Thursday, 12 January 2017

Eaglemoss Goes Graphic

After a successful trial run last year Eaglemoss have finally released their much anticipated Star Trek graphic novel series. Ian Kimmins steps in to review...

Opening the Eaglemoss account is the well-known Countdown written by Mike Johnson who was an employee of Kutzman/Orci before moving over to write the comics full time, most recently concluding the five year mission of the reboot crew. 

Starting out in the Prime Universe eight years after Nemesis and more of the Enterprise-E crew have moved on. Picard is ambassador to Vulcan, Data (after successfully imprinting his memories to B-4) is Captain of the aforementioned flagship, Geordi has retired from Starfleet to design his own ships and Worf is a General in the Klingon Empire. There is a couple of nice tie-ins here to Star Trek Online. Let us know if you spot them!

Spock, the Ambassador to Romulus (nice lead off from Unification) discovers that the Hobus star is about to go supernova. The Romulan Senate doesn't believe him but he has an ally in Nero who has seen it first hand although as you would expect things don't go precisely to plan.

Close examination of this hard-backed edition does indicate that Eaglemoss have reprinted the Trade Paperback rather than the actual comic itself since that had an error noting Spock lived on Romulus for 40 years previous to the story but was corrected to 20 for the Trade release. 

As we all know, Countdown was written as a prequel to the 2009 reboot movie establishing the backstory that leads Nero on his witchhunt across time and space for the Vulcan ambassador and culminates in the kinking of the timeline for the benefit of JJ Abrams. Likewise Countdown to Darkness did the same for the 2012 sequel but alas Beyond missed out.

Countdown is a fantastic story from start to end and is a less than subtle way of knitting the two parallel Star Trek universes together in what is considered a canon product - one of the rare ones actually included outside of the TV and film (onscreen) sphere.

The second story is a much more (unintentionally) light-hearted story. The Planet of No Return sees the Enterprise surveying the planet K-G. They discover a Space Mist that turns animals into plants. Violent mobile plants! Just another regular mission for the Enterprise!! 

Both Dick Wood and Nevio Zeccara had never seen the show and had been given little information to go on. It stands out very clearly here! 

Cannibal plants, TV Scanners, Giant Trees and Howling Comets are just some if the things we get here. Everybody except Spock seems to be in lime green uniforms for some reason and before you think it can't get any more off-topic, the story ends with Spock decimating everything with laser beams. Of course...

What The Planet of No Return does is provide an incredible contrast across decades of Star Trek not only in the quality of the visuals but also in the way that it is curated in recent years. In the 60's and 70's it was just another series that could be used and transferred into different media and used as wanted but Countdown is a blinding mirror to this misuse in its attention to character and to the in-universe details. If Eaglemoss are going to be offering this kind of strikingly different material in every issue then sign me up now because this will be providing a marvellous and intriguing look into just how Star Trek has been viewed and represented in graphic media across fifty years. Brilliant stuff.

So the question is - is The Graphic Novel Collection worth it? At £1.99 for the first issue it's excellent value and you'd be silly not to take up the chance to get Countdown for next to nothing but is it an essential purchase going forward when it reverts to £9.99?

Issue two, which will cover the original version of The City on the Edge of Forever as Harlon Ellison intended, will be at the slightly higher price of £6.99 but still worth a punt. The third issue - Hive - takes us back to The Next Generation as Seven joins the Enterprise crew against the Borg and issue four is the recent classic Spock: Reflections - we don't really have much of an idea at the moment what to expect each issue beyond that though so a subscription may well be quite a stab in the dark. What we do know from the promotional foldout pamphlet/timeline accompanying this first issue is that virtually every graphic novel nook and cranny will be poked and prodded into place as part of this 80-odd issue series.

Even without the big card backing and the fancy promo work here, the hardback edition of the graphic novel and the Gold Key additional "supplement" are extremely well presented and reproduced. There is a little bit that remains skeptic around the quality that will be issued later down the line (as has happened to some degree with Eaglemoss' Starships Collection but as a Star Trek archive it's one of those avenues which has never really been properly catalogued. In this new format we have a perfect chance to bring all those classic stories together in one place.

If you are a fan of the continuing adventures of your favourite crews outside of TV I would say it is worth it. A few things I would hope to see going forward would be interviews with some of the people involved in the comics and the alternate covers that are usually available for each issue. If you're a subscriber then you'll also be receiving two special metallic comic covers, movie posters, book ends and a lapel pin as gifts over the duration of the series plus for an extra £1 per issue you will receive four photo-novels reprinted from the 1970's at points during the run. Not a bad deal and the publisher did something similar in Germany with shuttles over on their other Star Trek production.

All in all a very good first issue with the best certainly to come.

Are you taking the dive into the collection? Any stories you hope they will include?

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