Sleeper: Season One (2003-04)

Sleeper Season One  2009

Some of Sleeper doesn’t age well. There’s a whole plot line about the secret society running the world and, in 2020, it seems like a very dated trope. To be fair, it was dated in 2003 when Sleeper came out, but writer Ed Brubaker was at least utilizing the trope to sabotage it. There’s also the lack of Internet-backed technology in the futuristic setting, which was apparently where what all futurism somehow missed. And when they try to mainstream the book in the last few issues, brightening up Sean Phillips’s blacks, slimming his lines, it’s a mistake. Ditto going from the handwriting font for the protagonist’s narration to a really slick italicized font. Doesn’t read well in the context of a collection; there ought to be a footnote about how they were desperate to save the book from cancellation.

I’d also forgotten the book takes place in the Wildstorm universe, featuring TV news cameos from The Authority; Brubaker does a great job of not making those connections matter much, outside providing an established universe with super-powered good guys and bad guys. The crossover character is Machiavellian crime boss Tao (created by the Original Writer himself!), which doesn’t come up much throughout and even when Tao’s giving his origin story it’s barely a footnote.

Origin stories are a big deal in Sleeper, something the protagonist, Holden Carver—good guy spy turned double agent, posing as a bad guy super-powered spy for Tao’s organization—and his colleagues do when they’re bored. The villains sit around and tell their stories. Except it’s only for the newbs and Holden hangs out with the seasoned veterans so it takes a while to coax their origins out of them, whether it’s Holden’s best bud, Genocide Jones, or his lady friend, Miss Misery.

Where Sleeper doesn’t age—can’t age—is in Brubaker’s plotting of the series, which spends the first nine or so issues with a two steps forward, one step back approach to revealing Holden’s story. We don’t find out how exactly he got roped into the super secret mission—and we still don’t know how his handler, Lynch, got put into a coma right before the series started. Issues take place weeks apart, sometimes following up on the previous issues’ cliffhangers and finales, sometimes not. Brubaker and Phillips end each issue for effect, sometimes dramatic, sometimes tragic. So it really burns when the narration lettering gets cheesy at the end, just as Holden’s having some big moments of revelation. You want the personality of the character in those passages, not feeling like you’re being handled so DC can try to sell the book to its stupider readers.

Sorry, it’s been sixteen years but I’m still not okay with how badly they bungled this series.

The first issue does a fine job establishing Holden and some of the world, enough about his mission, enough about Tao’s villainous organization, but focuses on Holden’s friendship with Genocide. Genocide’s an indestructible big lug thug. After Holden starts sleeping with Miss Misery—a chainsmoker who needs to inflict pain or damage in order to live, literally—Genocide’s the only one he can tell about it because Holden shouldn’t be sleeping with his coworkers. Especially not when she’s an occasional squeeze to Tao and Tao’s right hand man, Peter Grimm, mad crushes on her and already hates Holden.

Holden’s basically indestructible, thanks to an interdimensional artifact. His body heals, but builds up a charge of pain energy (he doesn’t feel physical sensations anymore, unless there’s some kind of pleasure and pain mix, which makes him perfect for Miss Misery). He zaps people with the pain energy; it can be lethal. Otherwise he shoots people a lot. There’s a lot of shooting in Sleeper. It’s not the most exciting visual (at some point you wonder how Phillips is still ginning up the enthusiasm for the action sequences, given none of the main characters is actually capable of being hurt).

The book starts getting really good in the last third, after the illuminati subplot, as it becomes clear just how much Holden is breaking down undercover and what’s going to happen when a lifeline appears. He’s got to question whether the lifeline’s real, but then the further question becomes… is it better or worse if the lifeline’s real. Has Holden crossed the line in his undercover operation. Sure, Genocide Jones and Miss Misery are far from the worst compatriots in a hive of scum and villainy—Genocide’s likable and even sympathetic, while Miss Misery gets the very odd combination of female tragedy and male gaze (even if it’s arty Phillips male gaze… there’s a lot of it in the comic)—but what does it say about Holden.

Brubaker’s character development work on Holden is somewhat ramshackle, thanks to the fractured timeline and narration, but once he reveals himself to be something of a softy, it’s not at all unexpected. Or unwelcome. A little sincerity goes a long way in Sleeper, which is effective, engaging, excellently executed (enough Es), but definitely feels like commercial product. Brubaker’s scripts reward the reader’s attention without ever dragging things out too long. Holden’s narration cushions the plot twists and reveals, with Phillips art capturing what usually ends up being sadness in the moment. He’s really good at tragedy and desperation. Less so the super-powered gun fights or the occasional superhero fights. They’re not bad in any sense, but they’re not where Phillips excels in the book. You can tell he’s not interested in them. The supervillain outfits, for example, get a good setup panel and then otherwise seem like a chore.

But there’s a lot for Phillips to draw in this book and it’s impressive how well he gets through it all. Like, he’s got to be doing supervillains and superheroes one panel and then Disneyland two panels later. It’s seriously globe-trotting, which isn’t always great as far as the character development goes but… delayed gratification on that front. Brubaker and Phillips don’t work to make Holden a sympathetic protagonist even after things start falling apart. He’s presented matter-of-factly, which probably hurt the book’s commercial potential to some degree. Though who knows. If the last sixteen years of DC Comics has revealed anything, it’s they actually didn’t have a chance with their dedicated reader base.

Sleeper was also one of the first comics to do the “Season One” thing, even though it wasn’t intentional… they had to try for a new number one to get the series some interest because trying to force good comics to become hits is difficult. The “season” ends on an interesting narrative note for what’s to come for sure, even if the thinner Phillips line work and the gaudy lettering leaves it in a visually far less interesting spot than it started.

Did it read better month-to-month back in 2003 and 2004? Probably. But it holds up rather well, especially given the many aforementioned caveats….

Like, I think there’s at least a boob every issue, which makes you wonder if it was an editorial mandate… did DC have data on how many copies they sold based on bare boobs? And while they’re sometimes arty boobs—Phillips is classically trained, after all—sometimes they’re just boobs for boobs sake, maybe three lines. It gets to be an eye-roll after a while.

Though… it’s not like there’s much characterization to the (two) female characters in the comic, which maybe you can get away with because it’s Holden’s perspective and all, but them both being exhibitionists is a little weird. No fetish shaming just… what are the odds. Are there odds? Do female espionage agents prefer exhibitionism? It, like an apology for that second lettering font, needs a footnote at least.

Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive 1 (December 2014)

Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive #1

It’s strange, but the best thing about Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Direction so far is Rachael Stott’s artwork. And her artwork isn’t particularly good. She does okay with people in action sequences, less with the spaceship stuff, but her talking heads are particularly interesting. She doesn’t go for photo referencing the cast of the original “Star Trek,” but she does capture the actors’ expressions.

And, given writers Scott Tipton and David Tipton are really good at approximately an episode of “Star Trek” in terms of dialogue, the talking heads scenes are rather effective. It feels as much like Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner crossing over with Planet of the Apes in the late sixties as one is going to get.

But what’s the point? So far, nothing. The Klingons go to Apes Earth and cause trouble. Big deal.

Apes is nowhere weird enough for “Star Trek.”

CREDITS

Writers, Scott Tipton and David Tipton; artist, Rachael Stott; colorist, Charlie Kirchoff; letterer, Tom B. Long; editors, Sarah Gaydos and Dafna Pleban; publishers, IDW Publishing and Boom! Studios.

Star Trek 13 (April 1981)

Star Trek #13

It's another high concept issue from Pasko. He's got McCoy meeting his estranged daughter for the first time in years–she's marrying a Vulcan (a much, much older one), he's got the Enterprise landing on The Planet of the Apes and how it plays out when the Klingons get there. Pasko plays a lot with the Apes thing, working in all sorts of genre stuff from outside. For a few pages, it all feels like a mystery, and for the last few pages, Pasko goes for difficult character work.

In the meantime, there are also Klingons around causing trouble. These are post-The Motion Picture Klingons having a very television series encounter with the Enterprise crew. Pasko hits all the right notes.

Unfortunately, Joe Brozowski, Tom Palmer and Marie Severin don't exactly knock it out of the park on the art. There's some detail, but it's more consistently messy than anything else.

B+ 

CREDITS

All the Infinite Ways; writer, Martin Pasko; pencillers, Joe Brozowski, Tom Palmer and Diverse Hands; inkers, Palmer and Marie Severin; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterer, Joe Rosen; editor, Louise Jones; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Star Trek: The City on the Edge of Forever 3 (August 2014)

Star Trek: The City on the Edge of Forever #3

The bottom falls out this issue. Given nothing compelling to illustrate–unless one counts the various odd jobs Kirk and Spock perform–Woodward is left with talking heads, where he seems to be painting panels directly from pauses of old “Star Trek” episodes. The result? Terrible, static figures. Even worse, he’s rushing, so there’s a lot of loosely rendered, terrible, static figures.

As for the writing, there’s some angry banter between Kirk and Spock. It’s real bad; either from the original Harlan Ellison teleplay or the Tipton brothers adaptation, the characters have no chemistry. Combined with the static faces, it makes for terrible comics.

Even worse is when the love interest arrives. The flirting scene between her and Kirk is atrocious, but Woodward’s so insistent on the Joan Collins reference, the character never fits in the environment.

Edge has been a consistently problematic effort, but this issue really tanks it.

D 

CREDITS

Writers, Harlan Ellison, Scott Tipton and David Tipton; artist, J.K. Woodward; letterer, Neil Uyetake; editor, Chris Ryall; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Star Trek 36 (August 2014)

Star Trek #36

I love how static Shasteen draws all the faces. It looks like he's going through either publicity photos or maybe screen grabs and picking the ones he thinks are closest to the emotions the characters should be feeling.

Actually, I do not love anything about Shasteen's art. I was being sarcastic in an attempt to feign enthusiasm for talking about this comic book.

It is barely a Star Trek issue in terms of being about the new movie franchise crew; it's more of a "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" comic it turns out. Is it a good "Deep Space Nine" comic?

No.

As a writer, Johnson continues to confuse concept with imagination. Just because the Paramount rep okayed crossing over with the "Star Trek" shows isn't reason enough to do so.

Johnson can't even get any mileage out of Bones and Spock banter. It's pedestrian and pointless with lifeless art.

C- 

CREDITS

The Q Gambit, Part Two; writer, Mike Johnson; artist, Tony Shasteen; letterer, Neil Uyetake; editor, Sarah Gaydos; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Star Trek: The City on the Edge of Forever 2 (July 2014)

Star Trek: The City on the Edge of Forever #2

Not only is Janice Rand back, she kicks butt.

There are a few more big changes in this issue, with Kirk and company beaming up after time has changed to find themselves on a mercenary freighter or some such thing. It’s where Yeoman Rand reveals her fighting skills.

It’s very hard to take City seriously with this sort of distraction, although it does feature some decent action art from Woodward. Not great, because painted fight scenes just don’t move, but decent. Yeoman Rand kicks butt and all.

The rest of the issue has Kirk and Spock going back in time and getting into some trouble with thirties rabble rousers. This comic shouldn’t be made just for people familiar with the original episode, but the creators certainly aren’t making it accessible otherwise. The whole soft cliffhanger hinges on that familiarity.

It’s a mediocre comic and its curiosity value is waning fast.

C 

CREDITS

Writers, Harlan Ellison, Scott Tipton and David Tipton; artist, J.K. Woodward; letterer, Neil Uyetake; editor, Chris Ryall; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Star Trek: Flesh and Stone (July 2014)

Star Trek: Flesh and Stone

Was someone out there desperate for a really bad team-up of all the doctors from “Star Trek” shows? The only regular medical officer the writers don’t include is the new continuity McCoy, which is just as well–the issue is heavy on McCoy anyway.

The important events, at least as how writers Scott and David Tipton show them, all take place in the past. The “Next Generation” doctors, along with all the other doctors, are just around to find McCoy and get his story. None of it’s interesting and the medical condition is less a condition as something they lost the solution for beating. The story is about finding that solution, not creating it or discovering it.

I didn’t have many hopes for Flesh and Stone, but it failed to meet any of those. It’s a lame comic and the David Brothers’ lifeless art doesn’t help it much either.

D 

CREDITS

Writers, Scott Tipton and David Tipton; artists, Joe Sharp and Rob Sharp; colorist, Andrew Elder; letterer, Neil Uyetake; editor, Sarah Gaydos; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Star Trek 35 (July 2014)

Star Trek #35

I’m having a hard time trying to figure out how to talk about this issue of Star Trek. Not because the comic is all of a sudden doing well or good–and not because new artist Tony Shasteen is doing anything special–but because the comic has finally given in to itself.

Here we have the new Star Trek franchise crossing over to the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” franchise and, if one can guess from the cliffhanger, its spin-offs. In other words, Star Trek the comic has become the desperate cash grab it was always meant to be.

This issue has Jean-Luc Picard in a small role. Johnson writes him great. You can hear Patrick Stewart. Similarly, Johnson writes Q great and he also writes the regular cast better than his usual too. He’s finally excited; he’s not updating something old.

Sadly, Shasteen’s photo-referenced, static, nonsense art can’t match the enthusiasm.

B- 

CREDITS

The Q Gambit, Part One; writer, Mike Johnson; artist, Tony Shasteen; letterer, Neil Uyetake; editor, Sarah Gaydos; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Star Trek: The City on the Edge of Forever 1 (June 2014)

Star Trek: Harlan Ellison's The City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay #1

I guess I didn’t realize–or care–how much Harlan Ellison’s original teleplay for the classic “Star Trek” episode The City on the Edge of Forever got changed.

From the first couple pages, it certainly seems like IDW is mounting an ambitious adaptation. Artist J.K. Woodward paints a mean Enterprise and writers Scott Tipton and David Tipton certainly set up the characters well. Not the principal cast, but the supporting characters.

Then the regular crew shows up and the problems start showing. Woodward spends too much time on likenesses, while the Tiptons’ script doesn’t do enough with the characters. As a comic, City on the Edge of Forever is way too dedicated to the source material. Adapting the original script, while an interesting project, is somewhat short sighted. There have been thousands of “Star Trek” stories since… something in them might synthesize well.

The coolest thing so far is Yeoman Rand’s inclusion.

C 

CREDITS

Writers, Harlan Ellison, Scott Tipton and David Tipton; artist, J.K. Woodward; letterer, Neil Uyetake; editor, Chris Ryall; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Star Trek 12 (March 1981)

Star Trek #12

Penciller Luke McDonnell–along with Tom Palmer on inks–does a lot of photo referencing this issue. But he’s only partially successful. Kirk looks spot-on, but Spock doesn’t. And Janice Rand returns this issue; she’s not spot on either. At least she’s not problematic. The work on Spock is downright bad.

The issue references the first episode of the television show, the disappearance of Rand in the first season and then a lot from the movie. There are a few visual cues straight from The Motion Picture.

Pasko’s script moves fast and doesn’t stop for the absurdity speed bumps. There’s a big crisis and the entire thing should have been avoided. Pasko seems to realize it and skips even trying.

He also does a feeble characterization of Rand. She’s an entirely new character from her time on the show; Pasko can’t connect to her.

It’s a well-intentioned misfire.

C 

CREDITS

Eclipse of Reason; writers, Alan Brennert and Martin Pasko; pencillers, Luke McDonnell and Tom Palmer; inker, Palmer; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterer, Joe Rosen; editor, Louise Jones; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Star Trek 34 (June 2014)

Star Trek #34

There's a goofy aspect to this issue because there's got to be, given Johnson's storyline. It's a rip-off of some other things, with a couple odd Jurassic Park homages thrown in, but it's not a terrible story. Johnson gives Kirk a lot to do.

But Corroney's art doesn't help things. He does fine with the flashbacks to the 1970s. The art on that single page flashback is good. But then, once in Star Trek time, he falls apart. He spends too much time referencing photos of the actors playing the cast–which is hilarious for Bones, who Johnson writes wonderfully like the original series–and not enough time coming up with a style.

There's an alien monster involved with the story and Corroney turns it into a goofy purple thing. It's not scary or impressive or anything, it's just goofy.

It's nice to see Johnson trying for an original (if derivative) story.

C 

CREDITS

Lost Apollo, Part Two; writer, Mike Johnson; penciller, Joe Corroney; inkers, Corroney, Victor Moya and Rob Doan; colorist, Sakti Yuwono; letterer, Neil Uyetake; editor, Sarah Gaydos; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Star Trek 11 (February 1981)

Star Trek #11

This issue’s art, from Joe Brozowski and Tom Palmer, is better than the usual for the comic. A lot of emphasis on the faces, lots of photo reference, but also a decent level of general competency. If a little static.

Pasko’s script regurgitates some of the old “Star Trek” episodes without offering anything new. He relies on bringing in a guest star from a character’s past, which hurries along the setup because Pasko can use expository conversation. It’s just not very useful in terms of furthering the characters. Everyone is stuck; it’s unfortunate the series doesn’t take the time to develop any character subplots. Maybe the license forbids it.

It’s a perfectly fine licensed property comic. Pasko’s clearly a “Trek” enthusiast and he does fine remixing a bunch of old episodes into this story. It’s a shame Marvel isn’t doing anything more with the comic, but it’s to be expected.

C 

CREDITS

“…Like a Woman Scorned!”; writer, Martin Pasko; pencillers, Joe Brozowski and Tom Palmer; inker, Palmer; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterers, Joe Rosen and Rick Parker; editor, Louise Jones; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Star Trek 10 (January 1981)

Star Trek #10

Having an interested artist helps Trek quite a bit. Leo Duranona does get Janson on inks and Janson’s been one of the series’s best parts so far.

The story, from Michael Fleisher, has Kirk sick and Spock and McCoy on an away mission. They get involved with the uprising against a warlord while Kirk tries to figure out a way to get down to the planet.

It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but the art’s engaging enough for everything to move along smoothly. Removing Kirk from so much of the story is an odd move from Fleisher, especially since he doesn’t do a lot with Spock and McCoy. They get separated and work to get back together but McCoy’s biggest scenes are with one of the native girls. As for Spock, he just gets to work a rock quarry in his uniform.

It’s competent enough though. The good art helps bunches.

C+ 

CREDITS

Domain of the Dragon God!; writer, Michael Fleisher; pencillers, Leo Duranona and Klaus Janson; inker, Janson; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterer, Rick Parker; editor, Louise Jones; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Star Trek 9 (December 1980)

Star Trek #9

Dave Cockrum must have refused to draw faces and made the inker do it. It might explain why the features on the characters this issue appear to slide around their faces, Frank Springer had to get them all filled in.

Bad art aside, it’s not a bad issue. It’s nearly decent, but Pasko throws in a subplot about Kirk and some ex-girlfriend and then some other big coincidence. The ex-girlfriend is a weak character and Kirk doesn’t look anything like himself anyway, so it’s almost entirely out of place. When Pasko resolves it, he relies in the female character only he never did anything to build her up.

The rest of the issue has a somewhat predictable finish but also has a boring way of unfolding. Pasko can’t make it compelling, maybe because he mocks the danger. He shows one extreme, then a nearly comical one.

Very mixed bag.

C+ 

CREDITS

Experiment in Vengeance!; writer, Martin Pasko; pencillers, Dave Cockrum and Frank Springer; inker, Springer; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Louise Jones; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Star Trek 8 (November 1980)

Star Trek #8

Martin Pasko writes the heck out of this comic book. He’s got a really complicated plot and it makes for a fantastic, lengthy read. Pasko doesn’t just come up with a great reveal for the aliens, he’s also got the really cool subplots going. He runs two subplots through the comic, resolving one and then introducing the next. And those run under this intriguing main plot.

It shows why, for once, a licensed property comic can excel. The comic only works because it’s a Star Trek comic yet Pasko so profoundly transcends the norm in plotting ability, it becomes something singular.

Unfortunately, Ricardo Villamonte is the apparently worst possible inker for Dave Cockrum in the world. Forget the characters looking too photo-referenced, they don’t even look the same between panels. And there’s no depth. Villamonte didn’t put in any shadows. None.

But that Pasko script is a wonderful thing.

A- 

CREDITS

The Expansionist Syndrome; writer, Martin Pasko; pencillers, Dave Cockrum and Ricardo Villamonte; inker, Villamonte; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterer, Ray Burzon; editor, Louise Jones; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Star Trek 7 (October 1980)

Star Trek #7

Tom DeFalco’s Trek script feels a little too generic. He doesn’t bring much personality to the principal cast members, saving it instead for Scotty and Uhura. She gives him a very clear bicep squeeze for support. It’s interesting.

But Kirk just occasionally yells when he’s stressed out and Bones makes a quip or two at Spock’s expense. DeFalco doesn’t write Spock well. It’s probably hard to write the character after Star Trek: The Motion Picture as the character just went under a major change. DeFalco tries with it and does not succeed.

Still, Michael Netzer does a great job on the pencils. He does lots of stuff with panel layout and with perspective in space. The Enterprise shooting while rotated and so on. The art is very imaginative. And Janson inks it beautifully. All the art’s good, some is better.

DeFalco moves the issue well too; it’s just got problems.

B- 

CREDITS

Tomorrow or Yesterday; writer, Tom DeFalco; penciller, Michael Netzer; inker, Klaus Janson; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterer, Ray Burzon; editor, Louise Jones; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Star Trek 6 (September 1980)

Star Trek #6

Barr gives the Enterprise crew a mystery to solve. Unfortunately, it’s almost the same mystery as one of the television episodes. It’s like Barr took out one part just to make it fit better in a comic.

There’s an almost amusing scene for Sulu and Chekhov–the issue otherwise centers around the big three. Uhura never gets a scene. But it might be a more accurate representation of the television show. Barr clearly knows how to structure the issue like the show. That feat sometimes is more impressive than what’s going on in the story.

Cockrum and Janson are really on the ball. Their faces have a lot more depth and have similar expressions to the source actors. Overall, the art just feels less rushed.

I’m still waiting for a lengthy subplot or some sign of character developments. Even for a licensed property, Star Trek feels too restrained, practically stifled.

B- 

CREDITS

The Enterprise Murder Case!; writer, Mike W. Barr; pencillers, Dave Cockrum and Klaus Janson; inker, Janson; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterer, Rick Parker; editor, Louise Jones; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Star Trek 33 (May 2014)

Star Trek #33

I read this entire issue without paying attention to the story arc title on the cover. I'm glad I ignored it.

Here's the problem–the art. I wonder how Joe Corroney's art would be if he didn't have to mess around with all the actors' faces. He doesn't do them well, either, so there's no real point to it. The expressions are just terrible because the mouths can't move too much or it won't look like whatever photo he was referencing.

Bad, bad choice. On IDW's part, not on Corroney's.

Still, it's a fun issue. Johnson just writes a little episode where the crew is excited to get off the ship. It's got elements of "This Side of Paradise," some actual personality from Kirk, an ill-advised Return of the Jedi nod. In short, it's exactly what a Star Trek comic should be.

Except for the art, which is just unforgivably misguided.

B- 

CREDITS

Lost Apollo, Part One; writer, Mike Johnson; penciller, Joe Corroney; inkers, Corroney, Victor Moya and Rob Doan; colorist, John Rauch; letterer, Neil Uyetake; editor, Sarah Gaydos; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Star Trek 5 (August 1980)

Star Trek #5

This issue's better than the last, with Spock kidnapped by Klingons and Kirk trying to figure out how to resolve the situations. No Dracula appearance–maybe Mike W. Barr didn't like that idea either (or maybe Wolfman always insisted)–but there are still a bunch of dumb monsters showing up.

Barr has the formula down for a "Star Trek" story, complete with Spock and Bones bickering at the end, but he doesn't seem to have the best ideas for the plot. Though less silly than the previous issue, there's still no good reason for these earth nightmare monsters in space. Barr explains it fine, he's just explaining the reasoning behind a bad story.

Also distressing is his lack of story for the characters. Spock gets a bunch of time to himself and Barr writes those scenes well, but Kirk doesn't make any impression. The balance needs work.

A lot needs work.

C+ 

CREDITS

The Haunting of the Enterprise!; writer, Mike W. Barr; penciller, Dave Cockrum; inker, Klaus Janson; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterer, John Costanza; editors, Denny O’Neil and Louise Jones; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Star Trek 4 (July 1980)

Star Trek #4

With the limitless possibilities of a comic book, Wolfman goes instead with the Enterprise encountering some kind of haunted house in space. It’s bewildering, but somehow appropriate–it certainly feels like an episode out of the television show, what with the budget and everything.

The issue itself doesn’t leave much impression. Cockrum and Janson’s art is decent; their renditions of the crew, save Kirk, often have problems. They can’t do age well. It’s too much. They need to hint at it sometimes, but go too far.

The issue’s best scenes are early, before the goofiness starts. Wolfman writes an interesting couple guest stars, though Cockrum bases one of them too much on the monster from Alien.

I had hoped it would be a done in one; the cliffhanger promises a different type of issue as a followup. Assuming there are no more Dracula cameos, it should be an improvement.

C+ 

CREDITS

The Haunting of Thallus!; writer and editor, Marv Wolfman; penciller, Dave Cockrum; inker, Klaus Janson; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterer, Jim Novak; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Star Trek 32 (April 2014)

Star Trek #32

Lots of drama this issue. There’s some comedy too, from McCoy and Scotty, but there’s also running around.

Last issue the Enterprise became sentient and grew itself a humanoid body. This issue… well, let’s see, Johnson seems to rip off sections from Star Trek: The Motion Picture and maybe one of the “Next Generation” movie. Not doing connections to them or tie-ins, just ripping off details. The comic’s so disconnected, it doesn’t matter much.

Johnson refuses the let Kirk be the main character and his focus on the events surrounding this android make the issue read too fast. Johnson is cutting from scene to scene without any room for the reader to breath or enjoy.

Farjar’s art is some of his best on the series. Well, some of it. Some of it is really lame, but some of it isn’t bad.

Star Trek remains a series of unfulfilled potential.

C 

CREDITS

I, Enterprise, Part Two; writer, Mike Johnson; penciller, Erfan Fajar; inkers, Fajar and Yulian Ardhi; colorists, Sakti Yuwono and Ifansyah Noor; letterer, Neil Uyetake; editor, Sarah Gaydos; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Star Trek 3 (June 1980)

Star Trek #3

Unfortunately, the final issue of Wolfman and Cockrum's Star Trek: The Motion Picture compounds all the problems they had in the second issue. While they're skilled at densely packing scenes with characters and dialogue, Wolfman apparently can't cut back on the events enough to give the issue a good flow.

He really needs another one, especially considering how little science fiction spectacular Cockrum gets to illustrate. Most of the really visual space scenes are restricted to a small panel, something quick before all the talking starts again.

Wolfman does make some big changes to the movie to streamline the story. Some of it is shifting the dialogue around, but there's also a part where he throws Kirk into a scene where he not just isn't in during the movie, but doesn't serve any purpose. It's like William Shatner's ego influenced the comics adaptation.

It's not terrible, but it started stronger.

C 

CREDITS

Evolutions; writer and editor, Marv Wolfman; penciller, Dave Cockrum; inker, Klaus Janson; colorist, Marie Severin; letterer, John Costanza; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Star Trek 2 (May 1980)

Star Trek #2

There’s a really impressive scene with a lots of dialogue and Cockrum having to fit something around seven people into a small panel. Cockrum and Wolfman occasionally do some masterful adaptation in this issue. It’s nice enough to make up for the bad moments.

The worst moment–there are a handful of shaky ones–has to be when Spock arrives. Wolfman deviates from the movie (perhaps he had a different version of the script) and neither he nor Cockrum give Kirk or McCoy any time. They come off as jerks, with McCoy appearing downright mean-spirited.

Also unfortunate is Cockrum’s handling of the space stuff. There’s the giant cloud in space and every shot is from the rear of the Enterprise. Maybe it was just an easier way to draw it.

The aforementioned impressive scene comes towards the end, which sends the issue out on a high note, but there are clearly problems.

B- 

CREDITS

V’ger; writer and editor, Marv Wolfman; penciller, Dave Cockrum; inker, Klaus Janson; colorist, Marie Severin; letterer, John Costanza; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Star Trek 1 (April 1980)

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It’s going to be difficult to talk about this one. Not because there’s anything particularly wrong with this first issue of Marvel’s adaptation of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In fact, there might not be anything wrong with it at all. I suppose the art could be better, but Dave Cockrum and Klaus Janson do all right. Cockrum loves doing some of the space panels.

Then there’s how they draw William Shatner. As opposed to drawing him like it’s really the Kirk of the movie, they draw him more like the Kirk of the TV show. It’s kind of cool.

This issue came out some time after the movie came out and Marv Wolfman’s script almost exclusively uses dialogue from the film itself. It plays less like a promotional material and more like something for a movie fan to take home since sell-through VHS wasn’t around yet.

It’s perfectly fine.

B 

CREDITS

Star Trek: The Motion Picture; writer and editor, Marv Wolfman; penciller, Dave Cockrum; inker, Klaus Janson; colorist, Marie Severin; letterer, John Costanza; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Star Trek 31 (March 2014)

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This issue feels very much like a Star Wars approach to Trek. Not storytelling, but franchise stuff. Apparently there's a new character in the Into Darkness movie who has no memorable lines and isn't a familiar actor, but he's got an amazing story and the comic gets to reveal it.

It feels like when you only knew a Return of the Jedi character's story because of the fan club and action figure exclusives.

This new character is a living computer, which will undoubtedly some day make the Abrams continuity Data feel very not special. The issue opens with Johnson writing from his perspective, then moves into a flashback to explain things.

The flashback stuff isn't bad until it becomes clear where the story's going. For about five pages, the comic just feels like a decent "Star Trek" episode.

And I think Fajar's art has improved a little. A little helps.

C 

CREDITS

I, Enterprise, Part One; writer, Mike Johnson; artist, Erfan Fajar; colorists, Ifansyah Noor and Sakti Yuwono; letterer, Robbie Robbins; editor, Sarah Gaydos; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Star Trek 30 (February 2014)

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Besides Liang’s art problems–she can’t make the photo-referencing look good and the female McCoy is a disaster–and an illogical cameo, this issue of Star Trek has got to be the best in the series so far.

Johnson’s got a lot of easy jokes, except they’re still honest jokes, so he can get away with all of them. He’s also unconcerned with written–though visual ones get through–nods to the original series. The characters, confronted with their gender opposites, are fully defined. I only wish it were the start of an arc where Johnson traded Chekhov for her female counterpart. She’s less annoying.

A lot of the art is fine. Liang still does well with most of the female characters (except regular Uhura, of course) and she has positive, playful vibe to her work.

Johnson writes a bunch of good scenes.

The issue’s a very successful outing.

B+ 

CREDITS

Parallel Lives, Part Two; writer, Mike Johnson; artist, Yasmin Liang; colorist, Zac Atkinson; letterer, Gilberto Lazcano; editor, Sarah Gaydos; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Star Trek 29 (January 2014)

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All it takes for a great Star Trek is a gimmick. And I don’t want to give away the gimmick, so it’ll be a little difficult to talk about. The gimmick alone makes for a fun comic, but somehow Johnson manages to find all these great insights into the characters through the gimmick.

Some of there insights are slight and for fun, but he’s got one profound one. Loved it. Maybe even teared up a little.

Johnson gets to the story at the end and it’s not bad–running with this gimmick actually would be a better series than the regular one–but it’s disappointing it’s ending soon.

The art helps a lot. Until the likenesses become important, Yasmin Liang’s art is rather strong. It’s somewhat cartoonish, but that tone doesn’t hurt Johnson’s script at all. Liang also pays attention to expressions, which is important.

It’s a shockingly good issue.

B+ 

CREDITS

Parallel Lives, Part One; writer, Mike Johnson; artist, Yasmin Liang; colorist, Zac Atkinson; letterer, Gilberto Lazcano; editor, Sarah Gaydos; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Star Trek 28 (December 2013)

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A couple fast observations about Star Trek, in general. First off, Johnson has no confidence writing Kirk. A lot of the other characters have a “voice,” except maybe Chekhov who Johnson just uses absurd spellings to show the Russian accent, but at least Spock and McCoy feel like characters. Johnson’s lost his handle on Kirk. He just spouts off when he needs to profound; also, Johnson’s playing him way too reliable. Spock’s the rebel here.

Second… that damn Fajar art. It’s all photo-referenced for the people, then weak space battles between ships with terrible designs. Maybe it’s just the new all Enterprise. It’s made to be visual, not functional (even as a model). Maybe it doesn’t translate. But the static people? Fajar needs to liven things up. Or IDW just needs to get a regular comic book artist.

Still, it’s inoffensive if talky. It’s hollow licensed malarky after all.

C 

CREDITS

The Khitomer Conflict, Part Four; writer, Mike Johnson; artist, Erfan Fajar; colorist, Beny Maulana; letterer, Gilberto Lazcano; editor, Sarah Gaydos; publisher, IDW Publishing.

The Boys 72 (November 2012)

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And what does Ennis do for the finish? Pretty much exactly what I figured he’d do.

There’s nothing really new to it, except maybe some gesture of humanity from the corporate jerk, which makes one wonder why Ennis bothered. Darick Robertson comes back (with assists from Richard P. Clark). It makes sense, since Robertson created the series with Ennis, only Russ Braun’s been doing the book for ages….

Having Robertson back doesn’t remind of the good times. For better or worse, Ennis broke the comic to the point nothing could fix it. The new and improved Hughie is a laughable creation. I don’t think Ennis could get one natural scene out of him–first thing, he tries (and fails) to show the old Hughie shining through.

After not even faking caring for dozens of issues, Ennis attempts to put on a sincere face. It doesn’t work… but could be worse.

CREDITS

You Found Me; writer, Garth Ennis; artists, Darick Robertson and Richard P. Clark; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Boys 71 (October 2012)

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For the last regular issue–there’s one more, but this one ends the plot line of the the final arc at least–Ennis does rather well. He doesn’t recover the series, however. He turns in almost a standalone. One wouldn’t have to read the previous thirty or forty issues to still get a good experience.

One definitely wouldn’t have to read all the ancillary series, even though Ennis directly refers to many of them.

It’s a talking heads issue, a return to the good old days of Hughie and Butcher shooting the shit. And this time, Braun does really well with the scenery.

Unfortunately, a lot of the dialogue has to do with the silly stuff Ennis was done with The Boys. It reminds the reader the characters were deeper without Ennis trying too hard than when he pushes too hard.

It doesn’t right the course, but it’s definitely good.

CREDITS

The Bloody Doors Off, Conclusion; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Russ Braun; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

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