at your LCS

I’m fairly sure when I reviewed Star Trek Crew a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I don’t like licensed properties.  This series illustrates why.  Another Star Trek series by legendary creator John Byrne, this series takes place after the original TV series but before the first of the movies.  It is all about the adventures of the USS Enterprise’s Chief Medical Officer, Leonard McCoy and what he did in the previously unexplored period of time where the series future was in fan sustained limbo.

The reason that licensed properties have always been hard for me to enjoy is the feeling that they cannot simply stand on their own as stories without making constant references to the original source material.  In this volume those references take the form of cameos and guest appearances of characters from the original series in every chapter.  Admiral Kirk, and Scotty as well as Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln, two characters that Byrne has expanded on in another Comic called Assignment Earth.  The appearances of the first two serve only to remind the reader that there is something else out there that you are supposed to know about and that what you are reading is little more than the bastard stepchild.  That is really not the case.  If creators of these kinds of stories would just take the leap (or in some cases, be allowed to take the leap) the stories would usually stand alone just fine.  The addition of Kirk and Scott adds nothing but that warm blanket of familiarity.  The problem of having a blanket is that once you are out of it, you feel cold again.  This book suffers from the same issues.  If you could get rid of the blanket entirely, you would find you were not really in need of it to be warm.  The book stands on its own quite nicely without it and the references serve only as a distraction from the reason you are there in the first place.  Anyone reading this is likely to have at least a passing familiarity with the Star Trek universe, so the addition of these elements is really nothing more that “fan service”.

There is a lot to like here, just not as much as in Crew.  Crew succeeded by giving you a character that developed before your eyes far beyond that of the relatively two-dimensional one seen in the pilot for the original series.  This book fails somewhat in that it cannot shake off the baggage that the reader will bring to it.  In this case, overfamiliarity with the characters actually hurts the story.

With it’s fairly simple starting point there is much that Byrne can do, but he never seems all that inclined to do it.  The new supporting characters are interesting but they leave the story before they can be developed into anything new.  It is possible that Byrne is planning another visit with them, but in this context it is unsatisfying.  The addition of Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln is a touch that fares better as the reader is less likely to be over familiar with them, and so can enjoy them in the context of this story more.  When the “Number One” character turns up late in the third chapter, it is a welcome surprise and even in her short appearance, adds a lot to the story and the development of the character.  I HOPE there is another visit planned with her as well.

Overall, this is not as satisfying as Crew, but serves to expand Byrne’s version of the universe well enough.  The art is much more relaxed looking than some of the earlier Byrne works and it serves the story very well.  The only thing I found distracting was the panel layout.  It is sometimes difficult to follow.  This may be attributed to the TPB format, as the spine of the book does not go flat like in a monthly floppy, and things spreading over two pages are interrupted visually.  Other than that small gripe, the art is just what one would expect from Byrne, a treat.  Unlike Crew, this story does not flow as effectively issue to issue.  That book was about a central character just like this one, but this feels more like an anthology and may have been originally better served in the monthly release format of the original four issue series.

I have another Byrne Star Trek book coming, this time focusing on the Romulans, and still have high hopes for it.  This one however turned out to be a bit of a letdown after Crew was such a hoot to read.

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Review: Star Trek Crew

Star Trek Crew

2010 IDW

148 pages

$20 at your local comics shop

Let me start with the fact that I do not like licensed properties much.  Even on the franchises that I like I have found very little in the licensed comics that I enjoy.  The rare exceptions that I do enjoy comes as a real delight.  Usually those exceptions are fueled by exceptionally talented creators.  The creator in question here is John Byrne.  I have been a fan for as long as I can remember and now that he is doing the Star Trek books, he really appears to be enjoying himself.  Superior creators having fun is very often a recipe for a great read.  Byrne got his hands on the Star Trek Universe with IDW fairly recently, but it is fairly obvious he has been waiting for his chance for a very long time.  The stories in this volume are well thought out and structured in a very readable manner and manage to maintain the fan friendly nature that is essential to all such properties.

Crew started life as a 5 issue mini series and this collected volume works very well as a single read.  It follows the early days of the character we know only as Number One from the original series first pilot and the re edited version of that story known as The Cage.  In the TV series the part of Number One was played by Majel Barrett, who most fans are well aware of as several parts in most of the franchise incarnations.  Byrne adds a great deal of depth and life to the character, lending Crew its soul, but he never fails to remember that any Star Trek fan will have a pre conceived notion of what this character is.  Starting with her first assignment out of the Academy, she is posted on the newest Constitution Class Heavy Cruiser, the USS Enterprise for that vessel’s shakedown cruise.  Each issue takes a jump in time through her Starfleet career as she works her way through her various tours with a steely determination.

Byrne weaves the progression of the cadet’s career through the individual stories with great effect.  The feel of the original series is here for everyone to enjoy.  There is little or no hint of the sequel series.  There are little touches that weave these stories into the entire Star Trek universe, such as an almost throwaway use of the Next Generation’s least interesting aliens.  Appearances by more familiar characters as the series progresses make this the perfect prequel of sorts to the original series pilot.  You do get the feeling there is another story from Byrne with Number One assuming the Star Trek powers-that-be allow it as it would likely treat more closely on established cannon than the suits would like, but this is a great taste of a fun creator jumping in a pool with both feet.  There are other Byrne Star Trek series available, I personally am heading to Leonard McCoy: Frontier Doctor.  I can’t wait!

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