I love backstories, and that’s what strikes me about Star Trek: Boldly Go #5.
Jaylah is definitely one of the bright lights in the Kelvin Timeline’s Star Trek Beyond; after all, she was instrumental in the survival, rescue and recovery of the crew of the Enterprise and her bravery and unique physiognomy certainly make her a character that stands out.
So, of course, Mike Johnson and Tony Shasteen have to dedicate an issue to her unique backstory and give Jaylah fans a chance to see where she came from and more information about her background. Shasteen gets full marks for his exemplary rendering of Jaylah; right down to the near-genetic level.
There’s a crispness to his artwork that really demands your attention. In a comic based on an established franchise like Star Trek, a reader wants to see expert likenesses of favourite characters and Shasteen’s talent is more than up to the challenge in this regard.
It’s definitely an issue that works. Though it may have the feel of a filler issue, there’s a critical purpose to setting a character up for inclusion in future stories. Given that Beyond also didn’t really give us a great deal of information on her already, this is also a great chance for Johnson to fill that void and input some of his own creative license into the character. After all, this is the fun in writing fiction about an established franchise, right? What writer could resist that challenge?
Johnson clearly can’t. This story focuses exclusively on Jaylah’s family, her sense of loss and the fight for survival she underwent versus Krall and his cronies before the Federation crew was marooned on the mysterious planet. A very simplistic story, in that it’s basically an origins story, but it’s of remark in that it is original material. Jaylah’s family is Johnson’s creation and that is important to remember in considering the merits of this story.
The structure is organized a little unorthodox in that it goes back to various stages of Jaylah’s life in an halting, receding manner. Various stages leading back to Jaylah’s own life culminate in a very poignant portrait of where she is now. But this is Johnson’s storytelling and it adds to the emotional nature of the story.
Of course, like a good Trekkie, I was hoping I’d find out a little more about the identity of her species, her planet of origin and where it is in relation to the known races. With regards to the catalogue of alien races in Star Trek and like a good number of other Trek fans, I just want to know where she fits in within this universe. (Yeah … I know: nerd.)
However, I acknowledge that wasn’t the thrust of this story. Johnson has a knack for displaying the emotional vibrancy of characters and I can’t fault him for playing to his strengths. Plus, we do get to see the resilience in Jaylah and a better insight into her engineering talents and a hint as to where she will fit in future stories.
Clearly, she’s an engineer with a technological bent towards improvisation that clearly makes her a great foil for Montgomery Scott. This is setting Jaylah up for a place in the crew when the Enterprise eventually gets rebuilt and Kirk and crew find their way home to the ship that they truly belong on … with plus one to spare.
- The regular retail cover for this book is penciled by George Caltsoudas. It’s dynamic and definitely captures the combative and resilient spirit that Johnson is portraying in this story. It definitely fits the tone of the book and supports it well. In my opinion, a good cover is more than just an attractive sales incentive – it gives the prospective reader a sense of the story. Caltsoudas has fulfilled that obligation and supported the writer and interior artist perfectly.
- Shasteen provides the brilliant cover art for the subscription version of Star Trek: Boldly Go #5. We see the continuation of the montage of the Enterprise crew in their new roles with the feature focus on Montgomery Scott. Given that Jaylah’s hinted future role on board the newly-constructed USS Enterprise will clearly include an engineering role, then this is a cover well-inferenced and well-executed.
- The first retailer incentive cover is another photo-cover. This is an appropriately chosen image of Jaylah and is a very striking image. I’m not a fan of photos on a comic cover, but this certainly works or the theme of the book.
- Finally, the second retailer incentive cover is another of Marc Laming’s cut-out dolls. This one is of Karl Urban’s Dr. Leonard McCoy. Urban’s McCoy is my all-time favourite character reboot and while I love these dolls, I have to wonder why it wasn’t of a more relevant character? This figure includes various uniform changes, a variety of different equipment and hilariously, a tribble.
While I love the emotional punch this book delivers, I was still hoping for more detailed understanding of Jaylah’s background. Within twenty – odd pages though, I get that it’s not possible to deliver everything that a reader wants to know. However, with Shasteen’s art rendering perfect facial expressions and likenesses, this book delivers a visceral component and a reason to anticipate Jaylah’s inevitable presence in later stories.
Still, this is another notch in IDW’s belt. With Johnson, Shasteen and J.D. Mettler’s colours, on books like this, there’s very little wrong they can do. Star Trek: Boldly Go #5 is an awesome book and definitely Trek-worthy.