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TrekInk: Review Star Trek Manga Volume 3 August 13, 2008

by John Tenuto , Filed under: Comics,TOS , trackback

Tokyopop has released its third Star Trek manga comic book collection this month, and it includes solid comic narratives and perhaps one of the very best Star Trek panel stories of all time. Titled Uchu (which translates to "Universe"), the volume includes four stories set in the original five year mission, including tales from Wil Wheaton and David Gerrold.

 

REVIEW – UCHU

Uchu contains four Star Trek Original Series stories illustrated in the manga style. Each gets its own mini review, below:

Art of War
Story by Wil Wheaton, art by E.J. Su

"Just as I don’t represent all men, Kring can’t represent all Klingons"
– Captain Kirk

Fans of Wil Wheaton’s blog or books know him to be an adroit writer of nonfiction, an almost Mark Twain for the geek crowd if you don’t mind such a comparison. Yet his "Art of War" story shows he is talented with fictional narratives, too. The story involves Kirk and a Klingon named Kring both trapped together in a collapsed mine on the planet Angrena. The "enemies forced to cooperate" situation isn’t unique to science fiction or to Star Trek, be it the film Enemy Mine or "The Enemy" and "Darmok" episodes of TNG. These kinds of narratives succeed if there is something different about how they are told and if they provide the reader with something to think about with the characters or a social lesson. Wheaton does all of these things with his comic.

The story begins with both Kirk and Kring having to answer for their behaviors of helping the other person survive. One side of the page tell the story from Kirk’s experience, the other side of the page is from Kring’s. This allows for a juxtaposition of the Federation and Klingon cultures throughout the narrative. Also, we learn something about Captain Kirk and his decisions here show why he is such a great leader. There is also a social lesson here about not treating people, especially the enemy during war, as stereotypes. It is a lesson which is in the grand tradition of Star Trek.

The art by E.J. Su is effective, although one of my complaints about manga comics and Star Trek has historically been the lack of colors. The tradition for manga is of course black and white art, yet Star Trek’s tradition is bright colors. In fact, colors are an important storytelling device in Star Trek, from adding danger to scenes with red shirts to reinforcing the symbolism of diversity. I am not suggesting that a manga should have colors, it is that the lack of colors for a Star Trek comic are disconcerting and obviously distracting. That being said, Su’s art is quintessential manga art, with sharp lines that show the expressions of the characters in exaggerated and fun styles.

Art of War: Story: 10 out of 10, Art: 7 out of 10


Kirk does his thing in "Art of War"

Bandi
Story by David Gerrold, Pencils and Inks by Don Hudson, Tones by Steve Buccellato

I take no more than the usual enjoyment from your discomfort, Doctor McCoy.
– Spock

David Gerrold has told Star Trek stories in a variety of formats, from novelizations ("Encounter at Farpoint " novel), to teleplays ("The Trouble With Tribbles" as an example), to fan films ("Blood and Fire") to comic books. What is interesting is that like most writers, Gerrold doesn’t let good ideas sit on his shelf. "Blood and Fire" is an update of an unutilized TNG script. "Bandi" was actually a script Gerrold discussed with Gene Coon before "Tribbles" was sold and is discussed in the 1970s behind the scenes book "The Trouble With Tribbles." The story seems mostly unchanged, which isn’t a bad thing because it is a funny character tale, although now, ironically, it reads as derivative of Tribbles.

Gerrold hasn’t lost any of his ability to write funny dialog without being ridiculous. Spock and the Doctor are great together, here. Plus, Gerrold’s humorous comic has serious subtext, especially its effective discussion as to whether hate is something people chose. What is good is that the tone of this is so different than the other comics, something Star Trek does on television and the feature films, varying its style and motifs each week. Also enjoyable are the injokes of the names of the crew and the Federation station that Gerrold has utilized in his narrative (we won’t spoil the surprises here).

While the art is more like DC or Marvel comic books, there are unmistakable manga influences and the art is excellent. The art also helps teach those unfamiliar with manga that the form has a variety of styles.

Story: 7 out of 10, Art: 10 out of 10


"Bandi" is the comic relief in "Uchu"

The Humanitarian
Story by Luis Reyes, Art by Nate Watson

I feel nothing, Doctor.
– Spock

Did you ever read the Star Trek short story "Make-Believe" by Allyn Gibson from the 2006 Constellations collection from Pocket Books? If you did, you probably know what I am going to say. Once in a while, a Star Trek story is so incredibly good that it stays with you forever. "Make-Believe" is like that, an amazing story that is so emotional and unique that it qualifies not only as great Star Trek, but great literature. You may feel similarly about a story about feelings, "The Humanitarian" by Luis Reyes. This is a character study of Spock that is surprising in its ability to surprise. I thought I had this story figured out, then it becomes something entirely different. The story speaks volumes about the character of Spock, and places him in a situation he has not really experienced before. How does someone who professes not to have emotion, yet who knows he really does, deal with such an illogical situation? There is an emotionalism to this story that makes it something special. "The Humanitarian" is much more than a comic book, it is Star Trek literature at its best.

Nate Watson’s art reinforces the emotions of the story, especially with his use of silhouettes. When Spock leans against a wall in silhouette, much like a character previously shown in the story, the effect is amazing.

Story: 10 out of 10, Art: 10 out of 10


"The Humanitarian" captures the Kirk/McCoy relationship

Inalienable Rights
Story by Nathaniel Bowden, Art by Heidi Arhnold

Greetings. I am Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise. I represent the United Federation of Planets.

Here’s an irony about "Inalienable Rights." Of the four narratives of Uchu, it is the most like the original television show. Yet, it is the least effective and enjoyable. Everything is here that needs to be here. There is the humor which is excellent and derived from the characters. There is the notion of exploring a strange world. There are social lessons, especially if warp capability actually means a culture is advanced enough socially as Star Trek usually argues. There is even the Captain Kirk lothario notion. It should be a great adventure, yet it is only diverting and not very effective. Perhaps the real problem is that we never learn about the Mols who are crucial to the story, Plus, Captain Kirk’s solution at the end is more like the TNG era. In fact, it is pretty reprehensible that Kirk leaves the situation when he involved himself with Jeena. He is not that kind of character. Bowden’s narrative has many classic Trek features, yet it needed a rewrite and a few more pages of exposition. That isn’t to say this is a bad comic, yet it is certainly the least effective of the group.

The art is very effective though. The alien culture of Makon is realized and the characters look like ones that might have appeared on a Star Trek episode of the era with a slightly better budget.
 

Story: 6 out 10, Art: 9 out of 10


Kirk has an awkward first contact in "Inalienable Rights"

Uchu is a worthwhile addition to your Star Trek book and comic book collection, if for nothing else than the unique style of Wheaton, the humor of Gerrold, the classic episode narrative of Bowden, and most especially, the must read script by Reyes. The name Uchu is appropriate because of the universe of styles here, both with the narratives and the art.

TokyoPop have online previews of all three of their Star Trek mangas available at their website.

 
Uchu is available now at Amazon

More Trek Manga on the way

Next March the three TOS editions of Trek manga are being combined into the "Star Trek Ultimate Edition" or "Kanzenban" (meaning "collection" or "omnibus"). The Ultimate Edition will include exclusive bonus pages and one of the stories will be presented in color, a first for the Star Trek mangas.  Fans are being invited by Tokyopop to vote on which story from the previous volumes of Star Trek The Manga should be published in color for the Ultimate Edition

 
The Ultimate Edition Manga Collection is available for pre-order at Amazon
(cover and title not final)

After three editions of Manga from The Original Series, Tokyo Pop is ready to head to the 24th Century. Their next manga "Star Trek: The Next Generation Volume 1," which includes another story by David Gerrold, is available now for pre-order and comes out next April.

 

Comments

1. beerwriter - August 14, 2008

I’m not usually that interested in manga, but I’ve gotta admit these look interesting.

2. MisokaData - August 14, 2008

I didn’t really like this third one. The books seem to decrease in in my favor. The First book has excellent art. For example in ‘Til Death, the art work is what I would expect in a manga! A fine example of a real TOS episode. And the third book just were terrible. I think Wil Wheaton’s story is the only one worth reading, well… maybe Inalienable Rights, too. Bandi just made me want to throw up!!

This book is really Kirk heavy which is alright but there is a point where you really want to bloody damn kick him off the ship.

3. Daoud - August 14, 2008

“Kanzenban”… just sayin’.

4. The Gorn Identity - August 14, 2008

I haven’t gotten any of the ST Mangas but this volume looks pretty good. I may have to pick it up.

5. ~~TARA~~ - August 14, 2008

I received this one when it came out, but I haven’t had time to read it. I really think I’ll make time this weekend to enjoy it:)

6. The Underpants Monster - August 14, 2008

>>I’m not usually that interested in manga, but I’ve gotta admit these look interesting.<<

You took the words out of my mouth! Most of them look like cracking good reads.

I would disagree with the notion that leaving the situation once you’ve gotten involved is more Picard’s style than Kirk’s, but that’s a minor quibble with the review, and not with the book.

7. star trackie - August 14, 2008

Oh lawd. Just can’t get past that style. And if anything was NEVER meant to be black and white, it’s TOS Trek. The stories sound good though, maybe they’ll adapt and flesh them out into novels some day.

8. darendoc - August 14, 2008

I can’t get past the artwork… I hate the style… and did McCoy’s arm whither and shrink in that panel where he has his hand on Spock’s shoulder? What’s with that?

Yeah, yeah… it’s manga… but I think I’d accept these stories if they were just written in novel form.

Old fashioned fan signing off…

9. OM - August 14, 2008

“Just as I don’t represent all men, Kring can’t represent all Klingons” >/i>

…Shouldn’t that be “Kringons” in this case?

[Mental note: fire off to Wil on Twitter about this gaffe]

10. THX-1138 The Fandom Menace - August 14, 2008

Further proof that William Shatner has an oddly un-recreatable face. The artwork represented here is some of the worst Shatner/Kirk attempts I’ve seen. The stories look like fun, but the art doesn’t win me over.

On a related note, if you were to take all of the published adventures of the original five year mission and add them up with the run of the first series and TAS, just how long did that 5 year mission last? It’s got to be up to 8 or 9 years by now. Kind of like the original run of the series M.A.S.H. that was longer than the actual Korean war.

11. john - August 14, 2008

the manga just looks horrible, whats next Star Trek Furries?!:(

12. john - August 14, 2008

its like the artist cant decide on the style, some of the characters are big eyed Anime, and some realistic? Just doesn’t jive. IMHO Manga art is a cop out-the eyes/features are exactly the same. You just change the hair and outfit to make it different and so its like cookie cutter art.

13. Izbot - August 14, 2008

“Bandi” has some genuinely funny moments — moments that are perfectly realized in this format.

14. Victor Hugo - August 14, 2008

7: And if anything was NEVER meant to be black and white, it’s TOS Trek.

Curiously though, a considerable group of people all over the world remember the original Star Trek and Lost in Space exclusively in black and white.

15. star trackie - August 14, 2008

14 “Curiously though, a considerable group of people all over the world remember the original Star Trek and Lost in Space exclusively in black and white.”

Very true. B&W is all some folks had. But I’d wager if Uncle Bob, back in 1966, set up a color set in the next room and also turned on Star Trek, the room with the B&W set would empty fairly quicky.

16. The Underpants Monster - August 14, 2008

#12 – the different stories are drawn by different artists.

17. Daoud - August 14, 2008

#14/#15 Interestingly, as a child watching Trek with my mom… on a B&W TV no less… the one episode I remember watching clearly to this day is “Let That Be Your Last…”. Remembering things clearly from when one was 5 is pretty tough in your 40s after all! One did not need color to make that episode clear in its meaning. ;) However, perhaps “Shades of Grey” would have been a better B&W era title!

18. S. John Ross - August 14, 2008

#7 Sez: “And if anything was NEVER meant to be black and white, it’s TOS Trek. The stories sound good though, maybe they’ll adapt and flesh them out into novels some day.”

It’s interesting, though, that for some (many?) fans it’s easy to accept Star Trek novels (which are printed in black and white with a single color cover) but difficult to accept B&W comics (which are black and white with a single color cover) … that the visual nature of the medium raises visual expectations in that way.

Not criticizing or disagreeing, just finding it interesting.

19. OM - August 14, 2008

“the manga just looks horrible, whats next Star Trek Furries?!:(“

Star Trek Kids. After all, if drivel like Tiny Titans can be a hit, why not Muppet Babies versions of Kirk, Spock and the rest?

20. Anthony Pascale - August 14, 2008

FYI (on deleted post):
please do not use TrekMovie to promote sales of your items off ebay,
thank you

21. Jim - August 14, 2008

I was a bit skeptical but picked up the first book and read it in a single sitting. I’ve now read all three books and thoroughly enjoyed each one of them.

It’s true, they are manga, and there are limits to the format. The stories are for the most part truly enjoyable, and it is interesting to see each artist’s interpretation of the characters and setting.

Re: B&W – I firmly believe that there is a generational bias that exists regarding B&W. In comparing notes with movie lovers under 30 I’ve been shocked to find many who consider themselves to be knowledgeable about film haven’t seen absolute classics like “Maltese Falcon”, “Casablanca”, “Seven Samuri”, “Rashomon” or a Marx Brothers movie simply because they are in B&W. Avoiding B&W simply because it’s B&W is like judging a book by its cover.

22. Thomas Jensen - August 14, 2008

The stories might be good, but the artwork…not my deal. Kirk looks like a little kid in that picture.

23. john - August 14, 2008

I was a kid once who was also into Star Trek at age 5 and I liked it just fine as it was, I didnt need to see them amorphised into rodents to ‘get it’ I guess kids now lack that imagination!

“…Star Trek Kids. After all, if drivel like Tiny Titans can be a hit, why not Muppet Babies versions of Kirk, Spock and the rest?”

24. P. Technobabble - August 14, 2008

I’ve seen numerous Star Trek comics over the years, and there’s only one that stands out in my mind, “Debt Of Honor,” and that was mostly because of the artwork. To my eyes, the artwork in this graphic novel are superior and best represent the look of Star Trek more than any other Trek comic I’ve seen.

25. Q - August 14, 2008

I’m really not fond of any of the artists that work on the Star Trek manga. Honestly, I’m not reading the manga for the art, just the stories. Just because it’s Star Trek. I’m really not feeling most of the artwork at all, since it looks like an american comic book. E.J. Su gets the closest to making it look like an actual manga.

There are a few more artists that come close as well, but for the most part, it doesn’t look like a manga. That doesn’t mean I hate the artists! (Otherwise I wouldn’t have bought it!) I’m just really picky about the look of all my manga.

Okay, rant over. (Totally want to buy the ultimate collection.)

26. Kapitaen Stephan - August 15, 2008

Oh, cool, they`re printing an Omnibus!!!

And I`ve got all 3 books already!

Damn!

But I like the idea of a TNG-Manga Series.

Have to buy this!

27. Izbot - August 15, 2008

24. P. Technobabble –
“I’ve seen numerous Star Trek comics over the years, and there’s only one that stands out in my mind, “Debt Of Honor,” and that was mostly because of the artwork. To my eyes, the artwork in this graphic novel are superior and best represent the look of Star Trek more than any other Trek comic I’ve seen.”

That was a real high point in Trek comics quality. Written by Chris Claremont (the guy who shaped the X-Men in comics for close to 20 years) and beautifully illustrated by Adam Hughes (who still produces some of the most gorgeous Catwoman covers for DC) “Debt of Honor” was a real standout.

28. Victor Hugo - August 15, 2008

24. Ditto.

The 1992´s “Star Trek: Debt of Honor” graphic novel is a masterpiece, and every trekker should have the opportunity to savour it

Claremont is as knowledgeable and wordy as usual, and Adam Hughes art is classy, smooth, elegant, subtle and sensual, treating with the same care people and machinery.

29. Captain Pike - August 15, 2008

Debt of Honor is indeed the stand out effort in Trek comics. Hughes recreates not one but four eras of Starfleet uniforms is loving detail. And Claremont’s story is solid too.

30. Andrew Steven Harris - August 15, 2008

I think a lot of the comments here are well-considered, but it also needs to be mentioned that despite their initial similarities, manga is an inherently different format and type of storytelling than comic books. (It’s why Tokyopop can publish Trek manga, even though IDW has the Trek comics license.)

For example, fans of Trek comics are notably particular about the likenesses of the actors, but for manga fans, it’s much more important to have that “manga’ look (younger, thinner, more dynamic) than it is for a character to look photo-perfect to the actor. Even the storytelling style is different–more action, less oration, and so on. (Wil Wheaton had some really insightful comments about this at the Star Trek publishing panel at the San Diego convention.)

For that matter, there’s even a difference in comics themselves about the style of storytelling and art between Trek and regular comics–an artist whose work is hotcakes on Spider-Man (say, McFarlane back in the day) might be totally unsuited for a Star Trek project. And yet, EJ Su, who tears it up in the pages of Transformers comics but is little known outside TF fandom, produces some great Trek manga work.

31. Steve Roby - August 15, 2008

I wasn’t anywhere near as impressed with the book as John Tenuto was, unfortunately. Wil Wheaton’s was decent but predictable, Gerrold’s was a 40-year-old story that wasn’t considered good enough back then, The Humanitarian was too much of a big event story for me to buy it as part of the five year mission, and the last story was Trek by numbers.

Not bad, certainly, but nothing to really get excited about, either.

32. Mr. Bob Dobalina - August 15, 2008

What’s the attraction to art where everyone looks like everyone else? Everyone is cookie cutter cute and I don’t like “cute” in my Trek. Definitely not for me.

33. Izbot - August 16, 2008

I have to say that I think the idea of Trek manga is a really great idea. Manga have become huge in America particularly among younger audiences (most bookstore chains now have manga sections that dwarf their shelf space devoted to American comic book/graphic novel). Anything that brings in a new generation of Trek fans is welcome in my opinion.

I remember seeing some artwork for an authentic Japanese Star Trek manga in the 1980s with all new characters in TWOK-era uniforms including an Andorian officer. They weren’t available in America and were produced in and for the Japanese market. I have always hoped that someday these would be translated and made available here in the states but it seems unlikely at this point. Looked cool, though. Anybody know anything about those?

34. Tokyopop releases third Trek Manga : TREKS in SCI-FI Podcast - August 17, 2008

[...] Tokyopop has released its third Star Trek manga comic book collection this month, and it includes solid comic narratives and perhaps one of the very best Star Trek panel stories of all time. Titled Uchu (which translates to “Universe”), the volume includes four stories set in the original five year mission, including tales from Wil Wheaton and David Gerrold.  Learn more HERE. [...]

35. PAX - August 25, 2008

[...] and a panel with actor–and now accomplished writer–Wil Wheaton, who has been called “an almost Mark Twain for the geek crowd.” (What, you don’t read his [...]

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