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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Space Between

Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Space BetweenOrder this bookStory: A series of loosely connected adventures traces the Enterprise crew’s infrequent brushes with a slowly-unfolding mystery that points toward a shadow faction of Starfleet whose actions could endanger the Federation’s peaceful agenda.

Review: Published in six issues in 2007 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the launch of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “The Space Between”‘s six discrete stories are so tenuously connected that one could be forgiven for not realizing that there’s connecting tissue at all. But that’s not really a problem, since “The Space Between” also happens to consist of some pretty good stand-alone stories that feel absolutely authentic to the “eras” of TNG that they portray.

The first story, “History Lesson,” is a nifty little mind-bender that would’ve done Brannon Braga proud in the show’s later years of Mental Possession Plots Every Third Week, and yet this one seeems almost fresh, set during the first season with an interesting artistic take on the characters and Tasha Yar kicking ass like she seldom got to do on TV. “Captain’s Pleasure” builds on the notion of Picard taking leave from the big chair to go on archaeological digs (see also The Chase, Gambit part I), and as with the television episodes where that happened, there’s not only an archaeological mystery but a murder mystery to solve, along with the unlikely sight of Beverly Crusher getting down in a Studio 54-style holodeck disco.

“Strategy” fast-forwards to season 7 and, amid a plotline about recurring attacks by a mystery vessel possession Federation, Romulan and Borg tech, addresses the Worf-Troi-Riker love triangle more adeptly than the series ever got around to doing. “Light Of The Day” is an odd duck, almost like a Star Trek take on a zombie story – which, of course, IDW later did across all of its licensed ranges with its Infestation miniseries. With zombies about as overexposed in horror fiction as vampires are these days, this was the least interesting story to me, though it did at least bring Ensign Ro back into the fold (I’m guessing somewhere in season six, since no stardate is given), and features some fascinating visual effects for the view from Geordi’s VISOR.

The in-jokey title of “Space Seeds” (playing off of Space Seed, the original Trek episode that introduced Khan) is set during season 2, and features an interesting agricultural sci/tech mystery (yes, you read that right) in which Wesley Crusher plays a vital role (you read that right too) and even kicks butt (you’re still reading that right). It’s almost my favorite story in the book, with one exception: without the restriction of having to track down a specific actor or meet the approval of producers making a current Trek series, why no Doctor Pulaski?

The end of “Space Seeds” abruptly sets up the final story, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which would seem to be a TNG nod to Section 31 (a concept introduced in Deep Space Nine and later revealed to have been around as far back as The Space BetweenStar Trek: Enterprise). Admiral Nechayev is brought back and cast in a rather sinister light – we still don’t know whose side she’s on by the end of the story. (Maybe she doesn’t know either, explaining her eternal crankiness.)

Writer David Tischman – who scripted all of the disparate adventures – betrays a little bit of love for the last Star Trek spinoff to hit TV to date; Picard’s archaeological team finds a long-lost Starfleet shuttlepod from the starship Columbia (NX-02), while “Strategy” revives the notion of Romulans deploying remote-controlled ships. The TNG characters are written pitch-perfect – perhaps too pitch-perfect, as there are a few places where I rolled my eyes at a couple of seemingly over-the-top characterizations before reminding myself that the TV series, a creature of the ’80s that just happened to live on into the ’90s, would likely have done exactly the same things. For good or ill, Tischman’s scripts evoke the series perfectly.

Casey Maloney’s artwork improves throughout the story cycle, though this may be a case of other inkers (Maloney draws and inks the early stories) bringing their own style to the table and enhancing his already impressive artwork. By the time the final story kicks in, it’s one of the best-looking Trek comics I’ve ever seen. And thank goodness for the lovely cover artwork on the trade paperback: the individual issues had three covers each – an “A” cover (usually very nicely done artwork), a “B” cover (always an execrable photo-montage of well-worn publcity shots) and retailer incentive covers, which zig-zagged between both styles. The cover on the TPB is the best of one world, thank you very much.

This was IDW’s first foray into the Next Generation license, and in many ways it’s still my favorite.

Year: 2007
Writer: David Tischman
Pencils: Casey Maloney
Inks: Casey Maloney, Aaron Leach, Stacie Ponder
Colors: Leonard O’Grady
Letters: Robbie Robbins, Neil Uyetake, Chris Mowry

Publisher: IDW
Pages: 144

Tron: Betrayal

Tron: BetrayalOrder this bookStory: In 1983, after his nearly miraculous experience on the MCP’s game grid in the ENCOM mainframe, Kevin Flynn creates his own experimental computer system on a computer in the basement of his arcade. With ENCOM’s systems secured from further interference by the MCP, Flynn borrows Alan Bradley’s Tron security program to help keep an eye on the new system. But real world concerns – his duties as the new CEO of ENCOM, his marriage and impending fatherhood – prevent Flynn from devoting the time to the digital world that he would like. His answer is to recreate Clu, another program that originated in the MCP’s system, to act as his deputy in the digital world. But Flynn, Clu and Tron are caught off-guard by a new development on the grid: the emergence of isomorphic algorithms, a new digital life form that Flynn neither created nor anticipated. Flynn sees the advanced society of the isos as a source of inspiration for the solutions to problems of the real world, but Clu sees them as the nexus of expanding disorder within “his” system and decides to take action.

Review: Building on a flashback info-dump from the movie Tron Legacy, “Tron: Betrayal” is a neat piece of connecting tissue bridging the new movie and its 1982 inspiration, but frustratingly, this spinoff project suffers from a specific storytelling problem that also stuck out like a sore thumb on film. Continue reading

Star Trek: Countdown

Star Trek: CountdownBuy this book in theLogBook.com StoreStardate 64333.4: A threat to Romulus is detected by a mining ship commanded by a Romulan named Nero. A supernova with unique properties is consuming everything in its path. Ambassador Spock, now the Federation’s formal ambassador to Romulus, urges the Romulan Senate to treat this threat with the utmost severity, but his pleas fall on deaf ears – at least at the highest levels. Spock’s proposal of a means to stop the all-consuming supernova captures Nero’s imagination, and Nero is willing to pledge the resources of his mining ship to gather the decalithium Spock’s plan requires. This also means leaving his wife – about to give birth to a son – on Romulus, but Nero is swayed by Spock’s promise of help. Despite interference from Reman pirates – a situation which is resolved in Nero’s favor by the timely arrival of the U.S.S. Enterprise and Captain Data – Nero’s crew gathers the material necessary and heads for Vulcan. But both Nero and Spock are unwelcome on Vulcan: the Romulan is considered a security risk, and Spock is considered a traitor, until Ambassador Jean-Luc Picard steps in to clear the obstacles in their path. But even Picard’s influence cannot sway the Vulcan Science Council: they give the supernova threat no more credence than the Romulan Senate. Nero races back to Romulus to evacuate his family, only to see the planet destroyed before his eyes. Enraged, Nero decides that the trip to Vulcan was a Vulcan/Federation plot to delay his mission to save Romulus, and when Nero’s ship, the Narada, recovers surviving members of the Senate, Nero kills them, feeling that they too betrayed the Romulan people with their indecision. Using information acquired from the Senators, Nero takes the Narada to a top-secret Romulan facility called the Vault, where he acquires adaptive technology for the Narada and sets forth on a mission of vengeance. Ambassadors Spock and Picard, Captain Data, retired Commander Geordi La Forge and Klingon General Worf combine forces to try to stop Nero’s unquenchable thirst for revenge, as well as the spreading supernova threat. Only one of these goals can be met – and though Spock succeeds in preventing the supernova from spreading further, he finds that the resulting cosmic energies unleashed may have given Nero a way to take his quest for revenge into the past. Spock pursues the Romulan into the past, knowing that it can only be a one-way trip.

Review: Considered the “official prequel” to J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek film, “Countdown” sets up Nero and Spock as we see them in the movie, and gives us a taste of the future from which they hail. The story also shows us where the TNG characters are in relation to all of this, and helps to tie the movie’s story in to the existing franchise. As is typical of material in the “expanded” Star Trek universe, there’s no indication that IDW was under any pressure to pay any attention to what’s going on in the increasingly cataclysmic post-Star Trek: Nemesis novels by Pocket Books, and some readers may be just fine with that. The comic even ties off some of the developments introduced in Nemesis itself, and in some cases it minimizes their impact or erases it altogether – again, perhaps not something that anyone will mourn. Continue reading

Empire

EmpireOrder this bookStory: What happens when a would-be world conqueror actually succeeds? An armored military genius named Golgoth is about to find out, as only a small corner of the globe sits outside of his empire. That empire is far from peaceful; not only is a rebellion brewing, but Golgoth’s own inner circle is far from trustworthy. Golgoth keeps their ambitions in check through his control of Eucharist, a highly addictive drug. The source of Eucharist is a closely guarded secret, but Golgoth has surrounded himself with men and women who will go to any length to achieve their ends . . . how long can the secrets last?

Review: “Empire” was originally meant to be an ongoing series from the late and lamented Gorilla Comics imprint. Gorilla shut down after only two issues were printed – and if you can ever get Mark Waid to tell you that story at a convention, go for it – but DC stepped in to finish off the first arc as a miniseries. This book definitely concludes with the feeling that there is more to the story, and sadly Waid and Kitson have not gotten around to telling it yet. Continue reading

Superman Archives – Volume 1

Superman Archives - Volume 1Order this bookStory: Rocketed from a doomed planet as a child, Clark Kent grows up to find that he is endowed with super-human abilities. He takes a job as a reporter at a great metropolitan newspaper and fights for the good of all under the name of…Superman!

Review: When DC Comics decided to start producing a series of high-quality, hardcover reprints of their classic comics, they naturally began with Superman. But instead of beginning with Action Comics #1, they began, instead, with the first four issues of Superman’s eponymous title. This was natural enough, as Superman shared Action with several other series, while Superman was for the Man of Steel alone. Since the early issues of Superman mainly reprinted (and sometimes expanded) the stories from Action anyway, the decision makes even more sense. Continue reading

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical ManualOrder this bookStory: Covering not just the DS9 space station, the Technical Manual also spreads out to delve into the Defiant, runabouts, phasers and tricorders, Cardassian and other alien ships, and more. The text is written from the Starfleet perspective as of DS9’s seventh season, locked into a bloody war with the Dominion, making it an interesting departure from the cheery “enjoy all the great features of your new Oldsmobile” owner’s manual approach of the TNG Technical Manual.

Review: This book is long overdue; even the introduction by producer Ira Steven Behr asks the question “Why the hell did this take six years?” of the book’s own publishers, and even notes that the long-promised “Deep Space Nine Companion” (which, at the time, had been a tentative ghost on the Pocket Books schedule since 1995 or so) is even more overdue. (With respect to Mr. Behr, considering DS9’s probable lack of a big-screen future, it made a bit of sense to wait for the end of the series to come, since it would be silly to publish a DS9 companion volume in 1998 and then wait a couple of years to release an updated version with only one additional season’s worth of information.) Continue reading

Midnight Nation

Midnight NationOrder this bookStory: Los Angeles Police Lieutenant David Grey tries to arrest a suspect in a pair of drug-related murders, but instead finds himself at the wrong end of a beating by otherworldly creatures called Walkers. Rather than kill him, the Walkers’ leader takes David’s soul and sends him to The Place In-Between – the world of the homeless, the out-of-work, the out-of-date, and the out-of-luck, where people and things fade to after they are forgotten or abandoned. David soon meets Laurel, an emissary from the Walkers’ opponent in an ongoing metaphysical conflict, and the two set off on a cross-country walk to New York to confront the Walkers’ leader and reclaim David’s soul before he becomes trapped In-Between forever.

Review: In some ways, I consider “Midnight Nation” to be Straczynski’s most successful work. Babylon 5 was certainly a more ambitious and more admirable undertaking, and probably his greatest accomplishment, but the realities of TV meant that sometimes things didn’t quite click right. With Midnight Nation, Straczynski revisits many of B5’s themes, but in a more personal story that is still cosmic in scope and works tremendously well in this collected format. Continue reading

Star Trek: Ships Of The Line

Star Trek - Ships Of The LineOrder this bookStory: The computer-generated, hand-painted and photographed images that have graced the numerous Star Trek: Ships Of The Line calendars through the years are collected in a single, large-format volume, each piece accompanied by a descriptive text placing the artwork in the context of the larger Star Trek universe.

Review: As much as I try to avoid reviewing what are essentially “picture books” here, this one was interesting enough to grab my attention. The artwork is impeccable. Featured here are the first full printed rendering of the far-future Enterprise NCC 1701-J, though the prize among the recent works may go to 3-D artist Gabriel Koerner’s impressive redesign of the original 1701, which stretches design elements of past (NX-01) and future (24th century) Enterprises together over the same basic silhouette of the original. Andrew Probert, designer of NCC-1701-D, gives us our first good look at the oft-mentioned but never-seen 1701-D Captain’s Yacht. And there’s a curious picture which ties the fate of the Columbia (NX-02, sister ship of Jonathan Archer’s Enterprise) to the era of the Dominion War (!). Each picture’s accompanying slice of text hints at a bigger story yet untold; few of the pictures attempt to visually “retell” existing stories. I like that – we have the HD remastered episodes of the original TV series for that. Most of the works in this book tell their own stories. Continue reading

Star Trek Starfleet Technical Manual

Star Trek Starfleet Technical ManualStar Trek Starfleet Technical ManualOrder this bookStory: Once upon a time, Starfleet Headquarters was a vast space station floating in the space between two of the galaxy’s spiral arms. Starfleet tug ships hauled enormous cylindrical spaceliners, loaded with passengers, from destination to destination. Dozens of Constitution-class starships roamed the final frontier, while the next big design on Starfleet’s drawing boards was a triple-warp-engine dreadnought designed to better protect Federation interests from the Klingons – just in case the Organians blinked. Oh, and tricorders were full of big honkin’ transistors and capacitors, too – so long as you happened to be looking at the declassified 23rd century documents that wound up in the hands of a 20th century publisher after a mysterious time-travel mishap.

Review: The first professional publication of its kind (and certainly of its scope), Franz Joseph’s “Star Trek Starfleet Technical Manual” extrapolated the future of Kirk and Spock based on the information available at the time. Which, in 1975, was 79 hours of television, and a couple dozen animated stories. Though Paramount Pictures and Gene Roddenberry were quietly ramping up their efforts to bring Star Trek to the big screen that year, it would be a long and torturous process – and nothing that the public would hear about for at least another two years. Continue reading

Mr. Scott’s Guide To The Enterprise

Mr. Scott's Guide To The EnterpriseOrder this bookStory: On behalf of the 23rd century’s own Miracle Worker, the author guides us through external and internal schematics of the movie-era U.S.S. Enterprise, with a travelogue of the more interesting destinations on every deck of the ship, set photos where they exist, and illustrated guides to uniforms, weapons, landing party equipment, and secondary spacecraft such as the Enterprise’s shuttles and work pods. An appendix brings the book up to date with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Review: An interesting hybrid of text and blueprint, “Mr. Scott’s Guide To The Enterprise” is a throwback to a different day and age in Star Trek publishing. At the time, the only new adventures on the horizon were the movies, which appeared every two to three years, and a two-hour action-adventure flick every couple of years or so seemed unlikely to delve into the workings of the ship, so why not fill in the gaps a bit? Continue reading