Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New Comics Day: Star Trek edition

Two picks for this fine Wodan's day, both based on the continuing voyages of everybody's favorite crew.

After seeing the new Star Trek movie (my promised "review" is still to come -- hopefully you would have seen it by then anyway), I picked up a graphic novel that collected the single issues of a "prequel" series called "Countdown." It takes place in the Star Trek "Prime" universe and tells of the tragedy that befell Romulus, how Nero went mad for revenge, and how Spock fell into a black hole and wound up in the past. It also quite smoothly incorporates our favorite Next Gen characters -- Ambassador Jean Luc Picard, stationed at Vulcan; Captain Data of the U.S.S. Enterprise-E; General Worf of the Klingon fleet; and engineer Geordi LaForge, who has constructed a new kind of starship he calls the "Jellyfish." The characters speak in their distinctive voices and this adventure is up to the high standards you'd expect of them. Well written, based on a story by the fellows who wrote the new film, it explains some of the lingering questions that the movie simply could not slow down long enough to address. Highly recommended if you like Trek:

And then, quite by accident, as I was wandering the Ross' store while my wife and kids shopped for summer clothes, I ran across this:

Star Trek: The Key Collection, Vol. 3

Not that you'd have any reason to know this, but Gold Key Comics printed Star Trek adventures in the early 1970s. I had a couple of these, in my original adolescent phase, and I've picked up a few more when I've run across them. I have had Volume 1 of this series, which collects several issues of the original run, for nearly 20 years. I picked up Volume 2 a few years ago in a yard sale, and apparently the collections have recently been republished to make some bucks off the new movie. Now to find the other seven volumes or so ...

This is not what you'd consider art, however. The stories are simplistic, the art is primitive, although some of it has a great Gray Morrow look. At least they've recolored it so that Kirk's uniform shirt is golden instead of bright green (as it was in the originals). The artists saw very few reference photos before these books were made, as the ship interiors and equipment often looks quite different from the show, and that's just a symptom of how little the books tried to respect the source material. Still, a great example of its time, and it carries a load of nostalgia for me. I recall getting an issue of this series when I was very little, spending a weekend in Pensacola with Aunt Beth and Uncle Eric when he was flying planes off the Lexington. Uncle Joe was there for the summer, I think, and we went to a little convenience store near their cottage and someone bought the comic for me. I don't have it any more; I seem to recall cutting out the characters and pasting them on cardboard to make stand-up paper dolls, as my grandmother had taught me to do. But I think I remember the story that was in that issue, and I'm pretty sure it's the Cosmic Cavemen story in this third volume.

Finally, I also have picked up the novelization of the new movie, written by the very talented and prolific Alan Dean Foster (who I must admit I first became aware of because he adapted the Trek animated series episodes to novels in the mid-70s, and who has an amazing and interactive personal website.) Just as I hoped, Foster explains even more of the background in the film, the stuff that didn't sit right on second thought, and includes scenes that were scripted and shot, then cut to keep the pace up. It adds so much to the story, making even seemingly throw-away scenes carry greater weight. Like, the old car that meets a bad end (which you've probably seen in the trailer, so I don't feel like it's a spoiler): little Jim stole it to go joy riding because his stepfather was going to sell it; it had belonged to his dad. That kid he passes on the road is his older brother, George Samuel Kirk, who has just run away from home, and all of this builds up in young Jim, prompting him to go a little bit nuts for the first time in his life (up to then, he was the straight-A student sort). So, yeah. If you liked the movie -- and why wouldn't you? -- you should read the book. It expands the experience.

Hope all this makes up for days of absence. And I hope tomorrow to finally tell you about the movie, so go see it and we'll talk.

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