Star Trek, Issue #4 in Review
The fourth installment of the IDW Star Trek comic continues the narrative rhythm of the previous three. Whereas two-dimensionality should ideally describe only the art, here emotional insights into a character’s inner world are severely minimized, interspersed between mountains of pointless exposition. Artfully designed star-system-sized set pieces whizz by to cram in stakes. The ending will inevitably be a cliffhanger, not to build tension, but because the story abruptly just stops.
With Sisko having been given a clue at the end of the previous issue — specifically, to “seek out the God City of T’Kon” — this issue begins with a dossier about the T’Kon Empire. The organization was introduced in the TNG episode “The Last Outpost”, which established it as a massive interstellar empire, rivaling the Federation in size. Although they were thus already impressive, this comic decides to up the ante by detailing that the T’Kon could move entire star systems but not explaining how or why. The ability of interstellar rearrangement sounds a bit godly, though, so it reinforces Sisko’s decision to follow the aforementioned clue. One source of fury for me was trying to compare a map that’s included in the dossier, showing the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, with other maps of the same area and finding no difference. What is the purpose of this map if not to show what the T’Kon moved?! I want to rip my eyeballs out! Comparative cartography is too much work for what this is.
Captain Sisko silently broods and continues to pointlessly hem and haw about being vulnerable with his own son. This strange decision, to have them remain silent and not have a conversation to process anything, removes the obvious anchor function that Jake Sisko fulfilled on Deep Space Nine. It begs the question: why is Jake aboard the Theseus, except possibly to serve as a hostage at some later point? He’s both emotional bait and baggage stripped of an opinion and motivation of his own. His father is obsessively single-minded while Jake is vacantly staring out of a window. Their moments together foster no closeness, and it highlights a limitation of this series: the fundamental questions of whether Sisko is changed by his experience in the Celestial Temple and how it has changed his relationship with his son. Well, dear reader, such questions are none of our business! Unfortunately, the comic entirely glosses over them.
The scene involving Sisko contemplating Jake is followed by scenes in which there are cascades of technobabble and science-adjacent stuff… because one cannot simply walk into Mordor, er, the God City of T’Kon. It’s apparently invisible or something. The upside is that Communications Officer Sato gets more to say and creates a thread of deduction that leads them to their destination. The negative is that the wave of a theoretical physics lesson crests and crashes onto a “god detector” that sniffs out tachyons in subspace. Why not somehow tie in the “maps” that T’Kon was so famous for re-creating? Of course, that won’t happen, because this comic regards exposition as hollow padding! T’Lir, who was given an entire issue to expand our understanding of them, is meanwhile back to playing a minor role.
XO Data expresses apprehension about following a subspace trail of tachyons. Captain Sisko overrules these concerns, echoing the “HA!” exclamation made by his holographic Bond-villain iteration — namely, Hippocrates Noah — in DS9’s “Our Man Bashir”. Being “worried” about what direction their mission is taking is easily overridden by how important it is to find the City, reminding the audience of how outsized the stakes are. This could have been a discussion about the ethics of pursuing a clue as faint as this one. The Theseus is in pursuit of a mechanism capable of “killing a god.” Any caution at all seems warranted! But — like the mention, at the start of this issue, about the T’Kon Empire shifting entire star systems — details like this are given no significance.
It apparently doesn’t matter that the City of T’Kon, which the Theseus flies through, is visibly alive. Chief Engineer Scott reports a “thickening” of space that is overloading the antimatter scrubbers, but not even this seems to add any further gravitas. As always, there’s also no escalation of stakes, because everything is urgent everywhere all at once. The ticking clock that this thickening presents is measured in how many pints can be poured — not even one! Scotty has personality traits aside from drinking, and I wish those would be included.
Incredibly, the stakes are still not high enough; the shields on the Theseus become significantly compromised just as a Klingon Bird-of-Prey crashes the party, flying inside the structure to play target practice with T’Kon. The ship’s commander, who turns out to be Emperor Kahless, threatens the crew of the Theseus to stay uninvolved in the imminent attack.
Suddenly, a Starfleet dossier on Worf is displayed to give context to him then saying that the Klingons being there is “his fault.” In a previous issue, the series spent a few pages explaining the moral quandary of Worf attaching himself to a Klingon Empire that was once again falling to corruption. The dossier here was unnecessary. Even without having read that earlier issue, Klingons have consistently regarded Worf as a Federation sell-out, so guilt is already an ongoing theme for him.
The Bird-of-Prey is equipped with a weapon which Worf terms a “godkiller array”. It’s so overpowered that this entire interaction between Kahless and the Theseus’ crew is a moot point. A pint or three could be poured in the time it takes for Kahless and Sisko to chat about the Klingon legend of Molor. I guess space is not as thick as Scotty predicted, so of course that antimatter scrubber countdown ceases to matter too. The last page and the cover are the most appealing pieces of art this issue has to offer, because a Federation ship and a Bird-of-Prey facing off has always resounded as a striking image.
Essentially, this issue is thin connective tissue leading to a showdown between Kahless and Captain Sisko, with everyone else dangling around like a collection of props. If the God City of T’Kon dies, does anything happen other than blowing up the universe’s biggest invisible yarn ball? There have been no universally-felt consequences from the destruction of the Crystalline Entities in the first issue, and if those deaths didn’t destroy the universe, why would T’Kon’s? Ultimately, the motives of the characters are so buried that this issue’s purpose is indecipherable.