Review: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – The Illyrian Enigma #1
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Written by: Kristin Beyer & Mike Johnson
Art by: Megan Levens
Colors by: Charlie Kirchoff
Letters by: Neil Uyetake
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds arguably had one of the best (live-action) first seasons of any Star Trek series in recent memory. While we wait anxiously for season 2, IDW has stepped up and delivered a faithful tie-in to scratch that proverbial itch.
If the season 1 finale feels like it was forever ago, that’s because it was way back in early July. A “what-if” reimagining of the classic Star Trek episode “Balance of Terror,” “A Quality of Mercy” seemed to have wrapped up the season nicely – except for that pesky Starfleet code of conduct 587.63, aka the anti-genetic modification directive. Commander Una Chin-Riley, an Illyrian, was arrested for violating that directive. It’s not a “Best of Both Worlds”-type cliffhanger, but they needed some kind of through-line to the next season.
Enter The Illyrian Enigma, a 4-issue miniseries written by SNW writer Kirsten Beyer and longtime Trek comic writer, Mike Johnson. The new comic mini-series bridges the gap between the season 1 cliffhanger and season 2, with Pike and the Enterprise crew looking to clear Una’s name.
Warning: Spoilers Below
We pick up immediately after Una’s arrest with Pike pleading with former USS Enterprise captain (and now Admiral) Robert April for her release. April and Pike clearly have a good relationship as we see April talk Pike down from doing anything that could get him in trouble. April assigns the Enterprise on a “milk run,” delivering waste disposal units to an outpost on the other side of the quadrant – and as far away from Starfleet as possible.
Meanwhile, in the mess hall, Uhura, Ortegas, and Chapel are having dinner, philosophizing about the Federation’s archaic and hypocritical ideals of diversity and acceptance while their first officer sits in jail because she omitted that she was an augment on her Starfleet Academy application.
Augments and genetic mutation have a long and storied history in Star Trek, including, most recently, Star Trek: Prodigy. (Spoilers if you haven’t seen all of the fantastic Prodigy season 1). By 2384, the Starfleet code of conduct 587.63 is still in effect, otherwise, Prodigy wouldn’t have made it a plot point with Dal not being able to get into Starfleet Academy. Since he had nothing to do with his genetic augmentations, there may be a special exception for him like Dr. Bashir, who was a child when he was genetically modified. But Una is in trouble because she lied to get in, which adds a whole other layer of complexity to this situation.
The plan is to learn as much about Illyrians as possible to show Starfleet that their genetic mutations pose no threat, unlike, say, a Khan Noonian Singh. Thankfully, they seem to be focused solely on freeing Una specifically, not necessarily trying to overturn the genetic directive, which would be pointless.
The only way to find out more about Illyrians is by studying them willingly. Conveniently, there just happens to be an Illyrian colony not far from where April sent them. Either April did zero research before assigning the Enterprise their mission, or he deliberately pointed them in the right direction. I expect we’ll find the answer by the end of the story but in the meantime, this is where we are.
If you’re a fan of Strange New Worlds, it’s no surprise that this issue feels very much like the show. The tone is just right, the dialogue is on point, and most importantly, Pike’s hair is the right height. Speaking of tone, IDW picked the right artist and colorist to match the show in Megan Levens and Charlie Kirchoff. Megan has a distinct style that is perfect for SNW and I was excited to see her name in the credits when the miniseries was announced in September. The colors are absolutely stunning, especially on the bridge where they are bright, bold, and beautiful.
Aside from Una, the only time (on-screen) we’ve seen an Illyrian is in the Enterprise episode “Damage,” in which, according to Spock, Captain Archer “appropriated the Illyrian vessel’s warp coil to ensure the safe return of the Enterprise to Federation space” after the battle at Azati Prime. Since this is a species we don’t know much about, I expect this miniseries to dive deep into the Illyrians, since it’s in the title. Then the only question is – would this be considered canon since it’s co-written by a Strange New Worlds writer? And will we see any of what was learned here in season 2? I’m ready to find out more and can’t wait to see how this ties into the television series.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – The Illyrian Enigma #1 was released on December 21. You can order copies of issue #1 and pre-order upcoming issues at TFAW or pick up individual digital editions at Amazon/comiXology.
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