Strange New Worlds’ “The Illyrian Enigma” Issue #2 in Review
IDW Publishing have begun a storyline for Strange New Worlds designed to fit nicely between the cliffhanger ending of Season 1 and the upcoming Season 2 premiere. This series of comics focuses on the fallout of the cliffhanger’s removal – for the moment – of First Officer Una Chin-Riley from the USS Enterprise. While the third season of Star Trek: Picard will be the next TV Trek to hit the screens, it’s still a good time to keep interest in SNW bubbling, with the continuation of this storyline.
Following on from the end of issue #1, the Enterprise is being bombarded from the rings around the alleged Illyrian colony Pryllia, in a lovely splash page. The angle of the ship nostalgically reminds me of the old DC movie-era comics.
Spock is feeling the weight of responsibility on his shoulders now that he’s acting first officer while trying to work out a solution to their situation. He soon realises that the rocky bits of ring material are being drawn to the ship’s hull as if magnetically – quite the booby trap, TNG fans might reckon – and that perhaps the solution is similarly magnetic: reverse the polarity of the ship. Of course, it’s not quite as simple as that would be in Doctor Who, where it turns up every other week.
Reversing the Enterprise’s shield polarity will somehow use so much energy as to threaten the ship and require split-second timing of the impulse engines to get free. Why? Answers on a postcard to IDW…. Maybe it’s a subtle competition, because it’s otherwise totally glossed over and makes practically no sense. Anyway, it works, with a lovely splash of the Enterprise swooping away from the planet and its rocks.
Despite Spock accidentally expressing badly concealed relief when the stress eases, they aren’t out of danger yet, as Illyrian antagonist Da-Kil’s ship attacks. It’s easily beaten off, and Pike tries to convince Da-Kil that they should be allies with the common aim of getting Una freed from Starfleet incarceration. As Pike explains, the Enterprise crew need to know more about the Illyrians and their background. It’s hard to tell why this is, given that Una was arrested simply for lying about not being one, but at least it gives the audience – or the comics readership anyway – an opportunity to find out more about them.
To that end, Da-Kil notes that Spock is a Vulcan and invites him and Pike to a discussion aboard the Illyrian ship. Despite the obvious stupidity of having the two most seniors officers beam to a meeting with a guy who just lured them into a trap and tried to kill them, Pike agrees, leaving Ortegas with the conn. It’s what Kirk would have done, isn’t it?
After Pike and Spock beam into Da-Kil’s opulent private quarters, Da-Kil lets slip that there are other disguised Illyrians in Starfleet, who informed him of Una’s arrest. He also provides some more information on the Illyrians, revealing that their homeworld is a lifeless toxic hell from which even Illyrians are banned and that very few of them even know where it is. As Da-Kil explains, the planet has a bunker that may hold details of how they began genetically modifying themselves, which may help with Una’s situation. Somehow.
In a nicely gruesome horror-fantasy sequence, Da-Kil tells Pike that he wouldn’t manage to survive the planet’s unforgivingly harsh surface conditions. Da-Kil then beams Pike back to the Enterprise and goes to warp, kidnapping Spock. Who’d have thought the guy who lured our heroes into a trap and betrayed them last issue would lure our heroes into a trap and betray them this issue? Not Captain Pike, apparently.
I love Ortegas’ reaction to being only so briefly in the Big Chair. Uhura reports that Admiral April is trying to contact them, but Pike says to ignore him in favour of pursuing Da-Kil and Spock. The Enterprise captain feels he has lost enough of his officers recently and doesn’t want a rescue to be both delayed and assigned to another ship.
Spock, aboard Da-Kil’s spacecraft, has meanwhile been genetically modified. According to Da-Kil, legend has it that only a Vulcan can open the vault, and that’s why he wanted Spock along. Spock’s stress and doubts have gone – he can truly feel nothing, and he now has greyish green skin, with black lines across his face and neck…
With the introduction and setup out of the way in issue #1, the plot gets going. It’s rather choppy, illogical, and feels like it’s been cut down from something written for twice as many pages. The characters’ intelligence isn’t well served either, with bizarre about-turns, total ignorance of immediately past events, and generally making Pike seem a bunch of dilithium crystals short of a warp core.
On the upside, the exposition regarding the Illyrians is interesting and engaging. Characterisation is generally great for the regulars too, with Pike’s dialogue spot-on. Focusing on Spock’s inner doubts nicely puts the lie to the popular idea that he — and Vulcans in general — is emotionless. It also sets us up for the cliffhanger, and presumably we will see the difference between real Spock and genuinely emotionless Spock in issue #3.
Fortunately, the art in this issue is more dynamic than last time. Yes, the likenesses are variable — Uhura, Spock and Pike are good, Ortegas less so — but there’s a nicer mix of angles, good ship action, and more perspective and depth. There are also a couple of variant covers, of which the Kieran McKeown and Sebastian Cheng one is awesome.
In total, the problems and improvements balance each other out. And so, it’s still a comic that needs to do better, but carries the hope that it will get there next time…
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.