TrekCore Comics Review: ‘Khan’ Issue #5

Our Trek Comics editor Patrick Hayes is back with a review of this week's Star Trek: Khan #5 from IDW Publishing, the conclusion of the Star Trek Into Darkness tie-in series.

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A pair of covers, each sporting evil's face...

Paul Shipper's standard cover for Khan #5 is a great image of Khan, inspired by the photograph on the subscription cover. Above him is the Vengeance -- the Federation battleship he designed for Section 31 -- and below him is the rest of the Botany Bay crew in their status pods. I like the line work on the ship, the pods, and his hair. That's right, I said it: his hair looks cool. Really great coloring as well; very spacey and alien.  Grade: A.

The photographic subscription cover is the go-to Into Darkness photo of Benedict Cumberbatch sitting in the Vengeance captain's chair. His face is swimming in power, and was obviously the source image Paul Shipper used for the artwork cover.  Grade: A+.

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All I expected from Khan #5 was an explanation of Khan's "new" face and some pre-Into Darkness gap-filling. Writer Mike Johnson, along with story consultant Roberto Orci, gives readers all this and a bit more.

The final issue opens at Khan's continuing trial, where he's being questioned by Kirk. The prisoner expresses his rage at learning his true past, and discovering where the bodies of his frozen family are kept. His rage changes into one desire: "...to be reunited with them."

A plan is hatched, ending in a fantastic confrontation on Pages 8 through 17 -- including a five-page flashback that every Trek fan should wish had been in the movie. It would have eaten up too much time, but, oh, it would have been so sweet! The explanation on Page 13 might seem too easy to some, but I bought it; it makes sense.

I like how Khan didn't have every angle figured out for his conversation, which foreshadows a technique he'll later use in the film. By Page 19, the origin story is over, but the tale is not yet done. The conversation by the pair on the final three pages is awesome; a brilliant analysis by each character with the final page's last panel a Wow-er.

I think more fondly upon this version of Khan after reading this book. Johnson is to be congratulated.  Grade: A+.

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This issue is entirely illustrated by David Messina, with inks by Giorgia Sposito. It's different from previous issues because all of it is set in the "present" of Star Trek. I am a huge fan of Messina because his characters always look like the actors who portray them, and not once do they look like he's copying them from photos. He can also draw the heck out of technology -- even if it's of his own design, such as the Io facility on Page 2.

His interiors also are top notch, and his overlays (computers and reflections) look great. Some exceptional images include Khan on every panel; the individual at the bottom of 3; the bottom of 10; the bottom of 11 (Yes! Yes! Yes!); Page 19, panel two; all of Page 21; and the book's final panel.

David Messina is an artist that should do an original Trek hardcover graphic novel, because he's the only illustrator since Adam Hughes that could pull it off.  Grade: A+.

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One of my favorite colorists who I'm not seeing enough from is Claudia ScarletGothica.

She is exceptional; just look at Page 1. The first two panels show the pristine, bold, lens flaring light of the Federation, and then Khan appears against a blood splattered crimson background. This fluid appears often as Khan silently meditates upon something and it perfectly matches his ferocious undertones.

Blues and whites rightfully appear in Federation locales. A private residence nicely uses bright, warm tones to establish normalcy, but becomes harshly brighter as tensions increase. Color assists are credited to Valentina Cuomo. If she did some pages or panels solo, I can't tell because whatever she did meshes so smoothly with ScarletGothica.

Another super job.  Grade: A+.

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Khan #5 features scene setting, dialogue, and two key sound effects from Neil Uyetake. This, too, is expertly done because Uyetake is able to place quite a bit of wordage down without overstepping the art. A sign of a pro, to be sure.  Grade: A.

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Bottom line: Khan #5 -- and this whole series -- gave me what the movie did not: a backstory to this villain and a coda completing the story. It's making me reconsider my feelings toward the film.

An amazing feat, and one I thank all involved for doing.  Overall grade: Grade: A+.

- Reviewed by Comics Editor Patrick Hayes

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  • Sykes

    Weird that the beautiful art cover gets a lower score than just slapping a promo photo on there, but to each their own. :)

    Thanks for the review.

  • Christopher Roberts

    Make animated movies out of this and Countdown… Oh, yes. Especially Countdown.

    • Platitude

      I liked Countdown for all the TNG stuff, though I felt like Nero was a completely different character than the film version. An animated movie would be fun though, especially (or only) if they got all the actors to come back to do the voices.

    • Hey berto

      I liked all of the ST 09 tie in comics. The TNG elements during countdown was pretty great and very well done. It was really a no-brainer since you’re using Spock’s story. It remains my favorite. It had the most surprises and you could always count on something coming out of the blue in every issue. Just great in almost every aspect.

      The Countdown to Darkness was weak, but with Khan being under wraps, they really had to stretch a lot to come up with something. Another reason they shouldn’t have tried to keep Khan under wraps.

  • Platitude

    I didn’t mind the lack of explanation, but I’m sure including an extra line or two in the movie referencing this stuff would have tempered the negative reaction from Trekkies regarding Cumberbatch. “My name is Kahn. Don’t bother looking me up in your database, Marcus had me undergo extensive facial reconstruction so I wouldn’t match the history books.” Or something like that. But someone probably would have still complained. You can’t please everyone I suppose.

  • M33

    Funny, the whole facial reconstruction thing I had already come up with as well. Cool to see it realized.

  • GS

    I’m pretty sure the real reason was decided in a committee of marketing people from the studios.

  • Hey berto

    I still don’t like CumberKhan.. he just wasn’t interesting, and didn’t seem at all like the Khan we all knew, and I’m not talking about appearance. I’m not sure that a more faithful appearance of the character changes how far from the Khan we all knew seemed. That was a huge mistake. He should’ve been some other kind of augment. BUT… this comic series was far more interesting than anything in the movie, and that’s knowing the fundamental backstory. There were no real surprises in this story, but it was well done. Kudos to the writers for making it interesting and fun… which is not something I can say for Khan in the movie.