Strange New Worlds’ “The Illyrian Enigma” Issue #1 in Review
The newest Star Trek series, Strange New Worlds, was a huge hit, striking all the nostalgic vibes of the Star Trek we’ve always known and loved. And so, it’s not really surprising that IDW, who are the holder of the comics rights to the franchise and already run several Discovery series, have snapped up this series to receive the comics treatment too. They’ve picked the ideal time to launch the project, carrying on after the end of the first season finale and teasing us for the upcoming second season.
With First Officer Una Chin-Riley still under arrest by Starfleet for having lied about her Illyrian nature, a reflective Captain Pike tries to get some help from Admiral April. Instead, Starfleet has assigned the Enterprise to merely deliver waste disposal supplies to a distant colony. Yes, Starfleet is always at your convenience!
Appointing Spock as Acting First Officer, Pike insists the crew continue to act professionally in their mission. Meanwhile, Uhura, Chapel, and Ortegas decide to find a way to help get Una back. They plan to learn more about the Illyrians, and why Starfleet is still so uptight about genetic engineering that they’ll break the spirit of their own values of tolerance to victimise Illyrians.
Discovering that an Illyrian colony lies en route to their destination, Uhura tries to persuade Pike to go there, but he refuses. However, he’s open to sending a friendly greeting as the ship passes. To his surprise, the Enterprise‘s message is answered by Governor Da-Kil of the Pryllia colony, who expresses sympathy at the arrest of Una.
This makes Pike change his mind about visiting the colony. He wants to clarify exactly how Da-Kil knows about Una’s arrest, as it was an internal Starfleet matter. Uhura and Spock work out that Da-Kil’s signal didn’t originate on Pryllia but has been bounced around via assorted relay stations from an unknown location.
While Pike wonders if he’s letting emotions cloud his judgement, the Enterprise arrives at Pryllia, a pink and purple planet surrounded by an asteroid ring. It turns out the ring is actually an unusual type of force field. Da-Kil hails again to warn Pike and his crew that none of them will leave the system until the Illyrian citizen Una Chin-Riley is released by Starfleet…
As the premiere issue of a new tie-in comics line, this has a number of jobs to accomplish: introduce the characters to the medium’s readers; recap where the series left off; bridge a gap to the eagerly awaited next season; and, of course, create an engaging story for comics readers, both those who saw the show and those who didn’t. It succeeds at some of these better than others.
In particular, this first issue is highly effective at reacquainting us with the characters we love from the show and recapping the journey they’ve been on in Season 1. There are some lovely touching moments and panels of important developments we’ve seen, such as the loss of Hemmer.
The story carries on nicely from Una’s sudden detainment in the closing moments of the season finale. Considering the calibre of the authors – Kirsten Beyer and Mike Johnson – that’s hardly surprising.
In terms of creating a new story to engage comics fans, that’s less successful for the moment, despite the high quality of the writers, because essentially the issue is very much equivalent to the teaser scene at the outset of an episode, rather than to an entire episode. It leads to a rather predictable cliffhanger, but it does the job of making the reader want to see where the story goes, and that’s the point of a teaser sequence. In fact, it’s exactly the kind of issue you’d want to launch for something like Free Comic Book Day as a gateway issue.
The art is very good, particularly in terms of likenesses, with everybody looking just like the actor in question, with the obvious exception of Da-Kil since he’s an original character. In fact, the likenesses are so recognisable that it’s possible to recognise the publicity stills used for reference. One hopes Megan Levens will have got the hang of illustrating everyone before the references run out. Nevertheless, so far she’s giving us great likenesses, though some of the postures look a little stiff.
Where the issue does disappoint is in not just that stiffness but a general lack of energy and dynamism in the art. Yes, comics is a medium of still frames, not moving pictures, but they’re generally expected to convey a sense of movement, and this doesn’t do that much at all. But there’s a lovely splash page of the Enterprise entering the Pryllia system.
Overall, while the stillness of the art is disappointing, the likenesses and detail as well as the effectiveness of the script make this a nice launch, if unlikely to be remembered as noteworthy.
David A McIntee is a writer and historian who has written for properties such as Doctor Who, Star Wars, Final Destination, and Stargate, as well as having written several adventures in the Star Trek franchise for Pocket Books. He has contributed many pieces to the magazines Star Trek Explorer (née Star Trek Magazine) and Star Trek Communicator, as well as having written nonfiction books about Star Trek: Voyager.