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Comic Book Review – Star Trek: Countdown To Darkness

Story by Roberto Orci & Mike Johnson
Script by Mike Johnson
Pencils by David Messina
Inks by Marina Castelvetro
Colours by Claudia Scarletgothica
Letters by Chris Mowry
Edited by Scott Dunbier
Published by Titan Books

As the title of the book suggests, this is a prequel leading directly into Star Trek Into Darkness, meaning that themes and ideas are introduced that play out in the movie. To emphasise this, the story starts with Spock having a recurring anxiety dream about the destruction of Vulcan and the death of his mother, something that is affecting his relationship with Uhura; meanwhile, Kirk is pondering about the nature of command to his log. The Enterprise is visiting the planet Phaedus for a five-year check of its civilisation, which is several thousand years before its inhabitants will be ready for first contact. Therefore, when a high-frequency energy field originating from the planet surface disrupts communications and transporters, Kirk decides to take a shuttle down the planet to investigate, with Spock accompanying him to ensure no further violations of the prime directive (as well as Sulu and a redshirt). However, when they fly down to the planet, they are shot down and come face to face with aliens armed with Starfleet weapons … and Robert April, former captain of the Enterprise, believed to be dead (and who looks a lot like Rutger Hauer).

It transpires that Phaedus is undergoing a civil war – the dominant race are brutally killing the other race and April is trying to help the oppressed: when he first witnessed it 20 years ago as captain of the Enterprise, he couldn’t stand by and let it happen, so he violated the prime directive by abandoning his post and taking weapons down to the planet to help. Another link to the film: his first officer is Alex Marcus, who lets him leave and then telling Starfleet that April was dead; he plays a big role in the film. After Spock rescues Sulu and the redshirt from captivity from the dominant aliens, they return with April to the Enterprise, where he reveals that the war is a proxy war: the Klingons are supplying the other side with weapons so that the Klingons can take over the planet (April has been using a female smuggler called Mudd to arm the oppressed aliens). Kirk decides to bring April back to Starfleet, but April manages to take over the Enterprise (with the only bit of weak plotting in the book: he used a sleeper program he had designed and installed on the previous Enterprise, which has somehow survived the building of a new ship, and which allows him to lock out control of the ship from everywhere else but the bridge) and contacts the Klingons to offer them the Enterprise in exchange for governorship of Phaedus so that he can stop the slaughter. It’s up to the crew of the Enterprise to stop him … although, because this is a prequel, you can work out the ending.

This is a well-crafted story – it does the job of a seamless prequel to the film, as would be expected from a story from one of the co-writers of the movies, and it nicely drops hints about things in the film, such as Mudd’s shuttle that is used in the film to fly to Kronos. The art matches the style of the film perfectly: the shiny quality to the ship’s interiors, lens flares aplenty, tilted angles for panels; Messina has a good blend of character likeness and a clear, sharp cartoony style with great storytelling skills. I read this book after I had seen the film (a film with which I had a few problems), but that didn’t colour my appreciation of this book, which stands up on its own merits and will be enjoyed by anyone who likes the new Star Trek.

Disclosure: this book was provided for review purposes.

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