Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Book Review Club: Star Trek: Countdown

This is the June entry for Barrie Summy’s Book Review Club. For the complete list, click on the Book Review Club icon at the bottom of this post.)

If only they had filmed this…

What I’m referring to is the graphic novel Star Trek: Countdown. It is not merely a graphic novel. It is a prequel to the new “Star Trek” film now in theaters and a sequel to the Next Generation universe last seen in 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis. The four-issue story was originally published starting in January and has now been collected in a trade paperback edition.

And it’s fantastic.

I didn’t read the story until I had seen the movie so I can’t tell you what it would have been like to read the comic before seeing the film. I’m not a fan of spoilers so I would not have read it anyway (had I known about it). Suffice it to say, it’s one of those fill-in-the-gaps kind of tales that geek boys and geek gals really dig but your general audience doesn’t care to know.

(Speaking of spoilers, if you haven’t seen the new film and want to know nothing about it, stop reading now.)

Star Trek: Countdown begins in the Next Generation years following the last Next Gen film, Nemesis. An aged Spock is now the Federation ambassador to Romulus and he’s imploring the Romulan High Council to put their trust in Vulcan science to save their planet from a star that threatens to go supernova. His staunchest ally is a miner, Nero (played by Eric Bana in the new film), a simple Romulan with a pregnant wife who has witnessed the star’s destructive power first-hand. The solution is to allow the transport of a special mineral to Vulcan where it can be converted into “red matter,” a substance that can create a black hole in the place of the troubled star (!), rendering it inert. The Romulan High Council refuses. Thus, Nero and Spock conspire to transport the mineral in secret.

Naturally, the Remans, Romulans’ bad step siblings, interfere and damage Nero’s mining ship. Who comes to the rescue? None other than the Enterprise-E, helmed by Captain Data. (Wait! I thought Data 'died' in Nemesis. It's explained) They save the day and head off to Vulcan. Guess what? The Vulcan High Council refuses to help the Romulans. Nero vows revenge on all of Vulcan if the planet Romulus is destroyed. Spock convinces Nero there’s still one more hope. Nero, of course, blames the entire thing on Spock when the star does go supernova and destroys Romulus, including his wife and unborn child.

What does Nero do now? He goes on a killing binge. He takes out some Federation medical ships and kills the remaining members of the Romulan High Council. We learn the reason behind the tattoos Eric Bana wears in the movie as well as the axe/staff thing he carries. To go on now would ruin it for those of y’all who still want to read this story. Three more Next Gen folks walk on stage (one’s on the cover so it’s no mystery) before the story ends right where the movie begins.

My one quibble is with the artwork. Don’t get me wrong: the art, by David Messina, is beautiful. He recreates scenes from both the new movie and the Next Gen movies perfectly well. He, however, rarely draws pictures of people, who are talking, with their mouths open. I found it rather annoying.

I’ve always been a fan of Star Trek. One of my biggest kicks out of the new movie is all the in jokes. Well, there are more in Countdown. It’s just cool to see the Next Gen folks with Spock (again) and Nero. If Star Trek VII (i.e., Generations) was the movie where the original crew (read: Kirk) handed off the franchise to the Next Gen crew and the new movie is where the original crew (read: Spock) hands things off to the 2.0 versions of themselves, Star Trek: Countdown is the connecting link. It's the Next Gen crew handing the franchise to Spock who, in turn, hands it to the new, rebooted franchise. It isn’t to be missed.

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  1. Scott, No brainer. You know my love for Trek and graphic novels. It will hit my nightstand at some point.

  2. My 15 y.o. just saw the movie. He would love this book. And....he has a birthday coming up! Thanks, Scott.

  3. Haven't seen the new movie yet so I didn't read everything here. I've finished the Potter seris now and am going back to some Trek.

  4. Damn, I couldn't read past the spoiler warning—haven't seen the movie yet.

    A sci-fi blog, though? That's awesome! I really missed a lot over the past couple of months. Looking forward to having SF Safari on my blogroll.

    Incidentally, I read some sci-fi from the Star Wars "Expanded Universe" recently: both Darth Bane novels, and Darth Maul: Saboteur. Not sure if you're into the newer Star Wars stuff (I recall a review of novelization to A New Hope that you wrote a few months back), but I enjoyed them all very much!

  5. I too really enjoyed this book. It fills in so many of the gaps I felt when walking out of the theater. It would be pointed out that the story here is actually written by the new film's screenwriters, so while as a comic book it might not officially be "canon" I do believe that fans will come to accept the events in this book as the real deal. As well they should be IMO.

    Also, yeah, panel after panel of dialogue wherein no character is drawn with their mouth open is very distracting. I wonder if non-comic book geeks would notice that too?

    Thanks for the review.

  6. I read Countdown the day before seeing the movie and am glad I did. This story is a great connecting point between the previous ST's and the new movie.

    Good review!

  7. David - You're part of the choir. I sing baritone. You?

    Barrie - He certainly will love it. I'm hoping that my son will like Trek by the next movie.

    Charles - You'll have to come back once you see the film. And you're going to have to write your thoughts about Potter.

    Chris - I still love SW but have not read any of the novels in a long time. I remember reading your SW posts. The Zahn trilogy is still tops for me as is Tatoonnie Ghosts.

    Terrence - As I mentioned to you, had they filmed this comic to be added as a DVD extra would be incredible.

    Michael - What was it like reading the book before seeing the movie?

  8. Loved the movie, might well pick up this graphic novel!

  9. Scott, reading Countdown first was to me at least an affirmation that the upcoming movie was going to be good. I had been rather disappointed with the last several ST movies and was really hoping this "reboot" was just what the franchise needed.
    The book helped answer a lot of questions I might have had about the story line if I had just gone into the movie blind.

  10. Sarahlynn - I don't think you'll be disappointed.

    Michael - It's funny you mentioned your worries about the film. When the first trailer came out, was wishy-washy. I knew I was going to see it but didn't really care when. As the trailers kept coming out, I got more and more excited. By the time the last one came out (the one that advertised it was something new), I was so there. I took off a half day of work to see the 10AM showing on the IMAX. Phenomenal.