Warp Factor Trek

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Flashback to 2017. In light of Star Trek: Discovery commencing — the first new Star Trek TV series since Enterprise ended in 2005 — the official Star Trek comics licensee, IDW, starts to publish accompanying comics. First up is this four-issue mini-series, which explores Klingon leader T’Kuvma’s backstory. Incorporating flashbacks, it’s a direct follow-up and prequel to the show’s earliest episodes, “The Vulcan Hello” and “Battle at the Binary Stars”. As a fan of Klingons who likes their portrayal in Discovery, I was keen to delve into this comic.

Log Entry

Following the Battle of the Binary Stars, L’Rell reminds Voq that T’Kuvma chose him for a reason and starts sharing insights about T’Kuvma. Back on Qo’noS, young T’Kuvma, facing bullies, discovers the Sarcophagus. He learns about House Girjah’s history and the aspirations of his sister, J’Ula, to unite the Klingon Empire. T’Kuvma agrees to keep the plan secret, trains using a d’k tahg with his friend Khel, and heads to Boreth.

In the rain, T’Kuvma arrives at a monastery on Boreth dedicated to the teachings of Kahless

T’Kuvma impressively outlasts a heat-endurance test in Boreth’s Caves of No’Mat, later admitting he saw a light. It purportedly guides him when rescuing students from Boreth’s freezing surface. A couple of monks debate the light’s significance, with one suggesting T’Kuvma is Kahless reincarnated. To witness J’Ula be married, T’Kuvma returns to Qo’noS. J’Ula shows him that, during his years away, the Sarcophagus has been restored. However, she has abandoned her dream of uniting the Empire. Rejecting the notion that she has betrayed the common people, T’Kuvma insists on returning to Boreth. He discovers that her betrothed, D’Lor of House Mo’Kai, has killed his brothers and demands his fealty.

J’Ula insists on marrying D’Lor for House Girjah’s survival and fights T’Kuvma. The result? T’Kuvma loses his House but gains the Sarcophagus. He pledges to make it a ship of remembrance and — gifted a gem-studded suit of armour from Khel — launches the ship on a search for the prophesied Beacon of Kahless to unite the Empire. One Qo’noS year later, J’Ula births an albino son but lies to D’Lor that the baby was stillborn, leading him to end House Girjah. Voq says J’Ula killed the baby because it was an albino, like Voq, which L’Rell confirms, mentioning that T’Kuvma’s Beacon of Kahless discovery was not what Voq expects. In the past, T’Kuvma begins doubting the search, and the Sarcophagus finds an unidentified object, a Federation interstellar relay.

L’Rell and Voq debate T’Kuvma’s beliefs

Voq and L’Rell debate T’Kuvma’s strength of faith. Years prior, T’Kuvma interprets the Federation relay as a harbinger of war. Rumours spread of his ship-of-the-dead thwarting dishonourable Klingons, with T’Kuvma rumoured to be Kahless reborn. Amongst a bickering Klingon High Council, T’Kuvma arrives, warning of inevitable war with the Federation and that, after he finds the Beacon of Kahless, the Empire must unite. Massed Klingons support T’Kuvma but Kol doubts him. T’Kuvma welcomes a mother and albino boy into “House T’Kuvma” but rejects J’Ula. After launching, Khel presents T’Kuvma with a fake Beacon of Kahless. Voq is alarmed but L’Rell notes that it worked, prompting the Empire to participate in the recent battle. She implies T’Kuvma chose Voq for his unwavering commitment to his people. In the past, T’Kuvma, when the Sarcophagus detects a Federation ship, orders the beacon to be lit.

Status Report

This comic begins disgustingly, a Klingon ripping Starfleet armour with his teeth. Though L’Rell promises Voq a hidden truth, Issue #1 of the series briefly revisits a familiar era from “The Vulcan Hello”, with T’Kuvma being bullied and finding the Sarcophagus. I like that it’s established as centuries old (hinted at in canon) and that we’re shown a unique perspective from inside a Klingon helmet. Despite the cliché of a ruined dynasty, I enjoyed House Girjah’s family dynamics around the dinner table. It’s also great that a woman — his sister, J’Ula — inspired T’Kuvma. Having her say that she intends to someday command the Sarcophagus, when canon establishes that that doesn’t happen, added intrigue. T’Kuvma training with a d’k tahg — the same weapon he’d later kill Captain Georgiou with (in “Battle at the Binary Stars”) — is enjoyable. Exactly how he gets to Boreth is left mysterious.

T’Kuvma succeeding at his endurance tests on Boreth

T’Kuvma’s activities in Issue #2 — passing a fire test and saving students from freezing — are adventurous. However, including a recognisable Klingon character among the students would have been great. Issue #2 nicely tracks T’Kuvma maturing and the Sarcophagus being upgraded. Fascinatingly, it also establishes that the Sarcophagus was the first Klingon ship ever capable of cloaking.

Issue #3 excitingly continues to track T’Kuvma’s progress. The revelation that J’Ula killed her son for being albino is probably a nod to DS9’s “Blood Oath”. However, the Sarcophagus discovering a Federation relay lacks surprise, as it’s already established in “The Vulcan Hello”.

Khel and T’Kuvma inspect the interstellar relay

Annoyingly, the comic doesn’t explain T’Kuvma’s resentment towards the Federation, and Issue #4’s Klingon High Council design deviates from Discovery’s “Will You Take My Hand?”. Adding Kol makes for pleasing backstory but the comic’s ending is unsatisfactory. It not only tarnishes the characters of T’Kuvma and L’Rell but also invalidates Burnham determining, in “The Vulcan Hello”, that the Beacon of Kahless is centuries old.

The flashbacks are framed with L’Rell-and-Voq scenes, set between “Battle at the Binary Stars” and “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry”. I wish the comic tied up more canon plot threads, establishing where T’Kuvma got the idea of “the Black Fleet” and portraying Kol aboard the Sarcophagus shortly before the battle. However, I love how Voq, hearing L’Rell’s story, has such high regard for T’Kuvma that he repeatedly reacts in disbelief. L’Rell’s teachings provide a great character arc for Voq.

Delta3
Rating: 3/5

Generally, I enjoyed this comic. It gives fantastic insights into Klingon culture and Discovery’s Klingon characters as well as leaving us with some interesting mysteries. Although some panels are too dark, the art is overall beautiful. The ending disappoints and the Klingons’ multiple lies — contrary to their cultural honor code — are frustrating. Who knows? Maybe I’d have a different opinion if I was Klingon.

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