Today is the official release date of the of the trade paperback for the comic series, "Star Trek Countdown," the prequel for the new Star Trek movie. Many fans held off from reading the individual issues (reviewed here at TrekMovie), awaiting the TPB. So this week the Library Computer takes a bit of a side-trip to review the graphic novel and find out if it was worth the wait.
REVIEW – Star Trek: Countdown (Trade Paperback Edition)
[Warning: This review contains spoilers]
To appreciate the storyline of Countdown, one must first be able to accept the format in which it is told. Unlike a novel, the graphic format relies as much on still-imagery as words to convey the tale. Countdown is largely successful, with strong, recognizable art permeating the pages. A far cry from IDW’s first TNG comic book, Countdown shows outstanding graphic composition and a storyline to match. The story, while brief and very contained in scope, depends on the art to bring it to life. David Messina has done an outstanding job of developing an artistic vision for the series, and the color palate of Giovanno Niro gives a moody edge to the entire series. Looking from page to page the message seems clear: this isn’t your father’s Star Trek (comic).
From a production standpoint, Countdown features an impressive matte/glossy cover on sturdy stock, with heavy-weight interior pages. Each cover is reprinted within the book, with the comic art cover on the ‘external’ page and ‘photo cover’ on the reverse. Also included in the comic is a thoughtful afterword from Orci and Kurtzman (which in and of itself is worth the price of admission!) as well as samples of concept art from Messina.
As noted in the afterword, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman became fans of Star Trek through the adventures of the Next Generation cast. Thus, it is fitting that even though this book is presented as a prequel to the Star Trek movie, the TNG cast are central to the unfolding of the story. While setting the stage for the new film is first and foremost on their minds, their outline, as given flesh by Mike Johnson and Tim Jones does an outstanding job of catching us up – perhaps for the last time – with the Next Generation crew before handing off (in the person of Spock) to a new plane of Trek-existence. Picard, Data, Worf and Geordi all play key roles in the story and are not just cameos.
The book leaves many stories waiting to be told are so many stories waiting to be told in the latter-half of the twenty-fourth century: What happened with Data? How did Worf become a general in the Klingon military? When did Jean-Luc become an ambassador? We may never get the answers to any of these questions, but the attention offered to the Next Generation crew was positive, and for this fan, the final pane of the story was the most fitting sendoff that the TNG crew could ever hope to receive. That being said, the book leaves the door open for more adventures for the TNG crew, so perhaps IDW will pick up on that storyline in a future series.
Even though the TNG sequel element is a major part of Countdown, the stated goal of the series is to tell the story of Nero, the villain played by Eric Bana in the new Star Trek movie. In Countdown we learn he is a mining captain who (at first) befriends Spock (still on Romulus decades after "Unification") when the elder Vulcan tries to warn of an impending danger to the Empire. Through the series we find out how that went wrong, why Nero is angry at Spock, how he tricked out his ship the Narada, and even why he has that crazy tattoo. But even with all that, Nero still comes off a bit like just another psychopathic, revenge motivated killer…one who will stop at nothing to pay back anyone and everyone who he believes stands in his way. His story sounds a lot like Khan’s in the wake of the death of Marla McGivers. Nothing wrong with TWOK, but hopefully Star Trek doesn’t turn in to another copy of Wrath of Khan.
‘Countdown’ dives into the back story for Nero
Of particular note is Spock and his arc throughout the story. Although some of the other dialog in the book is a bit awkward, with Spock, Johnson and Jones do an outstanding job of providing words that ripple with a Nimoy-esque undercurrent. In the latter portions of the book, Spock is very reminiscent of those audio-books that Leonard Nimoy read back in the early 1980’s. Messina also does well with Spock. His visage is done incredible justice, and everything about Countdown leads you to a deeper appreciation of the Spock character, and a more intense anticipation of seeing Nimoy in the new film. On element of note regarding Spock’s back story, the trade paperback corrects an error in the individual volumes concerning Spock – instead of a forty-year resident, he has now been a resident of Romulus for only twenty years.
In the end, Star Trek: Countdown is a must for any fan. There are not enough spoilers for the film to make much of a difference, and the background it provides more than makes up for any sense of loss that one might have of not learning some of these things in the theater. Also the trade paperback resolves the weakest link of the comic series, with each book feeling short. As a single volume, the story feels much more complete and those who waited, will be rewarded. Plus the TPB has those extra features (covers, concept art & Orci & Kurtzman afterward), enhancing the experience even more.
"Countdown (trade paperback)" is available at Amazon
Coming up next (in a week or so) we will be reviewing "Star Trek: Vanguard: Open Secrets", the upcoming TOS era book set on board Starbase 47 by Dayton Ward (based on a story by Ward and Kevin Dilmore). Following that, in early May, we be reviewing Alan Dean Foster’s adaptation of the new "Star Trek" movie. Keep an eye out for Anthony’s exclusive interview with Foster, which should be up within a week.