“Star Trek, issue #2” Comic in Review
This second issue of IDW Publishing’s currently ongoing series of Star Trek comics follows up on the first issue’s cliffhanger ending. As such, it proceeds from the Hephaestus Nebula sadly shattering into zillions of pieces as soon as Captain Sisko arrived there. The nebula’s destruction instantly decimated many crystalline entities that dwelled within it.
This issue opens with Sisko ruminating on that catastrophic event and how his new crew may not trust him. He mentions how Deep Space 9’s crew was family whereas the crew of the Theseus is a “panopticon,” which is a disproportionately paranoid response to the mere presence of people like Beverly Crusher and Data. It’s an early signal that this issue is going to superimpose other comic tropes onto a Star Trek template, with little regard to the lore or emotional inner worlds of characters. I understand that a comic has license to go off-book, but it’s not an improvement to make Sisko a disillusioned loner with zero faith in fellow Starfleet officers, especially from the former crew of the fleet’s flagship, the USS Enterprise.
Captain Sisko needing the assistance of yet another fan favorite and “brother” — Worf, on Qo’noS — is another signpost that the story will be increasingly chaotic. Worf is forced to quickly explain why the heck the Emperor of the Klingon Empire is a clone of Kahless instead of former General Martok. If this hefty exposition dump isn’t enough, an LCARS organizational chart and diplomatic briefing is meant to fill in any blanks.
Kahless’ position, if the briefing is accurate, is “largely ceremonial.” Why, then, are Sisko and crew seeking his permission to do anything, never mind have it be the third time for the Federation to submit a request to him that same month? Even more preposterous are tales of godlike engineers cloistered on a quarantined planet who go by “the Shapers of Sarkadesh”. The Council told Sisko about Sarkadesh days ago but bafflingly didn’t give him permission to visit these god dudes, so now Sisko is supplicating to Kahless for a reason that doesn’t appear to be any of the audience’s business. This issue loves to tell rather than show, like Sisko’s meeting with the Klingon High Council, but it does look to me like he subtly accuses Kahless of doing something to grab for even more power.
The only purpose of this interaction is to establish Kahless as a comic-book villain, drunk on his own lore. The gesture with Kahless was made to prevent war with the Klingons, but the stakes are so ridiculously high, any governmental formalities hardly seem worth the time. Worf and Sisko also have a solid relationship with Chancellor Martok, it’s unclear why they don’t consult him instead, and circumventing the Klingon High Council makes no sense either. However, Worf reveals that Kahless’ power is growing, which goes some way towards explaining his strategy.
My favorite part of the comic is Sisko trying to convince Worf to abandon his ambassadorial post and beam onto the Theseus to help him save the universe. Worf gives a solemn and wilted “I am an ambassador,” while bemoaning the piles of paperwork he must wade through in the face of an interstellar crisis. His response comes across as pure camp.
The permission so intensely sought after from Kahless seems unnecessary after all. Thanks to Tom Paris’ “fancy flying,” Worf and the rest of the Theseus’ crew arrive at Sarkadesh anyway.
The comic is obviously ramping up to a climax with several countdowns happening at once, which means some details are oddly dwelt on while others are tossed asunder. Captain Sisko is running out of time to save the universe while negotiating with the stubborn Shapers for help, while the Klingons are beginning to fire on the Theseus while in orbit for breaking the long-held Sarkadesh quarantine (again). Because of enormous pressure of the ticking clock, the audience is robbed of exposition. It could have been delegated to the importance of these Shapers, Sarkadesh, and the treaty that upheld peace between them and the Klingons for so long.
Captain Sisko being an Emissary causes offense to the Shapers, making this a near-perfect echo of the strategically futile conversation with Kahless earlier. There’s mention of an impossible ship with an impossible weapon only having one possible origin, which ultimately pushes this comic into generic territory. Whereas Star Trek mysteries are usually rooted loosely in reality, words like “impossible” make this story rather interchangeable with other comics. And of course, we must have yet another ticking clock — Worf orders the Vulcan Ensign T’Lir to overload a system in order to throw the Klingon sensors and buy Captain Sisko more time.
The only scene in the entire comic that felt sincerely Star Trek is a subsequent conversation Data has with the Shapers. He skillfully argues on behalf of humanity in order to save it.
So that we could understand what motivated the direction of investigations, this second issue could have improved greatly by starting with a debriefing of what evidence was gathered from the exploded nebula. I do admire the two-steps-ahead style of Captain Sisko’s dialogue and Data’s speech to the Shapers. The art ultimately carries the comic’s appeal for me. My favorite page is the view of Kahless from below. The story, however, only leads me to believe that more giant and dangerous things are ahead. Because the Theseus personnel are far too busy dealing with emergency situations, we’ll never understand this crew.