This week in the Ink we review the latest ‘Assignment Earth’ adventure. We finally meet Gary Seven’s bosses as he saves the world from imminent destruction… again. As usual, Isis and Roberta Lincoln contribute their help, and things are set to the right… Or are they? Plus there are some new preview images of upcoming comics to take a look at.
Review: Star Trek Assignment Earth #4
As we move toward his upcoming Hollow Crown mini-series, John Byrne returns to regale us with the second to last tale in his Assignment: Earth mini-series, and I, for one, am not looking forward to the end of this one. If you’d told me that I would have enjoyed this series so much, especially after not liking the original television episode that it is based on, I wouldn’t have believed you. As it happens, this is now, easily my favorite Trek comic that IDW has done to date.
With this fourth book in the series, “We have met the enemy…”, Byrne seems to be bringing the series toward a climax, and seems to be tying the events of the prior issues together into a loose overarching storyline. He opens with some almost typical humor, showing Roberta Lincoln going through a variety of wardrobe changes, made possible by Betty… er… Beta 5. During a quick berating by Gary Seven, an unexpected alarm goes off, but there is no obvious reason what is setting it off. It turns out that it was set off by the people that Roberta used to work for. A quick teleport, car acquirement, and Gary Seven and Roberta are on the trail, pretending that they’re on a honeymoon… until a shop owner mistakes Roberta for Gary’s daughter. And she changes their cover story to that quickly.
Byrne sets up a solid story, teases us for several pages, shows us some solid back story for both Roberta and Gary, and even introduces us to a new alien language. Something we’re not used to seeing in Star Trek — language that is undecipherable! The story does get a bit confusing along the way, but the impression I got as I read it was that it was intended that way, as our window into Gary Seven’s world is that of Roberta Lincoln. Byrne uses her in the same way that she was used in the original episode, as the “innocent view into the world”, the same stance we’re coming into it with. This story is a touch shorter than the previous issues, but that leaves a couple of pages for a quick “spotlight” story. The final two pages of the issue are dedicated to a brief story called “Isis”. Byrne presents this as a completely silent story, without any lettering whatsoever — no sound effects, no dialogue. A new step for IDW, but in this case, the brief adventure works. We’re still not learning much about Isis that we didn’t know already, but she’s quite the entertaining character.
Byrne’s artwork continues on the same levels as it has all series. He gets the look and feel of the era, 1971, and even when we have some flashback scenes, the look there feels “older” than the rest of the story bits. Some clever uses of technology, and some good visuals fill out the story nicely for us. As usual though, his caricatures of people are a bit loose and not always shaped like humans, but that is his style, and once you get used to it, you stop noticing it. Having said that, he really shines in the two page Isis story at the end of the episode. Having to present a full story in two pages without dialogue or sound effects shows the storytelling skill that he has in his artwork. Each image is a fully realized scene in a city, well detailed, and full of things happening. I hope that IDW allows Byrne to present an entire issue of similar such short stories somewhere along the way, as something like that could be quite entertaining and interesting to read.
So, it’s all been positive thus far, in line with my general feelings about this series, where’s the “but”? Well, there aren’t too many qualms I have with the issue or story that I haven’t addressed, but there were a few oddly placed dialogue balloons. And this isn’t the first time it has happened. In the last issue, there were a couple of odd ones, but it seems to be happening a bit more often lately with the IDW books that I read (Trek stuff, Locke & Key, Galaxy Quest, Dead She Said, and Fallen Angel — if you must know). I’m not sure what the problem is, but it’s starting to get a bit distracting. After all, we’re trying to take part in a bit of escapism here!
Overall? I’m looking forward to the fifth issue, and this will be one trade paperback that I will not be missing when it comes out a few months down the road. For those out there who suggested that John Byrne might be past his prime, read this series. He’s back, and more than willing to prove that he’s still able to write and draw a solid enjoyable story.
Cover for Star Trek Year Assignment Earth #4
ST: Assignment Earth #4 is available now at your local comic store. The fifth (and final) issue is released next month. The trade paperback comes out December 29th and is available now for pre-order at Amazon for $13.59.
Byrne Talks upcoming Trek titles
After John Byrne finishes up his Assignment Earth series he quickly goes into his ‘Hollow Crown’ Romulan series, but he is not stopping there. Byrne guest blogged at MTV and talked about his upcoming ‘Crew’ mini series that takes place on a shakedown cruise set in the Pike era and will feature the character ‘Number 1’ (from the "The Cage"). Byrne writes:
We came up with the working title “Crew” for this series, and I framed it as being about what goes on “below decks” on a starship (or smaller). We’ve seen the bridge crew almost exclusively, but what about the people who do the grunt work? Working her way up through the ranks, No.1 would show us the “behind the scenes” stuff that keeps those ships running, as well as how members of the “away teams” who are NOT the stars of the show deal with the various adventures. One part “Mister Roberts” mixed with two parts “Das Boot,” stirred in with a whole lot of “Trek” lore that Roddenberry et al hadn’t figured out yet when the first pilot was made. Plus, from a purely artistic standpoint, the fun of drawing a somewhat different Star Fleet. Somewhat…funkier, with the different uniforms, the different bits of technology.
Even the subtly different look of the Enterprise herself. And no red shirts! Try to guess who gets killed when there are only two colors, gold and blue, to play with!
Byrne divulges more about the series on his site:
This issue predates "The Cage" by as much as ten years, perhaps even more. The series will cover somewhere between six and eight years of the character’s life, so even when we get to the last issue, she’ll still be younger than she was in the first pilot.
And that’s not all, Byrne has also confirmed he will ‘definitely’ be doing another Assignment Earth series in 2009, so even after next months issue, we will not have seen the last of Gary and Roberta.
PREVIEWS OF UPCOMING TREK COMICS
Some new images from what we can expect over the next few months have shown up online.
Star Trek The Last Generation #1 & #2 covers
Later in the year IDW kick off a ‘what if’ tale set in a ‘myriad universe’ that tells the story of the TNG era, but where the Klingon’s have taken over the Federation. Here are the first two covers. For issue one we have the main cover from Andrew Steven Harris’s site and a dealer incentive cover (an homage to the Uncanny X-Men) from Chris Ryal’s blog. And we have one of the covers from the second issue from John Hunt’s deviantart blog.
Coming up soon
Reviews of final issue of Peter David’s New Frontier series, plus the latest issues from the Mirror Universe and DC Fontana’s Enterprise Experiment.