I’ve always maintained that comics are an unsung medium that fan-favourite franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek don’t fully appreciate. This is so true when it comes to Star Trek: Picard – Countdown #3 as it really is essential reading for the new television series. Considering it’s written by veteran Star Trek comics writer Mike Johnson and former Star Trek Discovery and novelist, Kirsten Beyer, it’s a story from a place that has authenticity as well as a good sense of canonical observance.
To leapfrog a bit over the comic and talk about the show, we know from the first episode that this is a Picard far into the future. Aged and retired, looking back in his career, there is a mention of a humanitarian rescue mission to Romulus and save its people from a nearby supernova. However, in the light progressing a story forward rather than looking backwards, there really isn’t time for the show-writers to focus on those events, yet they are a critical part of Picard’s career and the reason for why he eventually left Starfleet.
That’s the task for Beyer and Johnson to complete and that’s where the need for comics like Countdown to support the franchise comes in.
The relative ease of comics as a supportive medium to this vital aspect of Picard’s past is something that has been demonstrated time and time again, yet comparatively few fans fail to appreciate the insightful way that comics can add substantial value to the franchise.
In this case, we see Picard in his last Starfleet posting – an admiral in command of the USS Verity, he is tasked with the rescue attempt of 10, 000 citizens of a Romulan colony, only to discover that the colony’s governor plans to leave 5 million native inhabitants of its planet behind to suffer its destruction. Imprisoned by the governor and his ship under her control, Picard receives assistance from two Romulan defectors, Laris and Zhaban, who help him try to regain command of the Verity.
If you’re watching the show, yes – that Laris and Zhaban.
Now we understand who Laris and Zhaban are in the show and the value of that relationship as assistants who work Chateau Picard’s wineries. More importantly, their presence serves to remind fans of Picard why he is so well-liked. They are more than just friends – they are comrades, veterans who have shared a military past and Jean-Luc Picard is someone who does not forget comrades easily.
That comes out clearly in the comic, but is only implied by the show. However, what can be explained in three issues and over sixty pages of art and text would take at least forty minutes; time that a show runner cannot afford to spend on back story.
Along with Picard’s Romulan winery assistants, we also see more of the relationship between Picard and his First Officer, Raffi Musiker. Again, more shared service time that establishes the trust that we will eventually see when we encounter Musiker later on in the show’s season. Another incident of shared and relevant back story that can’t be delved into during the series as a good story should always be moving forward instead of looking back.
As much as I love other supplementaries to various franchises, when it comes down to it (and, I think I have Chris Claremont to blame for this influence) Comics are the perfect ancillary workhorse in supporting the storyline of a history-laden franchise like Star Trek. You just need the imagination of a good writer, an excellent artist and a willing publisher. But while they have to be accurate, they also have to stand alone as independent stories in their own right. In this issue, Beyer and Johnson provide a completely Star Trek worthy story that represents the style of conflict with which the Romulans have historically engaged the Federation. There are many layers of intrigue and deception present that should prove entertaining for any fan of Romulan stories. It’s also an excellent story that captures the nature of the Romulan style of confrontation. Based in recognizable authenticity, this book presents itself as a wonderful Star Trek read in its own right.
However, I have to lend some appreciation to Angel Hernandez on the art in this book. I’ve reported on Angel quite a few times. I’m pleased to see his work making forays into other publishers’ ventures, but for me, Angel will always be a Star Trek comics artist. It’s gratifying to see him receiving work from IDW. Oh, and to overlook the stunning cover by Sara Pitre-Derocher would be a sin.
The downside to reporting on the merits of this book is that I can’t give away a lot without revealing spoilers of the show. However, what I can say is that while both the show AND the book are excellent in storytelling and character presentation, the combination of reading and watching only adds to the experience of appreciating the character of Jean-Luc Picard and if you’re a Star Trek: The Next Generation fan, then isn’t that enough?
In all candor, it’s easy for me to jump on the Trek Kool-Aid bandwagon and declare both of these works to be the best thing since sliced Trek-bread, but there is a definitive coordination between the two stories that needs to be recognized here. I thoroughly enjoy that Beyer, CBS (hey – thanks, John Van Citters), IDW and Mike Johnson all coordinated their storytelling and licensing allowances to put together a comic that not only has relevance in its own regard, but also contributes to the franchise in a very significant way. Canon is only what CBS allows, the fact that CBS’s licensing agents are involved in the culmination of this makes it not only entertaining but also gives it credence. For a long-time Star Trek fan, that’s one of the litmus tests that a die-hard fan like me gives strict attention.
For me, this is the pick of the week when it comes to comic reading. The timing is good, because as a long-time Star Trek lover, this show is at the forefront of my fandom mind. The fact that the comic ties in so closely to an integral part of the show makes it more attention-grabbing. The fact that Kirsten Beyer (one of the show writers) is involved, with a seasoned and practised Star Trek comics writer like Mike Johnson as well, I would be derelict in my responsibilities as a Star Trek fan if I didn’t compare and see how the book connects to the show. The fact it resonates strongly within me as a necessary reading to gain a fuller enjoyment of the show makes me feel like I am not only getting an enriched experience, but I also feel like I am supporting the franchise in its different incarnations. For a fan, is there no higher duty?
Yeah – it’s a no-brainer this week. If you haven’t caught this book then you have at least a day to go to your LCS or your online service and pick up the preceding issues as well as this one and read. Get caught up before you watch the next episode. Trust me; this is where comics show their true power in allowing a fan to get the most out of the fandom they love.
Drop some comments and let me know what you think.
Until next week, get the most out of your fandoms.