Just what are the Klingons aboard the Ship of the Dead eating in the first page of IDW’s latest Trek comic, Star Trek: Discovery — The Light of Kahless?
Whatever it is, there’s a distinct type of barbarianism that really elevates the Klingon mentality in this iteration of Klingons in Star Trek: Discovery, and if I were to be so bold, venture that I really didn’t take that into full consideration when watching the show.
Hmm… I think I just identified what I really liked about this book!
Written by a great pair of scribes — Discovery staff writer (and Voyager novelist) Kirsten Beyer and Trek comic veteran Mike Johnson — the aim of this first Star Trek: Discovery comic tale isn’t to supplant the show but rather, compliment it. It’s a companion story that seeks to give the audience a better understanding of the Klingons and their ways in this new iteration of Klingon culture.
We knew that the focus of the show was going to be on the relationships between the Klingons and the Federation, but it’s fair to say that the new portrayal of the Klingons took fans by surprise. There was some controversy over how they appeared, the emphasis on subtitles as the actors laboured to express proper Klingonese — or tlhIngan Hol — through prosthetics, and the changes in their appearances and their ships.
These were a lot of differences for the fans to take in, and as a result, there was a great deal of attention to these differences.
But what about the similarities?
That’s where the story arc of The Light of Kahless comes into play. Set during the period between “Battle of the Binary Stars” and Kol’s arrival in “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry,” the Ship of the Dead is floating crippled in space, commanded by Voq, T’Kuvma’s apparent successor after the ‘Klingon messiah’ was killed by Michael Burnham.
Disheartened by his apparent failure, Voq turns to L’Rell who seeks to inspire him by telling him the tale of T’Kuvma’s origins and rise to power. This is set against the backdrop of Klingons feasting over some sort of… dead meat.
That’s the first similarity to the Klingons we know from previous incarnations of Star Trek. While these Klingons may look different, they still have a savage camaraderie that comes out when they eat together. They also disparage their enemy as they mock the Starfleet body armour during this meal. They are violent and bestial – and that’s something that hasn’t changed.
As the story progresses, we learn more about T’Kuvma’s humble origins; his family and his place in that family. We learn more about his family history and how low they have fallen in contrast to the other houses.
There is a battered pride in T’Kuvma that never really has the chance to be explained in the series due to his short tenure in the pilot episodes, yet we get the opportunity in this story to see that background. How often have we seen Worf wrestle with matters of damaged pride in Star Trek: The Next Generation? It’s a familiar Klingon theme and it finds ground in this story.
This comic gives us the chance to see a side of the Klingons that we couldn’t because of story constraints, meeting new Starfleet characters and establishing the norms for this new Trek tale. While also distracted by the external features, we are focused on too many of those variances but in The Light of Kahless we see the religious fervor that Klingons bear in their hearts, longing to bring pride to their houses through battle and devotion to the teachings of Kahless, the First Klingon.
Tony Shasteen gives us his all in his pencilling skill. It’s not an easy task as these Klingons have many challenging details: the ridged armour, the various folds in clothing that hide all sorts of shapes and Tony Shasteen gives us his all in penciling this book. It’s a prickly task to render all of that texturing but Shasteen has risen to the challenge. One of the joys of reading this comic is the knowledge that Tony Shasteen is drawing it.
- Both the regular and retailer-incentive covers have been created byy my all-time two favourite Star Trek artists, Tony Shasteen and J.K. Woodward. The reason is clear if you compare both of their works to the photo cover for the B variant; their work is virtually indistinguishable from the photographic image of T’Kuvma – even right down to the scaling on the tunic. The colour is the same, the ridging on T’Kuvma’s head – it’s all there.
I think this is the first time I’ve appreciated a photo-cover on a comic. It’s allowed me to compare the work of these two brilliant artists to a photograph of the actual subject. I don’t know if this was an intentional idea, but it’s provided readers and fans of these two artists a unique opportunity to get a real sense of how talented these two gentlemen are. In my opinion, this alone justifies buying the book.
- Declan Shavley’s cover of the USS Shenzhou on the B variant of the retailer-incentive cover is also a brilliant piece of work. If you’re a starship aficionado like me, then this is a delightful and relevant cover that won’t disappoint; watch for more ship-themed variant covers in the future issues of Discovery‘s comic.
Beyer and Johnson combine their talents to give us a better understanding of T’Kuvma. We get to see more than just two episodes of T’Kuvma – we get his background, his origin story, if you will, and a greater sense of his character. However, in doing so, they also provide us a reminder that despite their altered appearance, the character of the Klingon race is still present in this iteration of Trek.
Star Trek: Discovery — The Light of Kahless #1 shows us that they are proud, aggressive and see adversity as a means of advancement, rather than cooperation. In that sense, we are also reminded that we should be looking for the values of Roddenberry’s Star Trek instead of the differences.