Book Reviews - Comics

Marvel Early VoyagesMarvel Voyager Splashdown

 

Marvel Star Trek Early Voyages

When Marvel Comics made an agreement with Paramount to produce several comic series based on various Paramount owned franchises it launched the Paramount Comics imprint in 1996. One of these licenses was of course the Star Trek franchise and its various series such as the Original Series, TNG, Deep Space Nine and Voyager which shows were airing at the time, and two unique comic only creations: Star Trek Early Voyages and Starfleet Academy.

Star Trek Early Voyages is a delightful 'What if...' comic series that takes its inspiration from the first Star Trek pilot which involved the Enterprise under Captain Pike (Jeffrey Hunter) and his crew before a retooled series would be launched with Kirk in the captain's seat. All of these issues would be written Dan Abnett and Ian Edgington, and illustrated by Patrick Zircher, Michael Collins, and Javier Pulido.

 

Star Trek Early Voyages #1: Flesh of my Flesh

Synopsis

Flesh of my Flesh starts the story of by immediately putting the Enterprise crew in a critical mission. A number of starships have been found drifting in space, their crews missing, and no evidence of battle other than some unusual organic residue on the machinery. The Enterprise is reassigned from another mission in order to find out who is behind this attack and apparently the best way to get the attacker to show itself is by presenting itself as a target.

The story starts out a little confusing as outside the characters from “The Cage” we don't know any of the new characters on the bridge. This is quickly resolved when the Enterprise comes under attack during which the crew is rendered unconscious and captain Pike is kidnapped by a previously unknown species who starts to probe his memories for details on his crew and ship. Using this as a framing story the previous existing characters as well as the new characters are introduced as well as Pike's first day as the captain of the Enterprise after he gets assigned to her by Admiral April. In the meantime the crew back on the Enterprise regain consciousness and discover the Enterprise to be mostly inoperable and being towed by a strange organic 'ship'.

Pike manages to resist the probe and comes in mental contact with the crew of the 'ship', strange insect like aliens who are named the Ngultor, a species originating from a part of space where it is custom to make machines and technology from organic tissue, harvesting and using lifeforms from various worlds. The Ngultor's mothership suffered an accident that stranded the ship in Federation space and the Ngultor have been harvesting lifeforms to repair the damage to it. However through the beings they captured including captain Pike they have learned that this part of space is rich in raw organic life and the Ngultor are planning to return in force to harvest all this usable material. But to know where all the Federation's homeworlds are they need to extract Pike's brain.

Fortunately Number One shows up with several of the bridge crew and they manage to save and free captain Pike before the Ngultor can start operating on him. While trying to find their way back to the entry point the landing team is ambushed by the Ngultor in person and Pike tries to reason with them that while the Federation is interested in contact with them it can not allow its citizens to be consumed or absorbed. The Ngultor simply do not understand Pike and his crew's reluctance as the blending of flesh is an almost religious procedure to them and they try to overrun the landing team before it is beamed out by the Enterprise's transporter crew.

When Pike and the landing team return to the bridge they discover that the Ngultor ship towing the Enterprise has arrived at its mothership; a gargantuan lifeform. Pike tries one last time to make the Ngultor to stand down but the Ngultor do not respond on it, instead the massive mothership creature tries to devour the Enterprise and Pike has to give the order to fire on it. The mothership is destroyed and the threat of the Ngultor has been neutralized but captain Pike is mournful that all they and the Ngultor had in common was violence. Still he contemplates about the resourcefulness of his crew and the Enterprise and he feels that both they and the ship will be long remembered in history.

Commentary

All and all a very good start to a comic series even if the concept of the giant space monster is a bit of a sci-fi/Star Trek trope. We get introduced to all the existing pilot crew members; Christopher Pike, Number One, Dr Boyce, Ensign Spock, José Tyler, and several new faces such as Chief Engineer Moves-With-Burning-Grace, Yeoman Dermot Cusack, Communications Officer Nano, Nurse Gabrielle Carlotti and Lt Sita Mohindas. And we get to see all of these characters into action.

While the story is truly Star Trek it is somewhat weak here and there such as the Ngultor as we as readers know that this species will probably never make an appearance again despite sounding like a sort of early 'organic' version of the Borg. What is also a little frustrating is that it's made clear that the crew apparently are already two years into their five year mission, giving the idea that readers are missing out on a big portion of the journey despite this and the following comics feeling as the five year mission just started as no references are really made to previous missions or adventures.

The art is in general very good, nice detailed characters and backgrounds with good representation of material from the real Star Trek shows and newly artist made creations that fit well in. I much prefer it over the art of a lot of the DC comics I have read before in which characters, objects, settings or all suffered from poor quality in details or just basic design that barely resembled anything of the show. Still I do think the cover is somewhat chaotic with all the details and 'effects' that make it rather restless or overly busy.

Also while I like the details done on the Ngultor (though I find the creatures a bit disappointing) I am not sure how well they fit in Star Trek. But then again Star Trek both in television and in comics was starting to move away from the sterile and safe designs.

If I had some complaints that it would that sometimes the inking is overdone (or a great use of black) through which some details are lost. Also sometimes the perspective used in some panels are confusing or the layout of the page itself. I found myself reading text sometimes that accompanies a whole different panel than the one I was looking at.

A very good and fun Star Trek comic for most of the fans.

(Marten van Wier)

Star Trek Early Voyages #1, Marvel Comics, 1997.

 

Star Trek Early Voyages #2: The Fires of Pharos

Synopsis

As with Issue #1, Early Voyages #2 dives right into the action in the opening of the story. Starbase 13, an important Starfleet station set up to police the Marrat Nebula and planets within is under attack by various raiders and renegade vessels that have banded together for this attack.

Fortunately the USS Enterprise has arrived on time to render assistance and with the main attack force thrown into disarray is now driving off the hostile ships. With the Enterprise now rendering assistance Pike and his people beam over to meet up with Commodore Hal Wyeth, the commander of the station, who briefs them of the current situation. The nebula has always been a haven for pirates who prey on civilian traffic through it and who use the properties of the nebula to discourage pursuit. However the pirates have become more bold and organized recently and have been doing hit and run attacks on Starbase 13, especially after Starfleet decided to construct a 'lighthouse' that would assist vessels by transmitting navigational data as well as monitoring and logging illegal traffic.

To top the problems off when the engineers constructed the foundation of the structure on a nearby planetoid they came across rich veins of dilithium that is so pure it barely requires refining. Fearing that the dilithium would lead to some kind of gold rush Starfleet kept quiet about it as the nebula is too important for nearby worlds to risk becoming a warzone by factions demanding control of it. However the news has gotten out which resulted in the current attack on Starbase 13. Even more, just before the Enterprise arrived Starbase 13 lost all contact with the technicians on the lighthouse.

As Pike orders the Enterprise to travel to the lighthouse site world they are being monitored by a Klingon warship commanded by captain Kaaj, the mastermind of the pirate alliance and attacks on Starbase 13. His goal is to claim the dilithium for the Klingon Empire while at the same time making it look as if Starfleet and the Federation are trying to keep it for themselves.

One crewmember questions Kaaj for his reluctance to confront the Starfleet vessel and blames it on the fact that Kaaj is crippled, but he is severely disciplined by his superior who makes it clear that the crewmember should neither underestimate Starfleet or his captain for that matter. Kaaj orders his helmsman to pursue the Enterprise but stay out of its sensor range, using the nebula as cover.

Once at the lighthouse a landing team lead by number one beams over only to discover that that most of its interior suffered damage by disruptor work. Soon after she and her team are ambushed by Klingons who have taken the surviving technicians hostage.

Back in space the Enterprise is under attack by the Klingons whose attack is surprisingly effective and efficient as Spock mentions. The Enterprise returns fire and seems to get the upper hand for a moment before Kaaj orders his weapons officer to damage the Enterprise by firing on engineering. With the Enterprise now weakened Kaaj contacts the Enterprise and demands that Pike and his people surrender as both his ship and landing team are outnumbered and cornered. However Pike and his first officer have quite different plans and while Number One in the lighthouse works on her plan to defeat the Klingon attackers Pike confronts Kaaj verbally, putting together what Kaaj's plan is.

As Pike and the crew on the bridge try to come to solution for this predicament, Number One has the Enterprise's transporter crew transport her and Cusack behind the Klingon defense line and manages to take out the Klingons while saving the technicians.

Back on board the Enterprise Pike knows that if he confronts Kaaj about the lighthouse and the dilithium underneath it that he will make it look as if the Federation is claiming the system for itself, making the Federation appear like the bad guy and potentially starting a war with the Klingon Empire over the dilithium. When Pike is informed that the landing team and the hostages have been safely beamed on board the Enterprise Pike decides to go for the only available option he sees that is left, an irrational one. He contacts Kaaj to transport his own men on board before he orders tactical to target the lighthouse and fire.

As the phasers strike the planet it ignites the dilithium vein beneath the lighthouse which on its turn ignites all adjoining veins across the planet until its entire surface is on fire. Spock informs Pike that he inadvertently has lightened a beacon in the nebula.

Kaaj who at first though Pike was just bluffing quickly recovers his composure, telling Pike that he broke his own rule by underestimating Pike. But with additional Federation vessels arriving at Starbase 13 he has no choice to order his ship to retreat but not before warning Pike that there is now a blood debt between Kaaj and Pike, and that he will claim it when the situation is more favorable for him.

Commentary

Quite an action packed story like its predecessor though handling the more familiar 'Starfleet versus Klingons' storyline a lot of ST comics, especially those in the Original Series seem to handle. So this is definitely not an 'on untried grounds' kind of story.

What is done well however is the nature of the Klingons, or in this case their commander, Captain Kaaj who definitely does not resemble the typical image of a Klingon officer that we got to see later in TNG, and DSN. As some of the more die hard fans of the franchise know, the Klingons in the Original Series were quite a little different from their later incarnation, less obsessed about honor or glory of combat, and more about conquest and manipulation.

Kaaj is a good example of the 'thinking' Klingon officer, he himself was born or suffered some kind of accident that made him a cripple (which is basically the worst fate a Klingon can imagine), yet through his intelligence and cunning not only became an officer in the Klingon Defense Force, but even a captain of his own ship. And he quite well demonstrates in this story that his perceived weaknesses have allowed him to develop great alternative strengths to surprise his enemies and those who challenge him with.

In a way a lot of the story is a little stereotypical and expected of Star Trek but this serves merely as a backdrop to introduce Captain Pike and his crew to Kaaj who would later over the series become somewhat of a nemesis to Pike just like Kang, Koloth, and Kor were to Kirk and his people, or the Borg to the TNG and the Voyager crew. The story is more about setting up a credible nemesis and in that it succeeds as Kaaj proves to be a deadly nemesis indeed who pays close attention to his goals and enemies.

Kaaj would show up several more times later in the series to cause problems for Pike whom he held personally responsible for his failure at the Marrat nebula and loss of status in Klingon society.

It is not to say that the crew does not get to shine, Captain Pike, Number One, and Yeoman Cusack do have their moments. But it is definitely Captain Pike here who shows through his words and actions what he does in an unorthodox situation for which the book does not have a text book solution. And he comes out relatively unscathed but now having a personal enemy who will not rest until he has exacted revenge on Pike.

Art-wise the comic continues the quality of the first issue, giving us well drawn characters, spaceships (including some complete new designs to Star Trek) and backgrounds full of little details for the reader to discover.

If there is anything what I sometimes question (but not necessarily disapprove off) it is the huge amount of inking and the use of black through which details are sometimes lost.The nebula background is sometimes a little confusing though, it is difficult to actually portray a nebula like they do on a television show/movie or video game, but it does sometimes make it look like all the ships are flying in an atmosphere than in space.

Some perspective angles are used again in the panels, most probably in order to make full use of the available space but it does not distract in general. Panels and art within do have a tendency to overlap sometimes which is not bad as it makes the layout a little dynamic but there is one page in which the overlap could lead to confusion before the reader has focused on it.

Again, really an enjoyable comic for most Star Trek fans to read.

(Marten van Wier)

Star Trek Early Voyages #2, Marvel Comics, 1997.

 

Star Trek Early Voyages #3: Our Dearest Blood

Note

This is a very interesting little issue as it ties into part of the pilot episode of Star Trek “The Cage”, this story details the Rigel incident that is mentioned during that episode (though it may have gotten a few elements wrong, Lt Tyler for example is not amongst the wounded). People who know this episode will recognize a lot of the reference and background images.

Synopsis

The story opens in the capital of the planet Rigel VII where Captain Pike and his crew are guests to the Rigellian Festival of Light, a celebration of Rigellian society and culture. Pike and his crew are the first offworlders who witness it and live in a thousand years. The celebration is part of Rigel VII entry into the Federation of Planets and also meant as a closure to the Rigellians own martial past. Some of the participants in the festival are the Kalar or Kaylar, the Rigellians' warrior elite who will be partaking in the festival for the last time as disbanding them has been part of the criteria required for Rigel to apply for membership.

Not only is captain Pike and the Enterprise crew here to oversee the last steps towards that membership but also to get some rest and recovery after the events of Early Voyages Issues #1 and 2 which left quite an impact on them, especially captain Pike who has not completely recovered from the encounter with the Ngultor.

Captain Pike and his people meet up with minister Etashnan, the Rigellian official who has been overseeing Rigel's entry into the Federation. Etashnan introduces Pike to his aide Talza who offers Pike and the others a tour of the Zemtar Fortress, the Kaylars' former main barracks where the ceremony that will make Rigel VII entry into the Federation official will take place. Yeoman Cusack and Dr Boyce decline as they have other arrangements to attend to first but Pike accepts Talza's proposal, much to the approvement of Boyce who feels that Pike needs a moment like this to unwind.

Back onboard the Enterprise Number One announces through the ship's intercom that the people approved for shore leave can beam down now to the planet, leaving a handful of crew members like Lt Tyler to watch over the ship. Spock offers to stay as well but Number One jokingly tells him that the she and the rest of the remaining crew will try to handle things while he is on leave. In the turbo lift Spock debate's the commander's reaction with Mohindas and Nano who who clear to Spock that Number One was just teasing him.

Back on Rigel Talza takes Pike to the Zemtar fortress (the location on Rigel that appeared in “the Cage”, telling Pike about the fortress history and purpose but also about the Rigellians and how their value their past. Pike tells Telza that he understands that it is probably difficult for the Rigellians to let go out their isolationist stance and warrior tradition that joining the Federation and the Galactic Community will offer their rewards and opportunities. As both Pike and Telza enter the fortress they do not seem to be aware of the Kaylar that has been following them.

Back in city several crewmembers are visiting a tavern where yeoman Cusack is demonstrating his ability to concoct drinks. Spock asks him about some of the expressions he uses but Cusack retorts that Spock should not think too much about it and just enjoy the party. Nurse Carlotti finds Dr Boyce looking out on a balcony apparently in some kind of distress and inquires if anything is wrong. Dr Boyce tells her that he just needed a fresh of breath air and quickly changes the subject to the party and that they should best get back to it before Cusack cleans out the place.

At the fortress Talza is leading Pike through the various rooms, corridors and hallways of the building when Pike decides to contact Cusack to find out if he is needed. Instead of contact Pike only gets static over his communicator, then suddenly a loud roar is heard and a Kaylar appears on the scene.

Aboard the Enterprise Number One is on the observation deck, trying to distract her from all the silence onboard the ship when she is joined by chief engineer Moves-with-burning-grace who has his own difficulty with the ship being so quiet right now. Their conversation is interrupted when Tyler contacts Number one from the bridge to inform her that the bridge crew just lost all communication with the surface and that a jamming field is being generated that disrupts any kind of signal including the transporter.

Back in the tavern some of the Enterprise crew members also come to realize that their communicators are not working. While they are trying to find out if it is just a local dead zone or if everyone's unit is malfunctioning a couple of Kaylar who had been keeping to the background all that time covertly draw their weapons and suddenly attack the Enterprise members. Only barely are people like Spock and Nano able to fend of the Kaylar while providing an opportunity for the others to escape the Kaylar who seek to kill the humans amongst them. At the fortress Pike takes on the single Kaylar that seems to be determined to kill both him and Talza. Pike orders Talza to run while he covers her escape.

In the city the Enterprise crew members have gone into hiding while the streets are filled with Kaylar that are hunting them down. As they are unarmed and several of them are wounded the crew seems to be unable to anything to defend themselves or contact the ship. Nano however has been able to reconfigure his communicator to act as a locator device that should be able to track down the source of the jamming field. Cusack decides to go out alone to find the source of the field, ordering the rest of the crew to stay put. Carefully navigating the streets to avoid the Kaylar Cusack arrives at the Rigellian Parliamentary Assembly where he finds a powerful transmitter hidden in an alcove behind a curtain.

In the meantime at the fortress the Kaylar is chasing Pike when he leaps down from the first floor and grabs a spear to use against the Kaylar who tries to jump him, stabbing the massive berserker alien through the chest and killing it. Cusack disables the transmitter and call up the Enterprise to inform Number One that there is a situation the planet. But before he can finish informing her Cusack is stabbed in the chest by a previously hidden individual; Talza.

At the fortress three more Kaylar are about to attack captain Pike when they are stunned by an incoming security party led by Lt Tyler. Tyler informs Pike that the has been an assassination attempt on all Starfleet personnel on the planet's surface. The culprits of the attack are revealed to be Rigellian Kaylar loyal traditionalists who resent Rigel joining the Federation.

Though the situation is now under control Pike immediately heads to the Parliamentary Assembly building where he learns that sadly one of the fatalities is Yeoman Cusack. Talza, now exposed as one of the conspirators shows her true colors and tells Pike that she would kill all humans for the glory of Rigel, but Pike on his turn just ignores her and orders his security people to get her out of sight as he takes place next to Cusack's body.

Commentary

In comparison to the previous stories this story is on a more down to Earth scale, dealing with a local problem rather than an issue on interstellar scale such as an encounter with aliens whose mindsets on rights of the individual, and union of species is so different that it is difficult to bridge these, or the more familiar clash between the Federation and the Klingons on the rights of expansion and resources.

Nevertheless this is also a clash of cultures but one dealing with an issue we humans are quite familiar with even if the Rigellians in this story substitute one side; tradition versus change. We are quite familiar ourselves how difficult it is to let go of the past, especially when the change and the future it brings is strange, alien and frightening. Ideas and thoughts we have been thinking for so long are now suddenly old and obsolete and we must learn to think in new ways in order to fit in. And sometimes the leap is just too big for some people, a distance they are not able to cross and instead only turns them inward to holding on to the things they are familiar with, and become scared and violent when the future does come.

It is a lesson and example we have seen in Star Trek before such as "Star Trek 6: the Undiscovered Country" and it is probably a lesson we will encounter again in the future because it is one we experience almost each generation. In large ways such as politics and beliefs but also small ways such as the changing culture, priorities and so on.

On a second note this is another story that deals with the Rigellians (or Rigelians) and how they are depicted in Star Trek. Both the television show writers and various novel and comic writers never seem to be able to agree on which version is the right one. "The Motion Picture" had its own version, Star Trek Enterprise, and of course the Star Trek pilot “The Cage” had its own version (the Kalar or Kaylar as depicted in this issue). The Rigel system seems to be quite populated.

The characters are in general at the top of their game, the banter between the characters on the bridge; Tyler, Mohindas, Number One, and Spock feels genuine though it is a bit interesting that Spock does not seem completely familiar with human subtleties despite being with the crew for a while. Communications officer Nano, the only other alien on the ship along with Mohindas become somewhat his mentor in this.

It is interesting that during the second half of the story there is not really a main focus on any single character though both Captain Pike has his own role as he fights the Kaylar, and yeoman Cusack has his role as he tries to track down the source of the jamming signal. Almost all of the main characters gets their turn in the story, even if it is just a minor bit.

Art wise this story continues the level of detail and effort of the first two issues with the same strengths and weaknesses as before (the layout sometimes being a little chaotic but not the point that it is annoying). A lot of the background art is really lovely to look at such as the Rigellian city and the Zemtar Fortress (complete with very big moon) but I also liked a particular shot of the Enterprise in orbit around Rigel VII. The artist continues to play with art and effect which really makes some of the scenes very dynamic and appealing to look at. Only in one minor panel was the effect a little confusing (Pike trying to hail Cusack, the orange electrical 'static' around Pike for a lack of a better description).

An issue that is a rather quick read but will not disappoint most Star Trek readers.

(Marten van Wier)

Star Trek Early Voyages #3, Marvel Comics, 1997.

 

Star Trek Early Voyages #4: Nor Iron Bars a Cage

Synopsis

What is interesting about this story that it is partly an adaptation of an existing Star Trek episode (Star Trek pilot “The Cage”), but this time mostly told from Yeoman Mia Colt's perspective, who was a main character of the episode but did not play much of a role outside a few key segments. The reader gets to see through her eyes how that adventure and some of its events went while cutting out the parts that only Captain Pike would know and replacing it with parts only Colt would know.

The story immediately opens with Mia's recount of how she and Number One got kidnapped by the Talosians when they intercepted their transporter beam when both were about to go down to the surface with a landing team to try to rescue captain Pike. When both women appear in the same cell where the Talosians keep captain Pike and Vina, Pike immediately goes for Mia's laser in an attempt to escape the cell but the weapon seems useless. After Colt and Number One met one of the Talosians captain Pike informs both officers what the situation is like, how the Enterprise crew got tricked by the Talosians earlier on the surface with the illusionary survivors, and what their strengths are.

Because there is nothing any of them can do right now Colt reflects on the last two days since she came onboard the Enterprise, remembering the cold reception by some of her superiors such as Number One, and later during the ceremony for the fallen crew members on Rigel Pike also makes his disapproval for her presence clear. A confrontation with Vina when Colt tries to support captain Pike also reinforces her feelings that she is unwanted by people around her, making her question her place on the Enterprise.

During this all the Talosians use their telepathy on Colt to recreate an emotional part of her life, trying to convince Colt to stay on Talos by promising her to chance to do an important decision differently and experience what her life would have been like then. Colt sees through what the Talosians are doing and refuses their offer, she returns back to the cell where captain Pike was trying to catch her attention when he realized that the Talosians were trying to seduce or convince Colt with their power of illusion.

A moment follows during which they talk over the last couple of days with Pike apologizing to Colt for the cold treatment she got on arrival. Both reconcile afterwards.

Later on when Pike and the other seek to rest a Talosian enters the cells and seeks to take away Number One and Colt's lasers that appeared useless at first. Pike captures the being and forces it to cooperate and drop the illusions around them, revealing the hole in the glass wall Pike made earlier.

After the four people and their prisoner have escaped and returned to the surface the Talosian states that this what it and its people wanted, and that now that Pike must now choose a woman to pair with. Under guidance of the Talosians the pair will be used to reclaim the devastated surface of Talos and be the progenitors of a society of humans trained to serve.

On hearing this Number One sets her laser to a forced chamber reaction, refusing to allow the Talosians to do something immoral like this. Pike, Colt, and even Vina agree with this decision, that it would be better to die than remain the slaves to the Talosians. The Talosians realize that they can not tame the humans who are too violent for their plans and let them go.

Onboard the Enterprise Colt finishes her log on the events that took place on Talos, mentioning that Vina remained behind without Pike explaining why. She also mentions that she finally feels that she is starting to feel to belong here. Afterwards she runs into Number One who needs her help with personnel rotation schedules and discusses that both of them may have some tastes in common. Something Colt pretends she has no idea what her superior means.

Commentary

As mentioned in the beginning, this is an existing story told from the perspective of a different actor/player/protagonist but also an introduction to this protagonist; Mia Colt wose firsts days on the Enterprise we follow as she tries to find her place on the ship and experience some of the fallout from the events from the previous issue. In Colt's case that she is treated as unwelcome as she reminds some of the crew including Pike about the losses they have experience, Starfleet and Admiral April having sent her to fill in some of those holes.

Some of the behavior of the crew, in particular Number One and Captain Pike, seems rather overly hostile towards Colt from the start. Though it is understandable that Number One would rather frown upon some of Colt's enthusiasm for her new position on the Enterprise, knowing at what cost it came, it does feel rather unprofessional. Pike however seems to regret his behavior quickly after Colt tries to show what positive changes the incident on Rigel VII had on its leadership which Pike them rebuts that that might be of little comfort of the relatives of the killed crewmembers.

The art as before remains competent and very imaginative, we for example get to see what the Starfleet Academy was like in the era of the original series and it is quite distinguishable from the campus we know from The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. We also get to see a part of the Enterprise we have not seen before; a large meeting or gathering room where the personnel can come together for official matters and occasions (somewhat like the similar room as shown in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" where Captain Kirk and the crew watched the recordings of the approach energy cloud around V'ger's ship)

The artist continues to use somewhat unusual effects within the panel art or the frame of the panel to create what I think a certain mood or emotion (darkness around Pike's head illustrating the stress he feels from the last few missions and the losses on Rigel VII). Sometimes this works well but sometimes it can also be confusing or does not feel at all appropriate like one panel with Dr Boyce where a sort of moment of a 'shock' makes it look like the doctor is releasing an illustration's representation of electrical burst or a small light flash or explosion.

In general it is a well done story but not really outstanding or exceptional, and it does put in question some of the main characters' behavior towards each other before they do a somewhat 180 degree turn in the end.

(Marten van Wier)

Star Trek Early Voyages #4, Marvel Comics, 1997.

 

Star Trek Early Voyages #5: Cloak and Dagger

Synopsis

When the survey ship USS Cortez goes missing during a mission to a remote star system, the crew of the USS Enterprise are sent to the last planet the Cortez visited; a remote storm wracked world designated Darien 224. But once on the planet, a landing party led by captain Pike finds little evidence that the Cortez ever came to this world other than a crashed Starfleet shuttle.

Time to ascertain if there were any survivors the landing party doesn't get as they are all suddenly ambushed by masked desert warriors equipped with advanced weapons and laser resistant armor. A battle ensues between the two groups during which the landing party get a temporary upper hand thanks to the quick thinking of Yeoman Colt before the alien warriors counter attack.

In space the Enterprise under command of Number One is trying to find any hint towards the Cortez and her crew's fate from their side but have little progress with it due to many anomalies that fill the star system and make sensors unreliable. Unfortunately this sets them up for an ambush as Number One, Mohindas and Tyler notice too late that a starship is approaching them, using the star of the system as a cover to approach the Enterprise. The ship only barely raises shields in time when the Cortez attacks.

Back on the planet the alien warriors who now have the upper hand decide to put away their energy weapons and instead fight the landing party in close combat. When the alien warriors pull out their close range weapons Spock is surprised to discover that they are Lirpas, a traditional Vulcan weapon.

The alien warriors don't get the opportunity to attack the landing party as they are suddenly struck down by the weapons of flying armed transports belonging to a third party. As Captain Pike approaches to greet their mysterious aides their leader responds to Pike and the others in the Vulcan language. Pike, Spock, and the others are taken by the third party of warriors back to their city. During the flight Spock theorizes on the evidence of the weapons and behavior he has seen that the landing party has encounter members of a Vulcan colony from before the Logic Enlightenment.

Once at the city the landing party are brought before the ruling matriarch T'Kell in whose company they find the captain of the Cortez. Pike is allowed to speak with the Cortez's captain who tells Pike and his people what has happened to the Cortez and its crew when they arrived in the star system and confirms Spock's theory. The Cortez's captain reveals that the Vulcans on this world are divided in two groups, those under matriarch T'Kell who live in the city and who wish to join the galactic community, and a splinter faction that wishes to stay isolated in order to remain pure warriors. This splinter faction attacked the crew of the Cortez and killed most of them after which they took command of the vessel.

Spock is concerned about these pre enlightened Vulcans' wish to return to Vulcan. They are not aware of the changes that have happened there and could disrupt its society because of their emotion driven nature and the powerful weapons they have in their possession that have been outlawed on Vulcan for centuries. This concern is only reinforced when Sutek, the leader of T'Kell's guards, makes it clear that when they return to Vulcan that they wish to turn its population back to pre enlightened ideals and thinking, making the Vulcan people once again into a race of warriors and turn Vulcan an interstellar military super power.

Pike confronts Sutek when he insults Spock on that the Vulcans have become weak under their philosophy of peace and logic and subservient under humans, Spock himself being the ultimate insult as he is of Vulcan and Human parentage. Both are interrupted when Mia Colt informs captain Pike that she has managed to contact the Enterprise, but that it is under attack by the Cortez.

Back in space, Number One orders Mohindas and Tyler to prepare for a counter when the Cortez suddenly attacks the Enterprise with a powerful hyper weapon of Vulcan origin, engulfing the ship in destructive energy.

Commentary

Cloak and Dagger is a lot stronger content wise than the previous issue which felt more like a filler that was meant to introduce Mia Colt.

The story jumps right into the action, making the reader curious of what this is all about, and the first revelations in these pages only help to make it more intriguing. There is never any moment of slowdown in this issue, only temporary moments of quiet to allow the story to unfold and to present new information to the characters and the reader.

As a result the issue reads really quick and will make the reader just wish for more by the time they come to the final page with its cliffhanger.

All the present characters are in their element and get a part to play though the focus is of course on captain Pike and ensign Spock and their new Vulcan acquaintances on the ground, and Number One in command of the Enterprise in space.

The issue continues to be art wise very great, having crisp and dynamic visuals such as the action scenes, backgrounds such as the regular inhospitable nature of Darien 224 which really show it to be an inhospitable planet, and a nice angle illustration of the last-of-all-cities that has many details. There are only a few space scenes and they are well done but it really gets exciting in the last few pages when the Enterprise has a fight with the Cortez.

BTW, I really like the retro design of the Cortez done according to the design style of the 'five year' mission. Miranda class ships have been made pre-original movies before but I prefer this design where the nacelles run more under the saucer section than the design in which the nacelles are pulled back.

The story is perhaps a little 'iffy' on Star Trek canon regarding Spock meeting non enlightened Vulcans before the classic series episode "Balance of Terror" but that should not spoil the fun.

Recommended to Star Trek readers.

(Marten van Wier)

Star Trek Early Voyages #5, Marvel Comics, 1997.

 

Star Trek Early Voyages #6: Cloak and Dagger, Part 2

Synopsis

Picking up where part 1 left off, the Enterprise was engulfed by the blast of a hyperweapon a group of pre-enlightened warrior Vulcans had mounted on the hijacked USS Cortez, and was left damaged in its aftermath with electrical effects from the weapon's energy still running over its hull.

The crew is badly shaken including the bridge personnel who have been thrown out of their chairs from the impact. Much time to recover they don't get as the hostile Vulcans on the Cortez immediately send over warrior parties to attack the crew while they are still confused and seize control of the Enterprise. Throughout the ship battles break out between the crew and the attackers, and the crew suffers a number of losses before they are able to force the Vulcans to retreat. On board the Cortez renegade Vulcan commander Tagok reacts furious, if he can not take the Enterprise he will instead destroy. He immediately orders his helm officer to target the Enterprise with their special weapon and destroy the ship.

Number One, realizing what the Vulcans on the Cortez will do immediately instructs Lieutenant Tyler to call up the Cortez's shield modulation code and for Mohindas to prepare photon torpedoes. In order not to give away what they are planning they allow the Cortez to come in for the kill, but before it can fire it is hit by a spread of torpedoes that disables the ship's gravity generator. The best the bridge crew can do with the targeting array off line.

Back on the surface Captain Pike is trying to get in contact with the Enterprise crew but current atmospheric conditions prevent him from doing so. Matriarch T'Kell informs him that a sensor ground station has reported a fight between the Enterprise and the Cortez and that during the battle the Cortez used a Vulcan hyperweapon.

Pike tries to ask T'Kell for help after hearing that their ground station managed to get through the atmospheric interference but Boyce convinces him not to push it and instead accept T'Kell's hospitality. The doctor realizes that their hosts may not be their enemies but they are not their allies either, they want something from Pike. While the landing party is escorted away by T'Kell's servants to their guest quarters T'Kell turns to Sutek, the captain of the guards and warns him to him to have his people watch Pike and the others, especially the doctor as he seems to be more than he appears to be.

In the guest quarters Captain Pike is discussing the situation with his landing party and Captain Stone. It is clear to them that despite their surroundings that they are effectively prisoners of Matriach T'Kell. Pike asks for Spock's take in the situation. Spock informs the captain that the discovery of the colony of pre enlightened Vulcans is not much different than if the Enterprise crew had discovered a colony of Nazis or Khan's genetic supermen. He makes it clear that T'Kell and the city dwellers are not much different from commander Tagok and his insurrectionists, the only reason the landing party and Captain Stone are still alive is because T'Kell needs them for her own plans.

Spock fears that based on their behavior and weapons, that the pre enlightened Vulcans intend to return to Vulcan as conquerors, and that they would become a interstellar threat even greater than the Klingons and the Tholians. There is no further time to discuss this matter as Sutek and several Vulcan soldiers arrive and demand that the landing party comes with him as T'Kell wishes to speak to them. The landing party is escorted to a large building called the Tabernacle of Sharp Conflict, a shrine to Vulcan's martial past as matriarch T'Kell describes it in which weapons and mementoes such as banners are displayed.

Pike decides to confront T'Kell directly and asks her what she really wants. T'Kell makes it clear that she wants the Enterprise to transport her and her people back to Vulcan. If Pike refuses to cooperate she will execute the members of Pike's landing party.

Boyce remarks that if the Enterprise would try to take the city dwellers on board that the Cortez would surely destroy it. T'Kell responds that she counts on that and asks the landing party to follow her into a large central room where a massive machine is installed. Spock recognizes it as a weapon called the Vorl-Tak, a psionic amplifier that used the gravity field of a planet to amplify rage into a lethal force. Such a device was however never build as theory held that it could tear the planet on which it is installed apart.

T'Kell knows that that will happen and it is part of her plan, when her people will be evacuated by the Enterprise commander Tagok will inherit nothing but a dead world should he escape the attack. Spock tries to convince T'Kell that such actions are not necessary and that there is a logical solution. But Sutek, sick of Spock's logic hits him on the back and tells him that when T'Kell's people return to Vulcan that they will re educate its people in the old ways, but Spock's education starts now. Sutek pulls out a knife and moves towards Spock. Pike can not stand by and do nothing and demands that T'Kell calls Sutek off. He will assist T'Kell but warns her if anything should happen to his landing party.

Back in orbit the Enterprise is undergoing repairs when the shuttle the landing party used to land on Darien 224 approaches the ship and hails the crew. Number One has a brief moment to talk with Pike who tries to update her on what is going on before his shuttle is attacked. The Cortez has appeared from hiding and now seeks to destroy the Enterprise. Immediately Number One orders Tyler to put the Enterprise between the Cortez and the shuttle to protect it.

On the surface T'Kell's people inform her that Tagok and the insurrectionists have taken the bait. Spock tries to dissuade T'Kell one more time from carrying out her plan but T'Kell is determined and orders the Vorl-Tak to be fired. A massive energy beam rises up from the surface and is quickly noticed by Tagok's people, he immediately orders that they should take evasive manoeuvres while he questions if T'Kell has any idea on what she has done. It is already too late as the beam hits the Cortez and punches through it, breaking up the ship into pieces.

In the meantime Captain Pike has made it on board the Enterprise. Once on the bridge Number One informs him that the surface of Darien has shattered and is quickly sinking into the magma layer. Interference still prevents the transporter crew from beaming up the landing party. Pike is not planning to leave anyone behind and order the Enterprise to be taken into the atmosphere to get close enough that a transporter lock is possible.

As quakes destroy the city the panicking city dwellers try to flee but many are crushed by collapsed walls or pillars or fall into sinkholes that appear under them. In the tabernacle Spock tries to save matriarch T'Kell who apparently got lethally injured by the planetary destruction. Spock is making an observation about the situation but T'Kell asks him not to lecture her on the fact that they are going to die. She understands what Spock thinks of her and her people but also tells him why she and her fellow Vulcans embrace their emotions, feeling that these make life rich and worth living. If she forsook them she would deny herself. As T'Kell lays dying she asks Spock to remember her and the last-of-all-cities and why they died. Spock promises her he will.

In the meantime Yeoman Colt has managed to make contact with the Enterprise and all of the landing team are transported onboard as the surface completely collapses. The crew and the ship only barely make it out intact.

As the Enterprise makes it to the nearest starbase with repair facilities Captain Pike visits Spock in his quarters. He finds the Vulcan in the middle of a ritual and asks Spock if he has interrupted something. Spock explains that the closest human description is a purification ritual, Spock seeks to cleanse himself of the last vestiges of his human emotions so that logic and intellect can take their proper place in his thought processes. Pike tries to talk with Spock on what happened on the planet but Spock tells that is not of Pike's concern. Having witnessed why his people have abandoned conflict Spock now understands what path he must take. Pike leaves Spock alone in his quarters.

Commentary

A very well done second part and conclusion to Cloak and Dagger Part 1 that maintains the action and excitement of the first issue and does not leave the reader bored. Only the ending I have a bit of a nitpick about.

Again the pace of the story is very well done with the calm moments used to show how the main characters deal with the current predicaments they are in, and how to continue on. Most of the focus though lies with Pike, Spock, and the landing team after Number One and the crew of the Enterprise manage to repel the Vulcan boarding parties during the opening of the story.

The ending of this second part is rather grim for a Star Trek story. While it would have been of course very difficult to keep the colony of pre enlightened Vulcan and their advanced weaponry around (we know that Kirk's crew discovering that the Romulans in the classic episode "Balance of Terror" to be a Vulcan offshoot was a major surprise for them, having pre enlightened Vulcans around would lessen that impact), the way they are 'dealt' with feels rather brutal, the entire population is wiped out when Darien 224's surface is destroyed after the world weapon is fired. And I can not believe that the Enterprise crew would let all the Vulcans die, including the civilians which could have had many innocents amongst them who may not agree with the politics of their leaders.

The story is not bad because of it as the dark ending is part of the tone the story is trying to tell, showing Spock, Pike, and the others (and us the readers) how aggressive and destructive Vulcans once were, but yet it also feels like a very harsh solution for an open plotline.

Art and coloring continues the same quality as before. The characters are well drawn and detailed as are the backgrounds, especially of note of impressive drawing is the panorama shot of the destruction of the USS Cortez as its saucer section is shattered into hundreds of pieces when the beam of the world weapon hits it. One can only imagine how much time the artist, inker, and colorist had to put in this one panel.

Worth reading to Star Trek fans.

(Marten van Wier)

Star Trek Early Voyages #6, Marvel Comics, 1997.

 

Star Trek Early Voyages #7: The Flat, Gold Forever

Synopsis

When Captain Pike is lured away from the Enterprise he has walked into a deadly trap set by his enemy, Klingon captain Kaaj. Now Captain Pike and his reluctant allies, the farmers of the agricultural planet Prairie, must face Klingon strike teams and a D7 battlecruiser.

Commentary

After the very enjoyable double parter of Cloak and Dagger we go back to a self contained story which is not any less exciting than the preceding issues.

Many themes in this story have been done before, a main character is separated from his allies/friends and is hunted by a mortal enemy, the setting being a world whose inhabitants on purpose shun advanced technology, bystanders are dragged into a conflict of two sides they don't want to get involved in, an unexpected ally rises up amongst these and reveals himself/herself to be a trained officer who after a traumatic experience decided to leave the service. But it is all very well told in this story and it was long before before all of those concepts became sometimes overused tropes.

This story gives us a bit more background information about Captain Pike, but more importantly it gives us more insight into the 'relationship' between captain Pike and Captain Kaaj, and what his life as a crippled Klingon is like who managed to rise to the position of captain of his own warship.

We may not sympathize with the character but at least we can somewhat understand him. As a member of a species who shuns and despises weakness such as physical impairments, Kaaj had a lot of odds against him in life, considered unworthy of becoming a warrior because of a born condition but it was through use of his intellect that he managed to overcome these limitations and attaining the rank of captain of a battlecruiser. And until his encounter with Captain Pike was a rising star in the Klingons military ranks.

There is also the setup for another storyline during this issue, that one of Kaaj's officers, most likely Virka, seeks to undermine Kaaj's plans and goals including his revenge on captain Pike, and is willing to even aid Kaaj's enemies in order to do so. This storyline would continue in the last two issues of the series.

Art is up to standard set by the previous issues with the characters, their surroundings, and the scenery/background looking very nice. Something I notice is that not all the backgrounds may have been drawn, some may have been "painted" and one background for a panel may have been digitally made, something that I think was still very rare in a comic during the late 90s. It is not a problem or a source of distraction, just something the observant reader might notice.

One of the nicest panels in this issue is the shot shown of the massive harvester machine as rescue hovercraft fly away from it over the grain fields. It feels both futuristic and yet also somewhat every day, this is how agriculture now looks like in the future. For us it is fantastic to see a machine the size almost like the NASA shuttle transport or crawler but for the farmers operating it it is just a tool or perhaps even a temporary home, just like a starship becomes the home for the crew that has been assigned to it during a long mission.

One page which panels are also really awesomely drawn show a sequence starting with Kaaj's ship firing a disruptor beam directly at the surface in an effort to take out captain Pike. You can almost feel the tension Pike must be experiencing as he is trying to stay ahead of the destructive energy. It also shows how really powerful a starship based weapon can be (perhaps even still somewhat downplaying how wide the beam really is).

This issue is recommended to Star Trek fans, it is perhaps not a newly told story that has never been used before, but it has been done well and sometimes that is sufficient.

(Marten van Wier)

Star Trek Early Voyages #7, Marvel Comics, 1997.

 

Marvel Star Trek Voyager Splashdown

Note Prior to this mini series Marvel was releasing a monthly run of both Star Trek Voyager and Star Trek Deep Space Nine which were still airing at the time. Both had been running for about a year but problems with production which sometimes resulted in issues being released late made Marvel decide to retool both series into mini series while their two non television based series (Star Trek Early Voyages and Starfleet Academy) would continue as regular monthly releases. The idea behind the mini series was that the creative teams would have more time to work out the stories and deal with some of approval issues that had plagued the series in the past. Sadly this move came too as Marvel decided not to renew their contract with Paramount and all comics along with plans for a new series possibly centered around a black ops team operating from the USS Thunderchild were dropped.

The time period in which Splashdown is set is some time after the episodes "Scorpion" 1&2, "The Gift", and "Day of Honor", and the last three issues of the Voyager monthly comic book series. However during the mini series a reference is made to the episode "Hunters", which kind of messes up the time and place the story is set, making rather 'floating'.

 

Star Trek Voyager Splashdown #1

Synopsis

At the start of the story some time has passed since the crew of Voyager encountered the Borg Collective and their conflict with Species 8472, and the dual lifeform of Catira/Katirus who tried to feed Voyager and her crew to a spatial rift that was its 'parent' in the comic story "Survival of the Fittest". Following these events Voyager finds itself in the middle of a stellar wasteland and due to the recent encounters has to look for fuel sources to replenish its energy. Captain Janeway uses this moment of calm and peace for some time on the holodeck and has invited commander Chakotay to join her in an underwater simulation. The commander reveals himself not to be as proficient in diving as captain Janeway is and Janeway tries to teach him some of the basics.

While Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay go through the fundamentals of diving, Voyager comes across a destroyed vessel that is surrounded by a number of smaller sphere shaped ships that according to their speed of drift were going quite fast before they shut down. Captain Janeway is called to the bridge to be informed about this discovery. Tuvok suggests on the size and the number of the ships that they may be some kind of drones. Janeway orders to make contact with the drones to see if their operators perhaps have an energy source which the crew can trade for. Tuvok warns in advance that the drones might react hostile to the communication.

Tuvok's warning proves to be correct as the drones immediately power up and start to attack Voyager. Janeway gives the order to take evasive manoeuvres and shake off the drones. The drones however doggedly pursue and send out a transmission which Chakotay's instruments recognize as a call for reinforcements. More drones appear on the scene to assist in the attack on Voyager. Attempts at fighting of the drones fail and when aft shields start to buckle Janeway gives the order to engineering to reinforce them. Before B'Elanna gets a chance to do so the attacks causes serious feedback in Voyager's systems and makes the consoles in engineering blow up. Tom compares the drones as a swarm of angry bees whose hive has been poked by Voyager. Janeway continues on that analogue and suggests that the crew has to find out who controls the 'hive'. Using the earlier transmission the drones sent out to call for reinforcements Harry Kim determines the sources of the drones to be a nearby star system. Janeway orders Voyager to set course for the system in order to shut the drones down at their source; a control point somewhere in the system.

The source of the drones is revealed to be a planet with dense layers of ash and heavy debris in the atmosphere. Furthermore most of the planet's surface is covered in water with only two percent being land, these mostly being vulcanoes. An artificial power source is detected under the water. In the meantime the shields of Voyager started to drop due to the continuous attacks by the drones and as the crew is unable to drop the shields in order to beam down an away team to the energy source to shut it down Chakotay instead suggests an alternative way to get to the surface and at the same time get the drones to back off, using the thick atmosphere to 'scrape' them off. Janeway orders Tom to take Voyager down at a trajectory as steep as Voyager can currently endure. Tom does so and during the re entry descent the drones are forced to abandon pursuit when they become damaged by the material in the atmosphere that at this speed and velocity acts like sandpaper.

With the immediate threat gone, Janeway tells Tom to slow down Voyager before it reaches the ocean covering the surface. He is however unable to do so and Voyager hits and skips over the planetary ocean's surface before making a somersault after which a warp nacelle gets stuck in the water and Voyager finally comes down. With the internal dampening field down crew members and loose equipment, materials and tools are thrown throughout the ship. But things only get worse as Voyager starts to sink as water floods the inside of the ship through the holes the drones made earlier during their attack. Janeway gives the order to evacuate the flooded decks and activate containment protocols. The containment doors however don't work and moments later the bridge loses all power. The issue ends with B'Elanna, Seven of Nine, and B'Elanna's staff trapped in engineering while the water level is rising.

Commentary

The story might start out a little slow with Voyager in the middle of space and two of the main characters spending time on the holodeck (which at this point sometimes became a trope and a point of frustration to the audience as they were told that Voyager had limited energy supplies to spend on food and non essentials), but once the crew encounters the alien drones the pace quickly picks up as the crew is now in a race for survival, having to evade the drones and trying to find their homeworld in the hope of locating an energy source.

The tension and excitement only increases when Voyager finally arrives at the drones' world of origin only to suffer serious damage from the drones' attacks while speeding towards the surface of the planet which is revealed to be almost completely covered by an ocean. And when Voyager starts to sink and the ship becomes flooded the reader can probably not help but wonder "How is the crew going to get out of this one?" In my opinion this is a great build up to a story; excitement, mystery, wondering about the fate of the characters. If this had been on television I am sure the audience could not have waited for next week (or after the summer if this was a mid season two parter) to see how the story continues.

The quality of the art is a little mixed to be honest. There is for example this really sharp contrast for example between Voyager itself which is almost photo perfect to detail and the alien drones, which are a lot simpler drawn.

Character art is also this mix between very detailed but very thick ink lines and the use of the color black, especially in the faces of characters. It is not bad as the characters are in general recognisable but a lot of detail often becomes quite lost because of the shadows and other effects.

The backgrounds are in general clear and recognizable and scenes such as the underwater simulation and the surface of the water planet are nice to look at but it is nothing special. A lot of drawing effects are used such as explosions and speed lines to show the action. In general it works well but it can become a bit of a mess on some panels as a lot of 'action' is going on in the same space such as the attack and chase of Voyager by the alien drones.

(Marten van Wier)

Star Trek Voyager Splashdown #1, Marvel Comics, 1998.

 

Star Trek Voyager Splashdown #2

Synopsis

The first issue ended with Voyager disappearing under the waves of an ocean that covers almost an entire planet after suffering serious damage from drone ships that originate from this world. Voyager was rapidly becoming flooded as water entered through the hull damaged by the drones' attack, and with containment doors non operational due to damage to Voyager's systems the ship was taking on more and more water as it approaches crushing depths. B'Elanna, Seven of Nine, and several of B'Elanna's people ended up trapped in engineering as it rapidly fills with water.

As the issue opens; B'Elanna, Seven, and the others discover that they are not alone in the flooded engineering room as an unknown creature resembling a serpent moves out of the water and attacks Seven. B'Elanna immediately orders her people to evacuate engineering while Seven deals with the creature. Seven wounds the creature, forcing it to retreat, but it injures Seven as well. Seven, B'Elanna, and Vorik who decided to remain behind immediately head the corridor outside Engineering where B'Elanna gives Seven a piece of her uniform to use as a bandage. Seven dismisses this form of aid first but B'Elanna reminds Seven that she is no longer fully Borg and can't 'just slap on a new limb'. Seven silently accepts B'Elanna's help after hearing this reasoning.

Back on the bridge the crew tries to regain control of Voyager by rerouting systems, but damage to the ship's data network has caused an interruption between the ship's primary and secondary section. Janeway contacts B'Elanna about the problem and asks if she could fix the problem manually. B'Elanna immediately heads towards the room where the controls for the subprocessor room between the two ship sections are. Seven wants to join B'Elanna to assist her but B'Elanna refuses Seven's help due to her injuries, instead instructing her to go to the medical bay. B'Elanna manages to swim through the flooded Jefferies tube that lead to the control room and almost nearly drowns before she is able to enter it. With Voyager being threaten by the increasing pressure B'Elanna only barely in time restores the computer network and returns control to the bridge.

Captain Janeway immediately orders several measures to decrease Voyager's weight and make the ship surface again. Shields are raised to prevent more water from coming in while reversing the flow in the ship's ventilation system is used to pump the water out. But Voyager is still sinking. Transporters are used to move large quantities of water out of the ship but when those systems fail before they can get rid of the excess of water, Captain Janeway orders the polarity of the artificial gravity generators to be reversed. It cancels the weight of the water on the ship but also puts every deck in zero gravity, forcing the crew members to hold onto walls, bolted down chairs, and consoles.

Janeway's decision proves to be useful as the ship is no longer sinking. Using manoeuvring thrusters the ship is being raised to the surface again. But with the immediate problem of Voyager sinking having been resolved for now attention returns again to what caused it to happen in the first place; the attack drones that are most likely waiting for Voyager. Tuvok's instruments determine that the energy source Voyager detected earlier from space is located nearby in a submerged complex of buildings. If it is indeed the control center from which the drones are commanded the crew should deal with it first before Voyager surfaces. Captain Janeway agrees with Tuvok's idea and suggests that he takes what he needs to reach the submerged complex. Tuvok selects Harry Kim and two other crewmembers for the expedition. With the transporters out the away team will instead take the Aerowing shuttle.

The team quickly reaches the complex and Harry Kim determines through the shuttle's instruments that there is an atmosphere in the central building; a large pyramid. One of the other crew members suggests that the power signature might be a life support system maintaining the atmosphere, but if that is the case the sensors can not detect any possible life form.

Tuvok, Harry, and the other two crew members beam over to the pyramid and arrive in a large room filled with various machinery. Parts of the walls are decorated with scripts and pieces of the wall have given away to expose circuitry underneath. The crew is not able to determine if the circuitry controls the drones or is the source of the power. There are precious metals, gemstones, and refined essences gathered into piles throughout the room. Tricorder readings indicate that these are rather recent as the devices can not detect decay.

Tuvok tries to study the scripts which he recognizes as something the crew has seen before in the Delta Quadrant, but before he can translate them something starts to power up in the room.

Commentary

After the rush that was Issue 1, Issue 2 is a lot slower and most is about the crew dealing with the results of the attack by the drones and the attempt on landing on the planet that led to a disastrous situation in which they are lucky that their ship is still intact. But this luck is rapidly running out as the Voyager is descending to crushing depths and all their attempts to change the situation fails due to the damage and their continuously diminishing energy sources.

B'Elanna has some good bits in this such as her harrowing journey to the subprocessor room during which she has to go through a completely flooded section and nearly drowns when she can not open a door as its access codes having been scrambled. Seven of Nine has to confront a nasty sea creature that has accidentally come into Voyager's main engineering room and sees the helpless crew as prey. Seven is hardly impressed by its aggression and her reaction after having fought it and suffering some injuries while seriously wounding it fit completely into the character's behavior. And then there is of course the arguments between the two characters on approach and solutions which often happened during the show, Seven having little awareness of courtesy and other social behavior because she believes it to be ineffective.

It is nice to see some of the other crew members aboard the ship also getting an appearance, and Tuvok taking two 'unknown' crewmembers with him to the alien complex instead of the standard bridge crew plus Seven of Nine away teams that would be the staple of the series.

The art in general is good though the characters don't always resemble their actors that well. Also one panel in which something rather weird was done with a crew member, basically she is facing forwards towards the watcher but also at an angled perspective, making her head look off. (or she has a pony tail half on the side of her head instead of back on it). Still a lot of use of the color black, not gradients just black to fill in faces, bodies, and scenery.

One of the highlights of this issue is of course the appearances of the Aerowing shuttle whose appearance has been hinted at in Star Trek Technical Manuals regarding Voyager (sadly we never got to see it on the television screen, just like we never saw the captain's yacht in TNG. The backgrounds are sometimes also really bland or empty. It is understandable that in the middle of an ocean there would not be much to see in the distance but some of the character focus panels just have a color as a background. What little we saw of the scenery such as the underwater complex from when the Aerowing shuttle approached it, and the inside of the buildings looks nice.

(Marten van Wier)

Star Trek Voyager Splashdown #2, Marvel Comics, 1998.

 

Star Trek Voyager Splashdown #3

Synopsis

In the last issue an away team led by Tuvok had used Voyager's Aerowing shuttle to travel to a complex of submerged buildings in which Voyager's sensors detected an active power source, possibly the control center to the automated attack drones that attacked Voyager earlier and made the ship crash in a planet wide ocean. Beaming over to the main complex where an atmosphere was still being generated, the away team arrived in a large room filled with machinery and exposed circuitry in the walls. Throughout the room are several piles of items made of precious metals, as well as gems and refined essences. Some of the walls are decorated with an alien script and Tuvok recognized these as something the crew of Voyager had encountered before during their journey through the Delta Quadrant. Assuming that the script might contain information on the technology in the building including the drones or the power source Tuvok was preparing to translate the script when suddenly something in the room starts to power up.

One of the away team members sees a change in a wall segment surrounded by a triangle shaped arch, assuming it to be dissolving. Harry Kim quickly corrects her, it is not dissolving but rather it is being displaced. Before the away team knows what happens a humanoid alien comes leaping through the displaced wall segment that now acts like a portal and nearly hits the nearest away team member before falling onto the ground and colliding with one of the piles of items.

The alien is enthusiastic about an item he is holding while mocking other beings that apparently had been pursuing him on the other side of the portal. But the alien notices the away team, and assuming because they wear similar uniforms and weapons that they are members of some kind of police force. Tuvok corrects the alien on that he and the away team are not law enforcement but members of Starfleet. But he also concludes on the collection of artifacts and the manner on how the alien arrived that he put the technology the away team just observed to illegal use. The alien identifies himself as a prospector who has claimed this site and that the away team is trespassing on it and that they should leave. On hearing this one of the crewmembers confronts the prospector and holds him responsible for shooting down Voyager.

Meanwhile Voyager is rising back to the surface again, the zero g conditions onboard not only cancelling the weight of the water but also the ship's normal internal tonnage. However this also continues to drain Voyager's energy levels. So captain Janeway orders all non essentials including the replicators to be shut down to save what little is remaining. In engineering B'Elanna, Seven, and Vorik are busy repairing the damage that was done earlier, a task not made easy as seaweed has become stuck in machines and parts and sea slime and dead sea creatures are floating everywhere. One particular piece of seaweed got stuck in a power conduit and when B'Elanna tries to pull it out with force its sends her spinning away due to the force she projected. Seven and Vorik come to B'Elanna's aid.

However B'Elanna's earlier actions caused several sparks to be released from the power conduit that now rapidly increase due to the zero g conditions. With the automatic fire suppression systems down Vorik goes for one of the fire extinguishers to put out the spark. The foam however proves to be ineffective to extinguish the sparks and the release of it sends Vorik into the opposite direction. With the growing fire rapidly consuming all the oxygen in engineering B'Elanna orders Vorik and Seven to evacuate but Seven decides to stay to assist B'Elanna by helping her to survive as Seven's own zero g skills are superior to those of B'Elanna. B'Elanna directs Seven to a nearby emergency locker where the two find emergency oxygen masks. After both have donning those B'Elanna floods engineering with CO2 to starve the fire of oxygen.

Back in the pyramid Tuvok contacts Voyager and captain Janeway to inform her that the away team has found the source of the power signature, a tri-polar transference threshold that the alien prospectors used to gather alien artifacts from other worlds. The prospector is probably also responsible for the development of the drones but Tuvok is not sure if on purpose or by accident. Janeway is interested in the threshold as possible means to get the crew of Voyager back home but informs Tuvok that the away team should endeavour to shut the drones down first before Voyager reached the surface. Harry Kim believes he has found the circuitry in one of the walls that controls the drones and attempts to shut it down when the alien prospector suddenly warns him not to touch the circuitry. Harry and the other away team members react confused to this warning and the prospector uses this moment of opportunity to flee back through the threshold. Tuvok confronts the two other away team members about allowing the prospector to escape during the confusion, in the meantime Harry returns his attention to the circuitry and attempts to access these when his action activates a defense system that stuns all four of the away team members. The prospector returns through the threshold, revealing that he knew this would happen as he had made the same mistake himself.

Captain Janeway becomes concerned about the fate of Tuvok and the other away team members when communication was abruptly broken, but with power so low there is no energy for the sensors to determine what happened in the pyramid or if the drones are waiting above the water for Voyager.

In the meantime the prospector strips the unconscious away team members of their weapons and communicators. As the communicators are made of valuable metals he throws them on to the piles of the other valuable items he has stolen. To dispose of the away team permanently the prospector decides to lock them all up in the crypts that are also located in the pyramid. The prospector wants to protect his claim and to make sure that no one else finds about them he can't allow Voyager reach orbit again.

As Voyager rises from the water it is surrounded by dozens of the attack drones.

Commentary

The story starts to speed up again, with Voyager out of immediate danger the focus is on the away team in the alien pyramid and the unknown situation they are in as something starts to power up. It was a good cliffhanger in the last issue though the follow up part in which the alien prospector/thief sudden comes out of the portal, surprising the away team members, does feel  kind of a let down after all the mystery before this. We get a little bit of revelation about what is going on and who this character is but still not enough to get real answers before we switch back to Voyager where captain Janeway and her crew try to bring the ship back in order again despite have to work in zero gravity conditions.

B'Elanna, Seven, and B'Elanna's engineering crew find themselves from solving one problem to entering another when an accident with power conduit starts a fire but we have some amusing moments when B'Elanna's shows her clumsiness in zero gravity conditions and Vorik and Seven having to come to her aid. Seven proves to be invaluable with helping B'Elanna to deal with the spreading fire and some respect seems to grow between the two women until Seven makes a remark that sends B'Elanna up in a tizzy. Pretty much how their relationship was aboard Voyager in general.

Art wise the story remains at the same quality as before so there is not much to add to it. We do now see some digital effects incorporate into the panels such as the fire in zero gravity and a background used for the alien ocean. I definitely love the last two panels of this issue: Voyager rising to the surface of the alien ocean, all the pillars of water Voyager's chemical thrusters generates, the shoal of fish. And Voyager rising up from the water only to be surrounded by dozens of attack drones with the volcano and the cloud it vents on the background.

(Marten van Wier)

Star Trek Voyager Splashdown #3, Marvel Comics, 1998.

 

Star Trek Voyager Splashdown #4

Synopsis

Voyager has resurfaced but now finds itself surrounded by the attack drones that attacked it earlier and caused the ship to crash in the planet wide ocean in the first place.

Captain Janeway immediately puts the ship on red alert and asks for a status update. Officers on the bridge such as Tom Paris respond to her question as Voyager is prepared for flight again. However weapons and shields are minimal and internal dampening fields are also running on one quarter, Tom warns that the 'ride' may be bumpy. Before the drones can attack captain Janeway orders Tom to take evasive manoeuvres which he promptly does so, leaving the drones behind Voyager but also throwing people on the bridge who did not manage to hold onto something around.

Janeway knows that Voyager can not continue to outrun the drones with its energy levels being so low and she realizes that Tuvok and the other members of the away team must have run into trouble as they have not been able to shut down the defense system the drones are part of. Someone else has to go to the pyramid in which the drones' control center is located to help the away team and shut down the drones so captain Janeway asks Chakotay who has taken over for Harry if they have any transport capabilities left. Chakotay responds that Voyager doesn't have any but that the Aerowing parked above the alien pyramid still does. He could send an emergency beam out signal to the Aerowing to take him to the shuttle and from there go to the away team's original beam in transport site. Janeway tells him to do so.

Once in the shuttle Chakotay takes a phaser from the security locker and then beams to the pyramid where he finds the unsuspecting alien prospector working on the circuitry. The prospector only becomes away of Chakotay beaming in after he hears the hum of the transporter. Chakotay immediately confronts the prospector and asks if the circuitry the alien was working on controls the drones. The prospector feigns ignorance but Chakotay doesn't believe him. Instead Chakotay tells him one more time to shut down the drones but the prospector continues his charade of innocence, tired of the game the prospector is playing Chakotay shoots the circuitry in the wall and contacts Voyager to ask if the drones have seized their attack.

Back on the surface the drones stop pursuing Voyager and dive into the water and Janeway informs Chakotay that he has been successful in stopping the drones. She now asks him on what happened to the away team. Chakotay has not learned about their fate but questions the prospector who continues to lie. However Chakotay discovers the away team's combadges amongst the objects and treasures the prospector has stolen from various worlds and demands to know what the prospector did to Tuvok and the others.

In the meantime the members of the away team wake up from unconsciousness in the crypt the prospector locked them up in and they realize they have been stripped of their equipment and weapons. The away team determines that touching the circuitry in the wall must have triggered a defense system and that the prospector knew about this. He escaped through the threshold only to return when the away team was out and then locked them up. Tuvok believes that the script on the walls of the crypt might indicate where the exit is and how to open it, but before he can have a look at them the complex shakes up by a quake. Because the pyramid is at the foot of a volcano one of the away team members assumes that the volcano is erupting but the quakes start to increase in strength and dust and bits on the ceiling start to come loose.

Suddenly one of the crypts' niches falls open and the cover plate nearly falls on top of an away team member before Harry pushes it out of the way. A mummified body that is wrapped falls out of the niche which Harry identifies as Vhorni. Tuvok concludes that the tremors are not natural and are instead caused by weapons fire. Outside the pyramid several of the attack drones are firing on it, breaching one of the walls and causing water to pour into the building. The away team hear the roar from the incoming water but before they know what is happening they are being overtaken by it. As the crypt starts to fill with water Tuvok manages to find the mechanism to open the door and the away team managed to escape to the central room where the threshold is located.

In the central room the prospector tells Chakotay that when he shot the circuitry that he caused the drones to attack their source of origin. Chakotay retorts that this would not have happened if the prospector had cooperated. The drones at least no longer attack Voyager but this was not the solution Chakotay had in mind.

Suddenly the threshold becomes active again and as Chakotay gazes through it he see panoramas from various worlds throughout the galaxy; alien cities, snow covered places, a fortress in the middle of a forest, and eventually the pyramids of Giza. Whoever build the threshold spanned all four quadrants. The alien prospector makes use of Chakotay being distracted, sneaking off with several of the items he has stolen. He doesn't get far as he immediately runs into the away team that take hold of him.

Chakotay now notices the away team and wants to inquire on what had happened earlier until he reminds himself that there are more pressing issues; right now they need to take control of the defense system and shut down the drones before they destroy the pyramid. The away team questions the prospector on how to shut down the drones but the prospector claims that he doesn't know. He tells that it took him months just to learn how the threshold works and that the development of the drones was an accident. After the prospector's earlier reluctance to tell the truth and the trap he led them in the away team members don't believe him, but it doesn't look like they will learn in time from him how the controls of the drones work.

Realizing now that they can not save the threshold Chakotay confers with Tuvok and the others that they have no idea if location on Earth on the other side of it is in the same time period as they are or in the future or the past. Even if Chakotay has the authority he could not order anyone to go through the threshold as none of them knows in what time they would arrive. Silently the Starfleet officers exchange glances as they think about this dilemma but the decision is quickly made that it would be better to return to Voyager. Just before the team is beamed up to the Aerowing shuttle Chakotay rips off the rank pin on his uniform and throws it through the threshold. Onboard the Aerowing shuttle he is asked why he did so on which Chakotay responds that it should be seen as a signal flare. The pin has Voyager's ID on it so if it is found by Starfleet they would realize Voyager's crew is still alive.

The shuttle is shaken up by a shockwave from the drones' attack, but even worse is that the shuttle's sensors are detecting an energy surge from the pyramid going into the geothermal layers that power its systems such as the threshold, as a result the entire mountain will explode. The crew and the prospector on the Aerowing shuttle only barely manage to escape as a large mass of water is propelled into the air by the underwater explosion.

Later on Voyager has landed on a nearby island where repairs on the ship are continued. Janeway and Chakotay are watching the sun set on the beach and Janeway tells Chakotay that the more volcanic a planet is the better the sunsets are. She regrets that she and the crew of Voyager will not be able to study the threshold technology. The only one who knows about it is the prospector in their brig and he refuses to talk about it, the crew doesn't even know his name or species. Later on B'Elanna informs captain Janeway about the status of the repairs. While the ship can be repaired the biggest problem is where the crew now has to get energy from as Voyager's supplies are depleted. Captain Janeway reminds B'Elanna that the world they are on is essentially a massive geothermal power plant and that they could tap into that. B'Elanna comments that that could work and that she will get on it.

Several centuries in the future Commander Chakotay's uniform rank pin arrives on Earth at the site of the Great Sphinx of Giza where it is found by a tourist who then asks other people nearby what it is. They don't pay much attention to it, assuming that its owner is not around. The tourist who found it wonders where the owner is, or when.

Commentary

The final issue of this mini series is a bit 'powered down' to be honest in comparison to the first three. After the excitement of Issue 1 and 2, and the build up of mystery in Issue 2 and 3, it feels that the energy of the story like the power levels of Voyager was sort of running out. Sure, there was still the second confrontation between Voyager and the alien drones, as it emerged from the planetary ocean and Chakotay confronting the alien in the underwater pyramid while he searched for the missing away team. But somehow the punch feels a bit gone and the story ends up with more questions than it really answers.

We know the alien is a thief who likes to trick and cheat, that he used the portal to rob and burglarize several civilizations through the galaxy (and beyond), and that he used the drones originally to eliminate his partner and their ship. But for the rest we don't know his name or anything conclusive about the alien pyramid, the portal, and who build all of this. Was it the Vhorni or the Iconians who perhaps built the portal? We readers will never know as the story provides little information on this and as the series was discontinued afterwards this story sadly becomes another "Voyager's crew had another chance to go home but somehow lost the opportunity" which the television series also pulled from time to time.

It doesn't mean it is all bad though, the worlds depicted in the portal were looking very enticing and I honestly would still love to know more about all these places, their people, and their stories. And you gotta love the whole "The Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx somehow tied up with the alien builders" reference that will probably amuse those who have entertained themselves with the idea that perhaps some alien conspiracy theories are true. In the end it is an okay conclusion, it properly finishes the story and would have made a good jump off point for the next mini series. But as the ending to Marvel's Star Trek run readers might say to themselves after finishing the issue "That's it? There is nothing more?". Sadly that was the case with several of Marvel's Star Trek and it is an itch that will probably never be scratched.

(Marten van Wier)

Star Trek Voyager Splashdown #4, Marvel Comics, 1998.

 


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