Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Journeying Back: The Graphic Novel Collection Issues Four and Five

Three classic stories down and we have another two with Spock: Reflections and The Next Generation: The Space Between.

First released in 2010, Spock: Reflections is an absolute stormer of a read. Collecting together a series of events from the legendary Vulcan's life stretching from his time as a youngester at home to his years under Captain Pike through to his time as commander of the USS Enterprise (circa The Wrath of Khan) plus an underlying narrative that takes Spock on a journey from Romulus to Earth.

Honestly I could not put this down.  The way in which the story unfolds, the writing, the graphics; the lot. This is an absolute must have in every way. The character of Spock is believable and the way in which the background story develops is beautifully natural. One thing that stands out is how the artists involved perform the transitional moments from the "present" to Spock's past. Each is moulded into the very fabric of the story and, just as with its development, feels wholly natural at every stage. Indeed, the flashbacks - and indeed the end of the story - touch on every significant point within the story of Spock and Star Trek across the 44 years to when this was written. 

Reflections does the seminal Star Trek character a lot of justice and I respect the writing and visuals so much I would be tempted to call it canon purely on that quality alone. Visually the tones of the different eras we bear witness to are recreated perfectly right down to movie rank insignias and mountaintop detail from the third planet in the Veridian system. It breathes a respect for the character, for Nimoy and for the franchise that I've not experienced anywhere else in these first four issues of the series and it is undeniably a story that I will come back and read again and again.  It also, as always, offers the stark contrast to the fourth issue of Gold Key Archives. 

Now I did a bit of research on this and there were over 70 issues produced so I'm thinking this is going to be the "backup" material in the collection for a while to go yet. This time's offering is The Peril of Planet Quick Change and to be fair change is the thing this doesn't. We're still firmly entrenched in the 1950's style Flash Gordon style Star Trek replete with backpacks, rocket ships, quirky dialogue and frankly, very little to associate it with the franchise bar the odd appearance of an Enterprise exterior, Spock's ears and a delta insignia. 

I'm still smiling everytime they step into the teleportation chamber and that's kind of the point with the Gold Key stuff. The story is true boys' own action once more and it is nevertheless entertaining and will fill some time in a wet and rainy afternoon. 

Issue Five presents the first IDW foray into Star Trek from a decade ago. With its initial release in January 2007, TNG: The Space Between collects together several points in the seven year TV voyages of the Enterprise-D with appearances from main cast and fan favourite recurring characters. Each of the six stories is standalone but there are a few sprinklings which do tie them loosely together by the finale. 

It is a very loose connection and even if that hadn't been there I don't think it would have loosened the enjoyment of reading this anthology. The art here is a lot more impressionistic than in the previous volumes, using a lot more texture and contrast to dark and light especially when it comes to shadows. It also comes across as a great deal more basic in its realisation, yet the stories still remain strong and involving. Unquestionably the more recent IDW works are much more strongly visualised and detailed however the strength of the tales has been there since the beginning and that's backed up very solidly with the short stories collected here. Each presents the characters from the show as close to their TV natures as possible while adding something interesting to the mix. 

What is well managed here are the different periods in which we get to explore The Next Generation further. The nuances of each season are nodded to whether it's Geordi's season one appearance on the bridge or Troi's science division uniform from the last two years, the tweaks are all included at their relevant times and that's what makes these IDW instalments ever the better - they recognise the franchise and the importance of getting it right each and every time no matter the writer or the artist. More so perhaps in The Space Between because it jumps about in the timeline plus it had the unnerving distinction of being their first release. 

Given that these are single stories, the pace of The Space Between is heck of a lot quicker than Reflections and it's noticeable how far along you can get before needing to flick back and take stock. With the Spock story it's a lot easier and more manageable to follow given the natural narrative breaks which wrap around the flashback sequences.

I loved this return to the Enterprise-D but it just can't top the brilliance of Spock: Reflections in so many ways. The Space Between is action packed, well written and a great read but Reflections just has that heart that makes it an instant classic and one you will always be drawn back to. The presentation of Spock is to a tee and I simply cannot fault the result. Magnificent. 

The fifth Gold Key archive from the late 60's this time is The Ghost Planet. In comparison to the main cover story each and every one of these has been to the same standard and same effectiveness every fortnight. The title itself says everything you really need to know, driving the Star Trek bus further into 1950's serialisations with wise-cracking dialogue and more sci-fi tropes than you can shake a Horta at. In fact I'm not sure if I can come up with much more to say about these spins on The Original Series except that they do offer a completist angle to the collection.  

Next month we have Nero charting the backstory of the Romulan from the 2009 reboot movie for issue six and as yet there is no confirmation of what will be in issue seven - certainly cutting close on that news!!!

Is Spock: Reflections going to be the high point of the collection? What stories would you have recommended?

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