Review: Star Trek Discovery 2018 Annual

Darryll Robson Darryll Robson
Expert Contributor
April 4th, 2018

Lifetime reader of comics and fan of Planet of the Apes. When the two combine I can barely contain myself. Image, Boom and Titan comics fight for shelf space with Doctor Who DVDs.

Review: Star Trek Discovery 2018 Annual
Comics
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With the monthly comic focusing on the Klingons from Star Trek: Discovery, the 2018 annual turns its attention to some of the crew members and their journey into Starfleet. Our contributor, Darryll Robson, takes a look at this double sized IDW special to see how it lives up to the live action counterpart.

With a $7.99 price tag and nearly 40 pages of comic book action, the Star Trek: Discovery Annual 2018 has a lot of work to do to give the readers satisfaction. The monthly Discovery comic hasn’t been the best example of what to expect but the fact that this annual has chosen to tell a different story, not involving the Klingons, is a good start. Can the creators of the comic capture the excellence of the TV show and bring something new and exciting to the table?

Synopsis

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In the centre of an unmapped asteroid belt, the USS Somerville is collecting rare spore samples when everything starts to go wrong. A serious transported malfunction causes the death of some of the crew but not before they are able to retrieve some of the spores.

A few months later on a terraforming planet, plant obsessed Doctors Stamets and Straal receive a sample of the spore and begin work that will eventually lead to Starfleet and the star ship Discovery.

Along the way, Dr Straal’s love life is put under strain while Dr Stamets finally finds someone to turn his head away from his work.

Credit: IDW Publishing

Analysis

The Star Trek: Discovery television series was a bold and exciting move forward for the Star Trek franchise. It told a long narrative across an entire series with later reveals that actually related directly to previous action. It was tightly plotted and took the viewers to new places.

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Unfortunately, the first tie in Discovery comic, The Light of Kahless, has so far been lacklustre in its approach to the characters and events that the series crafted so well. The story set before the start of the series is focused on the Klingons but a combination of slow pacing and inconsistent art work hasn’t helped it become more than a second rate tie-in.

With a large page count and a focus on some of the actual crew of the Discovery, the 2018 Annual looks like it might be a worthy successor to the series.

Unfortunately, it isn’t.

The major problem with the comic is the decision to tell a prequel story to the series. The narrative explores a single character’s journey to the Discovery which could prove interesting if there was any drama or excitement involved. However, after the initial opening sequence, which is by far the best part of the comic, Dr Stamets story is really rather dull. He experiments with the new spores that have been discovered, working with a colleague trying to get recognition for their theories, and it all leads to Starfleet and the enlisting with the Discovery.  The outcome of everything that happens has already been shown in the TV series and there are no twists or surprises on the way. It is a straight forward manoeuvring of a few characters to show how they managed to get aboard a Starship.

The difficulty here is that the script by Kirsten Beyer and Mike Johnson isn’t in any way bad. They have caught the essence of each of the characters while at the same time introduced new characters who have some depth to them. Each of the cast members have their own voices which are identifiable with their live action counterparts. The problem lies with the blandness of the overall narrative, not with the page by page storytelling.

The opening sequence is a fast paced, heart stopping scene and the only part of the comic that contains any drama or threat. The rest plods along, page after page, with nothing to say about anyone. This is the comics biggest crime. None of the characters, however brilliantly rendered by the artist, really grow into their parts. The two Doctors, one of science and one of medicine, meet and fall in love but their personalities are exactly the same as they are in the series, they haven’t experienced anything to make them who they are. This isn’t a comic that explains how these people became the people the readers will recognise from the show, they are the same people just living in a different place.

Credit: IDW Publishing

Angel Hernandez’s art work is the saving grace of the comic. Without it most readers would probably give up before they reach half way. Somehow Hernandez manages to give all of the ‘standing around in labs’ time that the crew do for most of the comic a vivid Star Trek aesthetic with constantly shifting focus so the panels jump from a long shot to a close up to medium view in quick succession; giving the impression that it is an action sequence despite the actual lack of any really action.

Hernandez is also very skill full at rendering the character’s likenesses. There is never any question of who is who.

If this comic was a backup story in another Discovery comic, split down to follow the Doctors experiments month after month, in the same way that the X-Men comics followed Beast’s journey to find a way to reverse M-Day, it would be more palatable. However, in this single, long form, expensive comic, the story just doesn’t have enough gravitas. The script and art captures the characters extremely well but it suffers from being a narrative which flies as straight as an arrow with nothing in its path to hinder it.

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Star Trek: Discovery deserves better comics than it has so far received.

Darryll Robson is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Occasionally he remembers his Twitter account: @DarryllRobson, but he does remember to write more about comics on his website comiccutdown.com

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