Benjamin Sisko, This Is Your Life: Reviewing ‘Star Trek’ #8

In the modern era of ongoing franchises, there is a massive focus, for good or for ill, on continuity or canon. What is or isn’t canon, what elements have been forgotten/retconned, whether a character did or didn’t already do a thing, or if that thing has some semblance of an effect on a current story. Fandom circles will argue endlessly whether it all matters, and whether they believe that the current creatives handling the franchise “respect” that canon/continuity or not.

It’s an asinine discussion really, because what matters is the story. Times change, things change, and new voices emerge. That being said, there is very much a way to have the proverbial cake and eat it too when it comes to telling new stories. There are ways to incorporate what has come before in compelling character and story ways. Opening any issue of the current Star Trek series from IDW Publishing stands as an example of this notion.

A series that brought together various crew members from most of the Star Trek TV series from over several decades was naturally going to be a series full of references, easter eggs, callbacks, returns, or whatever you want to call them. The way that Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly employ all of those references as not only logical (Vulcans would be proud) extensions of telling a story in this established universe but as components to further both the overall stories of these characters they are the current stewards of, and their own story is perfection.

Additionally, each of these bits, from something as wide as Benjamin Sisko’s part in the Dominion War concerning Cardassians, to Data’s dealing with his emotion chip (more on that in a bit), to simple things like the return of a Bajoran Solar ship, are handled in a way that is gratifying to the longtime Trek fans but also very accessible for anyone that hasn’t devoutly watched every episode and film to carry the Trek name.

A major thing that helps, beyond the Hivemind just being talented writers who have a great ability to really pull the most out of any characters, is the inspired use of the data pages. These extra pages have popped up here or there in comic books in the last decade or so, but they found a whole new wider life a few years ago thanks to a big relaunch of a marvelous property at another publisher. Here they have been everything from log entries that give us more depth on a character to epic poems to files on different subjects that do all the info dumping about a given topic so that other pages don’t have to do the same through tons of dialogue.

I said we’d come back to the Data thing, and it ties into data pages, and not because of the name thing. Readers getting a whole data page of Data having a full-blown conversation (with one side undecipherable…to us at least) with his cat Spot, coming in the form of a personal log because Spot did the cat thing and laid on a console… is freaking brilliant. There is so much grandness in this one issue alone, so much so that it deserves a couple of read-throughs just for the joy of it all, but that moment was like plopping another scoop of ice cream on top of the one you already have.

Also, we get Tom Paris flying a starship with a sailing ship-style wheel…this comic is perfect.

Bringing all those elements into the script is one thing, it’s a lot of trying to find organic logical ways to tie them all together, it’s a whole other thing to visually make them all not only show up on the pages, but pop and feel as awesome as they should. We don’t have to fear that with Mike Feehan and Lee Loughridge handling the artwork here.

Feehan’s work has a very animated style energy to it, but with such weighted realistic detail and depth. His linework gives this universe a life that feels like it could fly off the page. Readers feel everything. The emotions of these characters are clear upon their face, radiating through the entire panel/scene, and the starships and the settings feel properly scaled. Over the time that I’ve been doing reviews, page layout/panels are something I’ve come to appreciate far more than I used to, realizing just how powerful these choices are in creating specific energy and looks for a story.

Perfect examples are some of the scenes on Cardassia, and then the moment of turning the Theseus into a Bajoran Solar ship. In the court scenes, the panels are very tight, often angled, creating a very enclosed and tense space. The background figures are often obscured and just out of focus, but clearly menacing, while using more standard closeup style panels to showcase the wide swath of witnesses. Speaking of those panels, I love how unique and varied the array of Cardassians on display are here, compared to all the very similar mostly military types we saw on screen.

All the panels with the Theseus are also tight and confined at first with closeups of the crew working to change the ship, but they feel more open at the same time, hopeful and freeing. Then, a spread of the ship post-transformation is gorgeous to behold. Some might argue the inset of Data and Paris pulls away from the grandeur of that spread, but I would argue it actually is the final necessary piece because it puts the punctuation on the sheer joy. We’re meant to feel at this moment through their exuberance at setting sail.

In both cases the color work from Loughridge makes it work even more, because each space has a unique feeling and the differences in tones help set the moods I already mentioned. Cardassia is very shadowed and often dark, and the scenes in the prison are very dim which fits with what we often saw in the series when there were flashes of what the station looked like when the Cardassians were in charge.

The court scenes are very tense with the shadows, they are also so very yellow, a massive level of bright yellow (as well as some browns) that fits with the theme of the Cardassians but also perfectly plays into the off-putting feeling we’re meant to be feeling in the moment about this whole situation.

In contrast, everything with the Theseus is still very bright with the continued use of the green lights and hues on the bridge, the yellows in other areas of the ship, with plenty of cool blues and other colors rounding things out. It’s far more comforting than the moments on Cardassia, but it’s also not so comfortable that we’re taken off guard from the very tough mission this crew is still undertaking. With just a few shifts in colors or levels of that color, the entire mood/tone of a page can dramatically change and that is just such an awesome thing to really think about.

A story that is half a trial, where a ton of witnesses crowd onto a page to testify, means that there is going to be a whole lot of dialogue and letterer Clayton Cowles handles such tasks with ease. It all flows through the pages/panels without jumbling up or feeling overwhelming, keeping our attention moving through the page while allowing us to hear/feel the tone and personality of every word. Wordier issues like this can sometimes get to a point where it’s easy to feel one’s eyes start to gloss over trying to take it all in but it’s never the case with the work Cowles does.

Star Trek #8 is now available from IDW Publishing.

 

In the modern era of ongoing franchises, there is a massive focus, for good or for ill, on continuity orCOMICONRead More

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