The Enterprise encounters an immense planetary mass, capable of supporting 800 billion inhabitants, with only twenty life signs. Beaming down to investigate, Kirk finds Dr. Othello Beck, renowned medical researcher and Phlox prize winner [ENT ref alert!], working in a vast scientific laboratory left by a dead civilization. With Beck are the B’nai, creatures he created to assist in the lab. Kirk and McCoy discover that Beck’s ethics are questionable. He’s hiding a terrible secret which ends tragically.
So goes David Tischman’s first tale of the fourth year of the original series, a bit of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau in space. As he did with his TNG series, The Space Between, Tischman easily captures the flavor of TOS television episodes, but he writes a very lean story. This means that we, the readers, occasionally have to piece together threads of the narrative on our own. Even though we’re familiar with the characters and their history, this can be disconcerting. I think I’d like a little more help from the author.
But, I’d like to note that all the right stuff is there: Kirk has his eye on a unicorn babe and the first thing she does is offer him a bed; a redshirt dies horribly and McCoy says "he’s dead, Jim" with a straight face; and the bridge crew is joined by M’Ress and Arex, characters introduced in the animated series and seldom seen in comics.
Steve Conley’s artwork resembles animation more than traditional comic art. The sparse backgrounds and bright Starfleet colors give the story a comfortable, lived-in, seen-that-on-the-tube, feel to it. But the entire crew of the Enterprise looks about twenty years old; no crow’s feet, no laugh lines, only a few wrinkles. OK, when TOS episodes were broadcast, the actors weren’t that much older than twenty, but this crew doesn’t look old enough to drink synthehol, much less be driving Starfleet’s flagship. Conley’s cover art is very different from the IDW covers we’ve seen so far. I like the dynamic effect of his cartoon-like collage. The traditionalists among you will enjoy Joe Corroney’s portrait of the big three, featuring McCoy and his favorite hypo. This image was used for a marketing postcard distributed at comic shops.
Issue #1 is a decent start to a new season of the original series. IDW plans to publish six issues of new episodes. I’m looking forward to reading more. Release of Year Four #1 will be preceded by IDW Focus on Star Trek, which contains a look at IDW, Star Trek, and a short comic story by David Tischman, with art by Len O’Grady, the colorist for Year Four #1.
Year Four #1
Written by: David Tischman
Art by: Steve Conley with covers by Conley and Joe Corroney
In shops: week of July 25
Covers: two regular covers and at least one incentive cover
IDW Focus on Star Trek, July 18
Star Trek: Year Four #1, July 25
Star Trek: Klingons — Blood Will Tell #4, August 1
Star Trek: Year Four #2, August
Star Trek: Klingons — Blood Will Tell #5, August
Star Trek: Aliens Spotlight — Gorn, September
Star Trek: Year Four #3, September
Star Trek: The Next Generation — The Space Between TPB, ISBN 160010116X, September
Star Trek: The Manga Volume 2 — Kakan ni Shinkon, ISBN 9781427806208, September, Tokyopop
Mark Martinez is an obsessive-compulsive Star Trek comics reader and collector. He also reads the occasional Star Trek novel and wonders why they don’t have any pictures. You can visit his website, the Star Trek Comics Checklist for more than you ever needed to know about Star Trek comics.