TrekInk this week breaks into a "New Frontier" with the first issue of Peter David’s "Turnaround" mini-series (due out this week). This story introduces an action-packed tale of Edward Jellico, Mackenzie Calhoun, and a stolen ship with a fancy new propulsion system. A must-have for fans of the New Frontier novels, but what about those new to the storyline?
If you know "New Frontier", you can skip straight to the review below. Otherwise here is a quick primer.
Star Trek: New Frontier is a series of almost twenty novels, short stories, and comics written by Peter David that focus on a new set of characters, set in the TNG era. In a recent interview with Newsarama, David described New Frontier thusly:
The original concept, as conceived by [Pocket Books editor] John Ordover, was to take the dissolution of the Soviet Union and transfer it to science fiction terms. In this case, the Thallonian Empire dissolved, plunging the entire volatile area into chaos. Old rivalries and wars that had been kept under wraps under Thallonian domination reignited once the Thallonians were no longer in power. Starfleet has assigned the Starship Excalibur, commanded by the maverick Captain Mackenzie Calhoun, to ride herd on the territory.
The main characters of note are Calhoun, captain of the Excalibur, his wife Elizabeth Shelby (the same one from the Best of Both Worlds episodes), Mark McHenry (a descendant of the child of Apollo and Carolyn Palamas from Who Mourns for Adonais?), Burgoyne (the first officer), Morgan Primus (the consciousness of Robin Lefler’s mother, inhabiting the ship’s computer), and Robin Lefler (now ruler of the New Thallonian Protectorate).
I must preface this column by admitting I have not had a whole lot of experience with the "New Frontier" series, other than the previously released "Double Time" graphic novel from the fall of 2000, and it certainly appears that a lot has changed in the series since that story.
REVIEW: NEW FRONTIER #1
Now that we’re all caught up, Peter David is continuing the "New Frontier" story from the latest novel, Missing in Action, in a new mini-series titled Turnaround, with art by Stephen Thompson. The story throws us right into the midst of events, with barely a breath caught for any character introduction. For me, not having read the novels, this was a bit tough to play catch up with, but for someone who reads the series, this should not cause them any trouble at all.
The story begins by introducing us to a new starship, the Paradox (DRI-01). This ship has a new style of propulsion, something called a "shunt drive". This new drive, according to the story "bends time, causing instantaneous transport from one point in space to another." We are also re-introduced to Admiral Jellico, last seen (by me) in the Chains of Command episodes. His introduction is short and violent as he makes off with the prototype ship, setting a series of events in motion that has Mark McHenry send a vision to Calhoun of the Bravo Station and USS Excalibur being destroyed. Before long, Calhoun and his ship are on the trail of Jellico and the stolen vessel.
Stephen Thompson provides the artwork for this series, and all of the variant covers for this issue. The really fascinating set is the "quad cover", which features the eight main characters for the story across four separate covers, all attached to the same retailer incentive copy. The best cover, however, features Peter David sitting in the Captain’s chair on a Galaxy class starship bridge, with Kirk and Picard at the helms, and Peter David’s Fallen Angel at the weapon console.
Thompson has done his homework, as the characters look quite similar to those presented by Michael Collins in the "Double Time" graphic novel, just having aged a few years since the events of that story. I recognized Jellico almost immediately from the drawing before he was identified in dialogue, and the same went for Robin Lefler (portrayed by Ashley Judd in her two Next Generation appearances). I did not, however, recognize his portrayal of Shelby, but I’m willing to attribute that to the circumstances in which she appears in the story. Thompson’s most striking pieces of art in the story are the opening page, which is one space vista, broken into three segments to show the passage of time, and the starbase exploding (shown above). His art is mostly character bound, but when he leaves the environs of starship or council chamber, his vistas are most effective, as he does not limit himself by comic panel.
Leonard O’Grady provides the colors for the issue, and, like Thompson, is at his best on the initial space vista and the exploding starbase. His other best scenes are those in Shelby and Calhoun’s half-lit bedroom aboard Bravo Station, culminating in a transporter kiss. The shading is simple, but quite effective. Unfortunately, the artwork in this scene does not always live up to the standard set elsewhere.
The issue serves as an excellent introduction to the series, setting up the mystery. Some portions seem a bit heavy handed and overdone, but that may also be attributed to the style of the "New Frontier" series, I cannot be certain. For me, the story leaves a bit to be desired, and leaves open a number of issues for non-readers of the "New Frontier" series, but I am hopeful that these issues will be addressed in further issues in this mini-series. I can definitely recommend this for regular readers of the novel series, but would not recommend this as a starting point for those unfamiliar with the characters and events, as you may find yourselves as lost as I was, and be forced to read the story 3-4 times to get the gist of things.
Star Trek New Frontier #1 will be in comic stores starting this Wednesday.
NEW FRONTIER PREVIEWS
Stephen Thompson has covers for issues 2, 3, 4 on his blog:
A 2 page preview from NF#3 is on Chris Ryall’s blog:
Coming up next week
Something else interesting and utterly fascinating in the world of comics.