Review: Star Trek: Discovery Annual 2018
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Written by: Mike Johnson and Kirsten Beyer
Art by: Angel Hernandez with colors by Mark Roberts
With production about to start on season two this month, we’re still a long way away from new episodes of Star Trek: Discovery. However, IDW has us covered with no shortage of Trek-related comics for the foreseeable future. This onslaught of new titles includes the double-sized Star Trek: Discovery Annual 2018 featuring the long-awaited backstory of Lt. Paul Stamets. It spans his first encounter with the mycelial network (in the form of prototaxites stellaviatori) to, most importantly how he met Dr. Hugh Culber (humming the atrocious Kasseelian Opera) in a cafe on Alpha Centauri.
The Stamets-Culber relationship – the first for a same-sex couple in Star Trek TV history – was part of the initial promotion of the show and quickly caught on with fans once Wilson Cruz and Anthony Rapp shared the screen together. Since we live in a world where we can’t have nice things, the decision was made to ax Culber seemingly out of nowhere. To temper the immediate fan backlash, it was announced (literally within minutes of the episode airing) that Culber would be back in some form. We would see him return in “The Wolf Inside” and Stamets accepted a posthumous award for him in “Will You Take My Hand,” but that was it. It’s disappointing how short their on-screen relationship was – but thanks to an excellent collaboration between Kirsten Beyer and Mike Johnson, we get a wonderfully charming backstory of the “prickliest” member of the Discovery.
The Stamets portrayed in this issue is much like the one we met early on in the show. His personality is still, ahem, as abrasive as it ever was. While studying other strains of mushrooms for a terraforming operation on Devena Prime, Stamets and fellow mycology partner, (first name Justin) Straal, are introduced to prototaxites stellaviatori which would later be known as the basis for the Discovery’s spore drive. After rebuffing an invitation to the Kasseelian Opera from Straal, Stamets pulls an all-nighter studying this uniquely fascinating strain of mushroom. Realizing its name is Latin for “star traveler”, he postulates that a mycelial network could allow matter to travel across the universe instantly.
After two years of research, Straal and Stamets present their findings to the Federation Research Council on Alpha Centauri. It’s important to note that at this point, neither Straal or Stamets are Starfleet officers. In fact, Stamets has nothing but contempt for Starfleet. So, let’s just say the idea of a mushroom-powered spore drive went over about as well as it did with the fans when it was first introduced. Frustrated, Stamets makes his way to the cafe for a drink. If this sounds familiar, you have no doubt seen the masterpiece “time loop” episode, “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”, where Stamets recounts to Burnham the first time he met Hugh. “Hugh and I fell in love after I told him to get lost.” From that small amount of dialogue Beyer, Johnson, and artist Angel Hernandez were able to extrapolate a perfect representation of Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz’s phenomenal on-screen chemistry – in print. It’s worth noting that in episode 6 of After Trek, it was revealed that there was an extended version of the story left on the cutting room floor.
As their relationship blossoms, so does the research on the mycelial network. What unfolds is an immensely satisfying story that allows us to take a break from the what-will-happen-this-week breakneck pacing of the TV show (while we anxiously await said TV show). We get a refreshing, character-driven story with arguably one of the most interesting characters in all of Star Trek. While his gruff nature may be off-putting to some of his fellow Starfleet officers, it’s the thing that Culber is attracted to. Cruz described the relationship as “if you are always yourself, then somebody’s going to love that.” The only question now is what happens in season two?
5-Page Preview: Star Trek: Discovery Annual 2018
Click thumbnails to enlarge
The Star Trek: Discovery Annual was released today, Wednesday, April 4th. It retails for $7.99. You can order it at TFAW with a discount with a choice of A or B cover.
You can also pre-order the first issues of the upcoming Discovery series, Star Trek: Discovery: Succession at TFAW.
And if you want to catch up on IDW’s other Star Trek: Discovery comics, the trade paperback collection of Star Trek: Discovery – The Light of Kahless will be released in July, and you can pre-order it now on Amazon.
In other Trek comics news, this week Sarah Gaydos, who has overseen Star Trek comics as editor at IDW, has left the company to take a job as head of licensed publishing at Oni Press. IDW has yet to announce who will be taking over editing for Trek comics. John Van Citters of CBS Consumer Products took to Twitter to honor Gaydos and her work for Star Trek.
— John Van Citters (@jvancitters) April 3, 2018
Keep up with all the latest inked Star Trek in TrekMovie’s Comics Category.