A short story is a beautiful thing, regardless of the medium.
That’s what Tony Shasteen and Mike Johnson have given us in this month’s offering of Star Trek: Boldly Go #10, and even if you aren’t a Kelvin Timeline fan, you have to love the structure, the composition and the art of this comic.
First of all, the story is told from an alien viewpoint, which makes it stand out as a distinctive way to start the story. The alien’s viewpoint is the obscure perspective of Kevin, the tiny Teenaxi alien who beamed aboard the Enterprise with Captain Kirk at the opening of Star Trek Beyond.
Back in the late 1970’s and early 80’s, there were a number of Star Trek novelists who began the whole adaptation process of extrapolating what they thought were the best way to represent the various alien species mentioned by the original Trek canon. In this case, Johnson has the entire new Kelvin Timeline to play with and for sure, he chooses to make an entire story about the Teenaxian.
And it’s great! It’s a case of when the comic reading audience gets a chance to see the Kelvin Timeline from an altogether wholly unique perspective: a pure Trek story that focuses on interspecies relationships, loyalties, compromise and rebuilding the Enterprise – which has a long way to go — and is nothing but fun.
I’ve accepted the Kelvin Timeline to be an alternate way of looking at Star Trek. But regardless of the players and the timeline, it still tries to keep to those values of Trek in a whole and consistent manner. I think a lot of fans have easily dismissed the trappings of the “New Trek” in a knee-jerk fashion.
In this comic, we see the beginnings of the Enterprise-A under construction at Yorktown, and meet a new alien addition who discovers the value of the Federation principles, which, to be fair, I think have been very easily under-emphasized in the Kelvin Timeline. In this comic though, we see those values reinforced and it’s by exploring and extrapolating from a minor aspect of the third film. That’s the uncertainty and that’s what James Blish, Sondra Marshak and other writers of Trek novels from the seventies and eighties did that reinforced those values and made them evident.
Johnson is doing the same thing here, but the Kelvin Timeline lacks the same sort of historical legacy that the original Trek does in order for it to be received in the same way. Johnson is a pioneer, in that he is contributing to that extended universe that the mainstream Trek has been fortunate to have developed for it in the last fifty years and that needs to be recognized.
I had completely forgotten about the Teenaxians; they were a comic way of beginning Star Trek Beyond, and aside from a short callback at the end of the film, that was the whole of their story — but writers like Johnson have a gift for searching for the obscure and making an entire story out of it. Now they’re the entire subject of this stand-alone story and also shows us the universality of the principles that the Federation stands for. It’s nice to be reminded that we humans aren’t so bad after all.
The opening panels by Tony Shasteen are great. The book starts off mirroring the opening sequence of Star Trek Beyond to an exceptionally detailed precision. I’ve said this before, but Shasteen’s gift with likenesses is really something to behold and from what I’ve heard, the amount of time it takes him to complete work is also enviable among artists.
- Cover A is another stylized one by George Caltsoudas. We see an interpretation of Montgomery Scott working with some sort of a virtual display panel. It’s completely Caltsoudas in that it avoids concrete representation of the show and its elements and focuses more on abstract notions and interpretations.
- Cover B by Jason Badower is a great crew profile piece. You can’t have too many of these for my mind and I love the Federation insignia as a background; it emphasizes those principles I was talking about earlier and this has to be my favourite one of the lot.
- The Retailer A-cover is another photograph, and I’ve mentioned my dislike of such photo covers in past reviews.
- The Retailer B-cover by Cryssy Cheung is a decent profile of Karl Urban’s McCoy, probably the best actor in the cast who really knows how to channel a proper TOS attitude. Cheung manages to capture that expression in this cover.
We have four cover variants for this book.
The ending of this story is perfect. It ends in a way that most Star Trek devotees would expect it to and in a way that I think captures the spirit of the original Trek. What I like about Johnson’s work is that it brings the Kelvin Timeline into sync with those original values. That’s the function of this comic, as I see it.
But even if I’m wrong, Boldly Go #10 is still one hell of a well-written story.