Thursday, September 07, 2006

Star Trek: The Next Generation #39

Star Trek: The Next Generation #39, October 1992, DC Comics
writer: Michael Jan Friedman
artists: Peter Krause, Pablo Marcos, Tom McCraw
letterer: Bob Pinaha
co-editors: Kim Yale & Alan Gold

Space. The final frontier.

I became a "Trekkie" as a 'tween, that awkward stage of life between childhood and adolescence. Star Trek makes sense to 'tweens. The general themes of exploration and cross-species communication, not to mention the melodramatic dialogue delivered through cookie cut characterizations, appeals to the junior high set. Believe me. Like many other geeks-in-training, I envied Data and his inability to feel. The clustered mind of an eleven-year-old is not a pretty place, and at the time I would have much preferred something easier to live with, like a positronic net. Call me old-fashioned.

I followed The Next Generation from its fourth season, catching reruns of past episodes at least five times a week, until I was completely caught up. You can understand how Trek, in its abbreviated form, fosters a comics mentality; the series clung tenaciously to its continuity, and the characters grew in small steps, with nothing to show for the space between episodes. Comics are the same way; although characters seem to age, we only catch 22-page glimpses into their lives, presumably a day's worth of events in the real-time span of an entire month. Does a year in the Marvel Universe consist of just twelve or so days? Writers depend on the readers' ability to suspend their belief in time as much as we believe a man can't fly. Like the heroes themselves, we roll with the punches. That's where this issue comes in.

With a television series, a comic book like this can fill in the gaps. These adventures take place between the episodes, and although we'd never see the ramification from any given issue played on the small screen -- that is, continuity never existed between the TV show and the comic -- the issue of time becomes a more linear thing to understand. What happens on the Enterprise when it's not on TV? Read the comics. More television shows would benefit from such embellishments, if only to ground their characters, but that's for another time.

In ST:TNG #39, the Enterprise finds an abandoned moon-sized (and shaped) ship adrift in space. Data, La Forge, and Worf go on an away team to check it out, but before they can return, enemy alien ships rush the Enterprise, and . . . well, the tale is "to be continued." Plot-wise, that's it. Pretty simple. Writer Michael Jan Friedman eats up a lot of the issue with characterization and subplot, including the Enterprise billiards tournament starring Chief O'Brien and an interrupted conversation between Data and Ensign Roe (sp?). The secondary characters really shine here, as the Enterprise's "big seven" (heh) spend more time with the stellar crisis at hand. As a fan, I liked the seemingly boring interplay, but a new reader would wonder, where's the Kirk-esque alien fist fights? The shallow love affairs with green chicks? As fan in this issue's letter column point out, the next generation was a much more laid back bunch. The comparisons are to be expected, but not well founded.

The art. Every panel is a carnival caricature of the actors that portray these characters. They aren't without expression; in fact, the artists often over emphasis bodily gestures to distract from the picturesque facial renderings. In one scene, Dr. Crusher is answering Commander Riker's summons to the bridge, but her body looks like she's delivering a Shakespearean silioquy! Another roll with the punches moment, I guess.

Well, I'm amused to find that a comic book effectively about the future conjures thoughts of the effects of time in comicdom altogether. Just goes to show that no cosmic stone was left unturned by the U.S.S. Enterprise. As for my emotional state, it's under control. I relate less with Data than I do with Worf, now, the Klingon that embraces his human side to remain with his Starfleet friends. Then again, if I used that analogy anywhere else, I'd feel more alien, I'm sure. Best keep those comments to these proverbial captains' logs.

Blogger and LiveJournal owe Star Trek a lot of thanks for that one!

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