Thursday 17 January 2008

A year of IDW Star Trek

One year ago this day IDW kicked off it's range of Star Trek comics with History Lesson, the first issue of The Space Between miniseries. So how have they faired in their first year?

Well a couple of months into The Space Between IDW launched their second miniseries, and have kept up two simultaneous series since. Which gives their first year a grand total of four miniseries (two of which aren’t quite finished yet).

For all the criticism it got for odd plot holes and the abysmally inconclusive final issue of the series, The Space Between was actually a pretty strong start for IDW. Each stand alone issue was an interesting tale, the second and forth issues remain two of the best they've produced so far. The artwork throughout the series was consistently interesting, and very attractive. Unfortunately the final issue, which promised to tie all the issues together, really dragged the series down as it utterly failed in giving any kind of satisfying conclusion. But if you ignore the ending, the individual stories told in The Space Between were enjoyable and well worth reading.

IDW's second series, Klingons: Blood Will Tell was a significantly stronger entry than The Space Between. The series was joined up by a continuing story arc from the start, and suffered none of the editorial errors or odd jumping to conclusions of the TSB series. Each of the first four issues creatively retold a TOS Klingon episode from the Klingons’ point a view. A delightful concept enjoyably executed. The strongest issues in this series were the second and third, which focused on a single character from the episodes and really told his story. The first and forth suffered somewhat in being tied to events of the episodes but were still thoroughly enjoyable. The final issued brought the series to a magnificent and glorious conclusion. Klingons: Blood Will Tell set the standard for IDW's Trek comics, so far some have come close, but nothing has surpassed this wonderful series.

Next up was Year Four, endeavouring to present lost episodes from the forth season of The Original Series that never was. The concept of the series is sound, and the ideas behind each issue are very good, really taking the TOS theme for exploring present day issues, touching on genetic engineering, oil and the Iraq war and reality TV and doing some very TOS-like sound-based aliens. Unfortunately the strong ideas for this series is about as good as it gets. Some issues are better than others, the forth issue, on reality TV is enjoyable, well illustrated and the story is well held together. But other issues suffer terribly from rushed an thin story telling, which isn't helped by a strict panel layout through the series which restricts pages to four wide panels (trying to emulate a widescreen TV apparently) - the result is pages were very little happens as a full quarter page panel is used for the most pointless things, and other pages were far to much of the same happens, as each panel is near identical to the previous in a long scene, this coupled with the rather flat and unexciting artwork in many of the issues crippled a series which could have been so much better. Year Four isn't all bad, there is much to enjoy, but it is easily the weakest entry into IDW's Star Trek range so far.

Finally for 2007 we got Alien Spotlight, six issues by six different creative teams (two of which are still to come). Having each issue completely standalone in story and creators seems to have helped make each issue stronger itself. The first issue on the Gorn, while not hugely original, is attractive and engaging. The second issue on the Vulcans suffers a little from some odd artwork but has a strong story. The Andorians issue has a very strong and interesting story and equally good artwork, however said artwork does suffer a little from the very texty story, with speech bubbles and talking heads filling a lot of the pages, fortunately that speech is so good it doesn’t matter. The most recent issue on the Orions is a treat for fans of Captain Pike, Orions, and Tellerites alike and fills a nice gap in Star Trek history. So from we’ve had so far, Alien Spotlight is very strong indeed, lots of good stuff and not many flaws at all, and from the looks of previews of the final two issues it’s only going to get better.

So what’s next? Well just within the anniversary (yesterday) the first issue of the next series was released. Intelligence Gathering, by the same team behind Klingons: Blood Will Tell. The first issue is off to a promising start with an engaging story and wonderful artwork, this looks sure to be another hit for IDW.

IDW first year of Star Trek had it’s bumps and hiccups, but overall they’ve done a smashing job, bringing a diverse range of stories by a diverse range of creators with plenty of talent. In the year ahead IDW will be doubling their output of Trek comics with an issue out almost every week, I have great faith that they will continue to deliver enjoyable, engaging and attractive new additions to the Star Trek universe. If they keep up the current, and ever improving, quality of Star Trek comics, then us fans have nothing but goodness ahead.

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