Thursday, 15 March 2018

Rounding Up: The Graphic Novel Collection Issues 20 - 23

Next up in the ever growing Graphic Novel Collection comes the Classic UK Comics with more retro ‘50’s style shenanigans. Clive and Ian take a look...

I'll be straight up with this one, the UK Comics can be a bit of a drag to get through and while the Kelvin timeline and The Next Generation stories can be a one-sit-and-done these require a more dedicated span of attention due to the smaller story panels and even smaller text. 

What you also find with these is that they tend to lean towards less that Star Trek relevant stories choosing to head into generic sci-fi story territory rather than pushing that envelope and doing something unique and different. It does make for some interesting dipping in and out on occasion,reading a story then dropping into something more recent for a rest. The illustrations are very similar to those in Flash Gordon and other more 50's sci-fi themed outings but they do seem to toe the line on tech and the sets a lot more than Gold Key ever attempted - at least the bridge looks like the bridge and the characters have at least more than a passing passing resemblance to their onscreen counterparts. Some great things to watch out for as you're reading through - lizard aliens, classical Rome and the most bizarre planet-fall landing of a Star Trek starship ever; I kid you not.

Second up in issue 21 is the first trip out to the depths of the Delta Quadrant and aboard Voyager. This collection is set during the third season of the show and prior to the Doctor receiving the holo-emitter meaning we get him confined to sickbay and the holodeck as well as the young Ocampan Kes.   

The stories seem to try and keep in line with the televised episodes, returning both the Talaxians and the Kazon to the story as the former attempt to secure Voyager for the Trabe in what is a very fast-paced tale to open this volume. Graphically the stories do the ships some justice but their visual interpretations of the crew are sketchy at best. Fortunately the stories are compelling and do try and follow some sort of canonical references keeping them firmly placed within the Voyager timeline. While the artwork can be hit and miss at times with these stories they're as good a read as any and once I'd dived into a few pages I found myself easily swayed and totally hooked into some very well crafted adventures.

The Voyager stories are a little more gung-ho than you might have expected but they are all high on action and low (for once) on the technobabble which means you get a much better fill of story and can follow every line. It's not as overdramatic as the recent reprints of the Marvel and UK comic series but it's not as clean cut and crisply written as you would find in one of the Kelvin universe or The Next Generation volumes from the last decade.

Oddly this volume has a fascination with the Kazon/Trabe fracture in the Delta Quadrant with a good four fifths of the stories using this as its centrepoint. It definitely makes for an action packed narrative but maybe it overplays the phaser shooting and fist-fighting that Star Trek didn’t need to rely on to tell a story. These tales do keep with the nicey-nice Maquis/Starfleet unity and tow the line but it does feel a touch lifeless
Issue 22 slips us into the realms of Deep Space Nine and The Next Generation with Divided We Fall. Once again there's some tight storytelling, a mix of characters all thrown together and some little signs that mean you can place the time this was written precisely - Riker is clean shaven and there's a Trill officer at the Conn; yes, this was produced just after Insurrection was released and as such the events of Nemesis have no recrimination here.

It's a brilliant story, planned well and offering up one might-have-been moment in Star Trek lore. I love these kind of stories where what actually happened and what was envisaged are completely different because of the perspectives involved. The choice to use Verad from Invasive Procedures as the antagonist here might initially seem a bad idea since that's once of Deep Space Nine's weaker season two installments but it does actually work and by an even further twist we manage to pull in the first onscreen Trill, Odan from The Host. Not just that but Elias Vaughn and Thirishar ch’Thane from the Literary Universe are also pulled into the unfolding events making this one hell of a multi-format crossover spectacular. It really is a story that pulls out all the stops when it comes to both character and action with storyboards that are crisply executed with a decent likeness for the established roster of crew. Great from start to finish this is one of the greats of the collection so far however...

Issue 23 and Assignment Earth. Now this is our first real diversion away from the mainstream Star Trek content, taking us back to the final episode of the second season of The Original Series and the appearance of one Gary Seven, a transmorphic cat called Isis and his secretary Roberta Lincoln.

Now it does have a couple of cute crossover moments in here which ping us back again into Tomorrow is Yesterday to see it from a perspective not unlike that we experienced with Trials and Tribble-ations but on the whole these are a whole new set of adventures which revolve around this unique investigator. This volume gives a voice to a what could have been in much the same way that Divided We Fall offers a divergence into a Star Trek had Nemesis never happened. It's a lot more fun, more colourful and fast-paced than regular Star Trek adventures as it's not enforced to work to the same set of rules or formula even though it's set within the same universe. Could this be someone who could turn up in Discovery? I don't see why not but I would imagine Aaron Harberts and Ted Sullivan would want to tone him down and make his ethics and drives a lot darker than we get here.

Of the whole selection we're covering off here this was easily my favourite. It offered a new dynamic to the Star Trek universe through a series of quite un-Star Trek like tales set in the 1960's USA. These do feel a little more cartoonish in style but there's a lot of life and a lot to love about their content. An odd inclusion but a great one to get hold of and experience a series that never actually was!

On the flip side however my colleague Ian found this a little bit dull and pedestrian -which he has found to occur in previous works by the Tipton brothers. Also in this volume we have A World Gone Mad from Gold Key It has its usual wackiness that you would expect and you get Spock uttering the immortal line “That's no way for a sister to be acting”;I wonder why that one didn’t catch on!!

Backing up the latter three of the four editions is our old faithful Gold Key stories from the early 1970's. This time we have the joys of The Hijacked Planet, The Haunted Asteroid and A World Gone Mad, all of which take us into more Star Trek-foundation (and pretty much everything else) ignoring all the way. They do have a lot in common with the UK Comics editions more than anything although as we do get further into the back catalogue there are occasional signs that the writers and illustrators were starting to consider actually getting a shade nearer canon even if its just in uniform colours. Also a note from Ian on this one around The Haunted Asteroid in that it introduces Doctor Krisp who will turn up again in future stories - a first in the form of a recurring character created for the Gold Key series.

Right then - that's our first of three round robin catchups for the Graphic Novel series. Our next will cover issues 24 - 27...

Any of these floating your boat? What's been the highlight of the collection so far?

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