Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writers: Mike Johnson & Ryan Parrott
Artist: Derek Charm
Letters: Neil Uyetake
There’s generally some risk when tying a comic book series to a successful movie franchise. It can be seen as an obvious and arbitrary cash-grab or, as is the case in Joss Whedon’s Serenity comics, it can flesh out the stories we already know and love and make us fall for these characters all over again. It’s a good strategy for bringing in new readers who have only seen the films and want to try comics but it can put your series at a swift disadvantage by implying the same strong writing and chemistry between characters we’ve seen on the big screen. As it turns out, Star Trek: Starfleet Academy pretty much hits the mark.
We join Starfleet Academy, a prequel of sorts, somewhere between the bar fight scene from Star Trek (2009) and the coming together of the crew of the Enterprise for the first time.
The Uhura-Spock relationship is already a year in the making, is showing signs of turbulence and is easily the highlight of this issue. A romantic relationship between human and Vulcan would be fraught with friction and I love that we might get to see more from this pair. The idea that they’ve struggled with their differences since this far back makes their relationship in the movie series feel more solid. It also creates the opportunity for some more comedic confusion on Spock’s part.
This period is inter-spliced throughout with events three years in the future, featuring some new cadets. T’laan, a Vulcan, come across as a more obnoxious Spock, which should make for some fun interactions later in the series if the two run into each other. She’s joined by a new team of youngsters made up of the arrogant alpha-male, a couple of highly intelligent females and a large ugly creature with a seemingly dry but unknowingly humourous tone. They’re a fun group with a lot of potential.
The art is fine but you can tell more effort has been made to liken the characters we already know to their big-screen counter-parts than convey strong images of the new crew. The likenesses of Chris Pine and Zoe Saldana, as Kirk and Uhura respectively, are instantly recognisable. The same cannot be said for Spock, who looks more like a stock image than an accurate representation of Zachary Quinto. If you’re linking your comic series into the movie franchise this is detail you don’t want to skimp on. That said, Spock’s dialogue is written well enough that it’s easy to immediately hear Quinto’s voice when reading.
The background art is simple in theme but has some special moments. The use of black and blue to generate an attractive futuristic nightfall is a stunning choice.
Chekov’s short appearance and pronunciation issues are a fun addition that normally wouldn’t work on the page as they do on-screen but like Spock, you can hear Anton Yelchin’s voice as you read so the comedy works. Kirk and Uhura have a fun moment based on their interactions early in the 2009 film but this is let down by the text box containing ‘as seen in the Star Trek film!’ – exclamation included. This bothered me. When the series is a spin-off of said franchise you can trust your audience not to require spoon-feeding.
Overall, the first issue of Starfleet Academy plays its cards close to the chest as far as the direction the series will go but there’s enough here to make me want to read more. Any flaws in artwork are forgivable when matched up with the familiar chemistry we’ve seen before between Kirk, Spock and Uhura. The new team is your standard rag-tag crew who have to find a way to work together despite their differences and you get the feeling there’s the potential for them to go a few different directions depending on how they choose to get along with one another – or not! If the familiar characters continue to interact as they have in this issue with the new faces following suit, this could be a great arc to follow.
Pick this one up. It’s the logical thing to do.