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Review: Star Trek #46

ST-movieII46-cover-MOCKONLYThe recipe for a good Star Trek episode isn’t hard to write. A mysterious problem afflicts the Enterprise, with an unknown enemy lurking behind it. Captain Kirk responds with seat-of-the-pants bravery, Spock with logic and scientific ingenuity, Dr. McCoy with compassion and fiery emotion. With these powers combined, the crew comes upon an unexpected solution and perhaps some TV-friendly, but still thought-provoking, moral philosophy. The warp nacelles light up, and the Enterprise swooshes off toward its next interstellar adventure.

IDW‘s ongoing Star Trek series understands these ingredients well and recognizes that anyone reading Star Trek comics is looking for new variations on familiar patterns. The latest installment, #46, is the first of a two-part arc that unfortunately seems to spoil its big reveal in the title, “The Tholian Web.” Any Trekkie committed enough to seek out the comics will remember an Original Series episode with nearly the same title and wait to see the Enterprise ensnared in a trap set by a race of cranky non-humanoid aliens.

Writer Mike Johnson, to his credit, maintains suspense despite this built-in spoiler. Spock quickly identifies the technobabble science behind the Enterprise‘s woes, but understanding the problem brings no solution. The situation worsens, affecting the crew’s mental states until they are in as much danger from one another as from the external threat. As Star Trek plots go, it’s standard in every way, but smart pacing and the sense of genuine peril keep the story satisfying.

In a similar vein, Rachael Stott‘s art breaks no new ground, instead providing excellent comfort food for fans of the beloved franchise. Jagged panels and unconventional perspective angles give the sense of motion and turmoil when necessary, but for the most part, Stott zeroes in on the characters and their reactions. She’s skilled not only at making her characters look like the actors – they’re based on the cast of the J.J. Abrams reboot, not on the 1960s originals – but at evoking the actors’ mannerisms and facial expressions. She also has an odd, endearing gift for conveying emotion through hands. The diversity that she brings to minor characters would have made Gene Roddenberry proud: aliens both familiar and original populate the Enterprise crew, as well as human redshirts in a variety of skin tones, genders, and body types. In many ways, Stott’s art is truer to the Star Trek vision than the show and films often were, and for these comics, that’s more appropriate and satisfying than an innovative stylistic statement.

If you’re a Star Trek fan but don’t bother with the IDW comics, you’re missing out: they’re what you love about the franchise, only with more consistent characterization and less cringe-worthy dialogue. If Trek has never been your jam, but you like an old-fashioned space adventure, you’ll be a little lost but still might have fun with the well-paced disaster  plot and strong characterization. As the start of a short, action-driven arc with little reliance on the franchise’s broader mythology, Star Trek #46 is a newbie-friendly entry point to the ongoing series, and the final image of an entangled Enterprise will leave you hungry for a conclusion.

Story: Mike Johnson Art: Rachael Stott
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: BUY if you’re a Trekkie, READ if not

IDW Publishing provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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