Last week (or this week depending on where you live) saw the release of the final issue in Intelligence Gathering miniseries from IDW. here are my thoughts:
In short: Beautiful, very well written, lots of interesting character bits, and plenty of continuity porn. Yet is also failed to draw me in quite as much as the previous Tipton/Messina works, still fantastic, but not knocking me off my feet.
#1 "Valued intelligence" - Data and Riker head down to Daystrom One, the Federation's new archive facility, to find out why it isn't working properly. Daystrom One itself is pretty high concept in terms of in-universe science and as a result the artwork for much of the issue is similarly high concept, featuring a colourful jazzy virtual world vaguely reminiscent of the world of Tron.
Ultimately it's all the Romulans fault and the story is left "to be continued"... Is the reader left wanting more? Yep, a solid start to the series, the cliff-hanger is perhaps not so pronounced that it leaves you rocking in a corner awaiting the next issue, but it piques one's curiosity.
Outside the virtual world the art is almost as jazzy. Anyone familiar with David Messina's art will be used to his distinctive style, but for this series he seems to take it a step further; While being entirely loyal to the TNG aesthetic Messina somehow completely reinvents it too, the series is crisp, graphical, dark, and everything glows, it pulls TV era TNG more into the style of the movies and it really looks quite fantastic (fingers crossed David Messina gets to illustrate an Enterprise-E or Deep Space 9 adventure some day, he'd really do them justice)
#2 "A Matter of Dates" - So a tantalising story of Romulan infiltration is set to continue! Well not quite, the second issue in the series is stand alone (if it links to the overall story arc I missed it entirely). fortunately it's a really rather fantastic story (my second favourite in the series) so it's sidestep away from the story continuation of the series is entirely excused.
The story is Worf-centric, with a reasonably hefty role for Ro Laren beside him. On Votar VII a group of Kaylar workers have begun a violent revolt against their Rigelian employers, Picard elects Worf to go in and play diplomat - satisfyingly foreshadowing Worf's future diplomatic career.
The use of two familiar yet obscure Trek races is nice, and the story feels like it had some solid character development for Worf, and some fun intellectual playfulness from Picard.
#3 "Chasing Shadows" - This issue kicks off with the Romulan prisoners taken in the first issue being dropped off at a starbase, neatly signifying the return to the series' story arc.
This was my favourite issue of the series, it did everything right. The featured characters are La Forge and O'Brien, this time I think O'Brien gets the most out of the story; Like Worf's role in the previous issue this story sees O'Brien take on a different than usual duty and foreshadows his future - in this case his decision to take a new assignment at Deep Space 9.
The issue also features a very likable and well developed guest character in the form of the chief engineer of the USS Jackson. And the story is moved on with the discovery of a mysterious device found on the Jackson leading to a similar one being discovered on the Enterprise. What is going on?
#4 "Matters of the Mind" - Crash, Bam, Ka-Pow, oh it's over... This issue seemed a bit of a blur to me. It had quite a lot of fighting action from a group of mind controlled crew persons. It successfully continued the series' story arc forward. It made use of some more previously established races and technologies in a nice new way. But it was all zipped through at quite a pace. Not my favourite issue at all, but onwards to the conclusion...
#5 "Disgrace" - As one might have guessed from the conclusion of the first issue all this mind control and alien devices stuff turned out to be Romulans plots to kidnap Data. Which they do so promptly at the start of the story. Of course it wasn't just the reader that could see that one coming so Picard and the gang follow on behind to resolve this little mystery. What they find you probably wouldn’t have guessed.
The series is brought to a neat and satisfying conclusion, with the help of one of those pretty Scorpion class fighters from Nemesis and an Iconian device that looks suspiciously like a stargate...
This one features most of the main cast in some way or another, but the really nicely played characters are the Romulans - The conclusion of the series is about understanding the Romulan way of thinking, and it's clear the Tiptons really do.
The only disappointment, some big extra-dimensional monstery alien things are the guest the villains and they sort of come from nowhere and don’t get far. The Tiptons have a skill for pulling in and using various references from throughout the Trekverse, they did so in abundance throughout this series - these new aliens could easily have been swapped to a prelude of contact with Species 8472, another extra-dimensional "lets kill everyone" bunch. But ah well, the big scary monsters served their purpose, this issue was really the Romulans’ turn in the spotlight, perhaps another familiar face would have overshadowed them a bit.
Conclusion: The combination of Scott and David Tipton with David Messina has been a winner from their first issue. This has not changed, the creative team continue to deliver top notch story telling with breath taking artwork. This series seems to be missing something that Klingons: Blood Will Tell had that made it somehow outstanding, but it's still pretty fantastic and well worth a read. The omnibus is out in August, if you've not read the issues as they come out I thoroughly recommend picking it up.