Captain Kirk’s Weekly Comic Review – 01/06/2021

It’s a fevered fight of favourite fandoms in this week’s review! Not only are there two Star Wars titles to relish and read, but two Star Trek ones to rise up and challenge them for comic supremacy in the matter of iconic franchises! Without further ado, make sure the Kyber crystals in your lightsabres are at full charge and set your phasers to “fun” and let’s get to the list for this week and see what fandom reigns dominant!

Marvel Comics

Star Wars: The High Republic #1 (Cavan Scott, Ario Anindito, Mark Morales, Annalisa Leoni, VC’s Ariana Maher, Mark Paniccia)

This is a new series, set in a time that is ripe for storytelling as no-one really knows anything about it.

You have to love that the beginning of the book has a timeline that shows when this story is set but puts all of the other major episodes of the franchise into a contextual continuum. You see, there’s a difference between canon and continuity. The former deals mostly with characters, objects, process, and the significance of events – you know: specific details? The latter places all of these things into a historical chronology and is painted with broad strokes of the brush. Essentially, continuity allows for space to exist where new stories in an existing franchise can happen. When continuity is invoked, you can tell it’s a labour of love.

Set in a time before the events of Episode I, the time of the High Republic was a golden age in the galaxy when the Jedi were respected, revered and peace was supreme. The galaxy was safe, secure and unaware of any potential threat. It was an idyllic age of Star Wars.

Of course, you know this can’t last, right?

While we get introduced to the Padawan learner, Keeve, as she is about to undergo her trials on her way to become a full-fledged Jedi, we also see some familiar Jedi Masters and meet new ones. In this issue, Keeve has to make a choice about serving herself or the greater good and though this is an important principle that illustrates the nobility of the Jedi, I think we kinda knew that already.

In the opening precis, we are to expect a “threat to themselves [the Jedi], the galaxy, and the Force itself.” Though this is a dramatic opening, sad to say, we actually don’t get a whiff of that until the very end, and even then, we’re still in the dark.

The story is entertaining and the art is superb. For those, I’m grateful to both Cavan Scott and Ario Anindito. Since this is the first time I’ve been exposed to Anindito’s work, I’m very pleased to say that I enjoyed it greatly. The same goes for the story; I’ve read Scott’s work before and enjoyed it, so while there wasn’t anything I could say about these creators’ work, I think I just had greater expectations about the type of threat that was on the horizon for this new Jedi and her Trandoshan master – a nice touch, by the way.

On the heels of Charles Soule’s release of his novelization of this time period, it was a fun read and whetted my appetite for the next Star Wars comic!

Star Wars #10 (Charles Soule, Jan Bazaldua, Rachelle Rosenberg, VC’s Clayton Cowles, Mark Paniccia)

Speaking of Charles Soule, this is Part II of the story arc titled “Operation Starlight” in which the ancient linguistics droid stolen by the rebels needs to be activated to encrypt transmissions in an extinct language known only to the droid. It’s up to C3PO to be of use and bring the droid back to a state of operation so that the Rebel plan can work.

There’s a lot of appropriate Star Wars flavour in this book. Imperial deviousness, negotiation, back story about Lobot (a widely underused character, in my opinion) and even a hint of possible betrayal in the background. Great use of existing characters and a look at a time that is open to storytelling. Charles Soule and Jan Bazaldua have set the bar high for this type of storytelling and they don’t fail to disappoint. A great issue that continues the storyline and ends on a cliffhanger that readers will be clamoring to dive into next month.

IDW Publishing

Star Trek: Voyager: Seven’s Reckoning #3 (Dave Baker, Angel Hernandez, Ronda Pattison, Neil Uyetake, Chase Marotz)

Voyager often doesn’t get the same level of love that its series counterparts get, in my opinion, but there’s no doubt that the arrival of 7 of 9 turned that around. Seven brought a great deal of story development to the series and while her appearance has often been touted as just adding another pretty face to the show, the fact that she was a reclaimed Borg drone, reacquainting herself with her lost humanity has always been a favourite storyline of mine in Star Trek. After all, the idea in this franchise is to better explore ourselves by placing stories in a context of exploring space.

The same holds true in this book. Seven is confronted with the notion of an individual’s responsibility to society. In her Borg life, this was not even a question but a simple fact. The collective superseded the needs of the individual in Borg existence.

In the colony ship that Voyager has encountered, Seven now finds herself engaged in a class war, where the working classes of the ship have challenged the ruling classes and now threaten to completely overturn the society. The question is: how committed is she to this notion?

To be honest, I’m not sure that’s entirely clear. The problem with Seven’s character is that she is always questioning the choices she makes. In every episode, the decisions she makes in response to what she encounters always have to have an analytical component to them. She is a complicated character who was assimilated as a child. Therefore, she doesn’t have the necessary life-experience or confidence as an individual to make snap decisions. They have to be analyzed, questioned and that type of an experience doesn’t necessarily translate well into story exposition.

So, it’s a challenging gig that Dave Baker has on his hands here. However, he acquits himself rather well. The focus has to be on Seven, but the burden of the plot has to be shared by the new characters that Baker has created in Greeb and the Vesh that he leads in the uprising.

I do like the metaphor of their class war as being part of a story in which the rights of the individual are subverted because there can only be one protagonist. It’s a great concept and definitely translates well to a Star Trek story. Also, Angel Hernandez’s art is always a delight, but it’s interesting to compare this creator’s art when it’s out in two concurrent books!

Star Trek: Year Five #18 (Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly – showrunners, Jim McCann, Angel Hernandez, Fran Gamboa, Neil Uyetake, Chase Marotz)

Then we come to the main event.

First of all, I was really surprised to see this book so quickly, given that I just reviewed the previous issue last week! Maybe there is something to this Showrunner credit that Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly have got going for themselves. In all honesty, I’m still a little fuzzy on the concept as it translates to comics, but I think I’m starting to see the flexibility it offers, particularly when it comes to publishing schedules. The more TOS Trek I can see in story-form, the happier I’ll be!

Jim McCann impressed me with his ability to present the characters as I knew them from the original series. He has incorporated the antagonistic relationship between McCoy and Spock so well that their dialogue could be from a script by Roddenberry himself. This is good writing and I am so jazzed that both Lanzing and Kelly have incorporated the idea of Gary Seven and Isis as being villains in this arc of the story. It’s a refreshing new vantage on familiar characters that not only makes them vibrant but interesting again. After all, if you’re like me and think that you know everything about these characters, it’s just so rewarding to read a story that provides new insight and perspective on them that doesn’t affect the canon or continuity of the franchise.

Plus, I like Isis as an evil character – it’s such a delicious concept.

Of course, Angel Hernandez is never disappointing. However, I did notice that the work in this book was a bit different from the other times I’ve seen it. Of course, comparing it to the other Trek comic released this month, it looked a bit rushed and lacking the finesse or detail that I’ve seen in the past. However, if that’s a sign of more work for this talented creator, then I’m very pleased! Always a pleasure to see and happy that I’ll be seeing more of it in future issues to come!

But, it’s the exploration into previously worked story material and making it more enjoyable and current that really stands out for me with this book in comparison to the other books this week. After all, I love to enjoy my franchise but hate to see it deviating from what I know in a direction that seems egoistic.

Let me clarify:

I hate to be cast as a “gatekeeper” – aka, a well-established fan with lots of history and a sense that a given franchise should remain the same in terms of the expectations that I have had since I was a kid. No, that’s not realistic. There will be creators, younger than me, who will have their own interpretations of what direction the franchise should go. And I say: more power to them.

Why? Even though I may not agree with the given direction, it’s none of my business how that direction should go.

If someone has been authorized with the creative power within the governing powers of that franchise to make those creative decisions, then it’s canon and it should be accepted as such. But, the fact remains that there are folks like Lanzing and Kelly who also HAVE that power to make those changes in a way that would be more palatable and it’s up to us, as readers and fans, to give strength and support to that vision in order for it to succeed and thrive.

So, if you don’t like Discovery, tough it. Hey, it’s not my favourite version of the franchise either and as someone who has interviewed the entire cast of that show, I think I’m qualified to state my opinion. However, I have never denigrated their performances or the show by saying things like “THAT’S NOT MY STAR TREK”.

It was never my Star Trek to begin with.

But Star Wars isn’t mine either. So, maybe I didn’t like the last three films of the franchise, who cares? It still maintains the franchise and the fandom and adds to the tapestry of the storytelling and there will be authors, artists and other creators who will find a way to reconcile all of the parts that don’t make sense to die-hard fans in the end. That’s their job and mediums like comics, novelizations, video games and such all keep the creative power in work and it’s up to us, as loyal fans to keep that spirit going.

So, Star Trek: Year Five #18 is my pick of the week. Not just because I’m an ancient gatekeeper who thinks that TOS is the best iteration of Star Trek there is, but because it lends itself to the ability of other creators who can keep that version of the series going but it’s because it’s an example of how the classics can be mined for new versatility and appeal to a new generation of fandom that doesn’t deviate from the original. At the same time, it makes room for new creators, new perspectives and allows for new ideas to exist within a 1960s version of the future that doesn’t dwell in the realm of creator egotism and preconceived notions.

Fandom is fandom and we have to accept that it transcends normal lifespans. It’s an idea and sad to say, it will outlive those of us who were with it when it was conceived.

The human lifespan is so limited and if you think of the appreciation that the classics have garnered, Star Wars and Star Trek will undoubtedly outlive us all.

Let’s just enjoy it instead of subjecting it to fandom toxicity.

Enjoy what you have! Until next week!

 

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About Captain John K. Kirk

Captain John K. Kirk
John Kirk is an English and History teacher and librarian in Toronto, Canada. In addition to the traditional curriculum, John tries to teach his students to make sense of geek culture. And with the name "J. Kirk," it's hard for him to not inject "Star Trek" into his lessons. Comics, RPGs and the usual fanboy gear make up his classroom resources.