Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Riker's eyes are huge!

By all accounts, I should have no energy to walk, let alone finally get back to my blog. I know I have been whining a lot, but between moving to a new apartment, a deadbeat landlord that won't return our security deposit, a wedding looming in less than a month, and craziness at work, I just haven't had the time to read or write about my precious comics. Now you may ask what has sparked my return to this here blog? Well, I'll tell you. I have been reinvigorated by a true work of art: Star Trek. I have been a Trekkie since I was a little kid. (Yes, I have a Starfleet uniform. No, I would not wear it if I were called to be a juror. True Trekkies will get that.) One of my fondest memories of my childhood is spending Thursday nights with my dad watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. That show turned me into the nerd that I am today. Now in 2009, we have the eleventh movie in the Star Trek franchise and it left me speechless. I have seen it twice now and the haters can all keep their opinions to themselves because they have given us a practically perfect film and a clean slate to start creating some new amazing stories.

Of course, Star Trek was so good and had me so energized that I went through my longboxes and started pulling Trek books left and right. I came up with a pretty wide assortment that spanned both the gamut of Trek series and many of the major comic book companies. You may not be aware that the Star Trek franchise jumped from publisher to publisher many times over the years. Here's the quick timeline: Gold Key - DC - Malibu - Marvel - Wildstorm - IDW.
The weird thing about all the Star Trek books I have read recently is that the book that really grabbed my attention the most isn't even from any of these publishers. It is Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Manga Boukenshin. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that this is a new book that was just released. I am bending the rules and talking about it because I did get it on sale and it DEFINITELY fits into the "oddities" category. I have never read manga before, but as soon as I saw this book solicited and saw the crazy preview pages, I knew that I had to get my hands on a copy. The book consisted of four separate stories of the crew of the USS Enterprise. Overall, I enjoyed reading this just based on the fact that I am seeing these characters artistically interpreted in a totally new way.

In the first story, "Changeling" written by David Gerrold (writer of the Original Series episode "Trouble With Tribbles") and drawn by E. J. Su, the crew investigate the "Labyrinth of Wisdom" and Wesley keeps transforming into different people. Honestly, this was the kind of story I expected to read. It seems stereotypically manga to me with magic and a crazy premise. The ending is mildly predictable, but it was still fun to read. This story also had the first of two majorly awkward moments of the book. Wesley transforms into a female Betazoid much like Counselor Troi. That alone is awkward, but when Riker comes onto Wesley, I was particularly skeeved out. Ah manga, you don't disappoint with strange sexual moments.

The second story, "Sensation," was very reminiscent of a few episodes of the TV show. Something is affecting the crew and only Troi can sense it. We've all seen it before, so the story really didn't bring anything new to the table. The art on the other hand; drawn by Chrissy Delk, was very interesting and kept my attention. Delk really knows how to draw a close-up that invokes a lot of emotion out of the character's faces. Obviously, this talent comes in handy when your story revolves around a character that reads people emotions. I would really like to see some more of Chrissy Delk's work. (Here is a link to her sketch blog. She definitely knows how to draw!)

And now the book took a bit of a dive in my opinion. In the third story, "The Picardian Knot" by Christine Boylan and Don Hudson, we see the after effects of Picard's mindmeld with Sarek from the episode "Sarek." Both the story and the art style fell flat for me. The story revolves around Picard and his inability to access his emotions as the crew tries to help him. I had never really seen art like this before either. Every page seems to be inked with a very fine tip which seems to deprieve the art from having definition. Also, the second extremely awkward moment came in this story when Picard, Data, and Troi talk to Guinan (the ship's wise bartender played on the show by Whoopi Goldberg). Guinan is in eleven panels and not one of them show her completely. It is so absurd and the only reasoning I can think of is that the artist did not know how to draw Whoopi Goldberg so he put her in shadow, faced her in the other direction with her back to the audience, and even cut her face off by the top or bottom of the panel. How weird!

Lastly, "Loyalty" by F. J. DeSanto and Bettina Kurkowski was another story that tied directly into a TNG episode, namely the perrenial favorite "Best of Both Worlds." We see Riker called by the Starfleet admiralty to defend Picard's ability to command after his assimilation by the Borg. This was no doubt the best story in the book. The story was an interesting wrinkle added to the established Trek canon and character development was spot on. The art was gorgeous as well. (Comixology has some preview pages from this story if you are interested.) Though the panels do have a manga feel to them, I would want to see more Next Gen stories drawn by Kurkowski. "Loyalty" by itself made this book worth the cover price.

All in all, I think I had a fairly painless jaunt into the world of manga. I don't think I will be picking up much more any time soon, but as a Trekkie, I am glad I picked up Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Manga Boukenshin.

Just a note: I recently found that all of the Star Trek comics from 1967 - 2002 have been collected on DVD-ROM. The best part is that Amazon is selling it here for only $27.99! Every Trekkie out there should jump on this.

1 comment:

Rick Hansen said...

I got burned a while back by a really lame TNG comic series, but these preview pages look pretty good. The cover you scanned is absolutely gorgeous! I wish I could get a look at this book, but maybe I'll find a copy at WCCC this year.