Star Trek: Discovery #1
The Light of Kahless
Being nearly the only writer here at Word of the Nerd who likes Star Trek: Discovery, I alone was the perfect (and only) choice to review IDW’s first issue of the series. The project has been covered in a level of secrecy by not revealing the covers until the day before the book’s release. Having the opportunity to see them early, I can tell you that if you’re a Star Trek fan or a fan of the show, you won’t be disappointed.
This first issue was a bit of a surprise because it doesn’t involve the crew of anything to do with the Starfleet side of Star Trek: Discovery. It follows the Klingons, particularly the early life and rise of T’Kuvma. Only seen in the series’ first two episodes, the events surrounding T’Kuvma have shaped the course and lives of nearly everyone on the show. T’Kuvma could see the division among the Klingon people and sought to unite them through the teachings of Kahless, the Klingon First Emperor. This precipitated the war with the Federation and, after his death at the hands of a Starfleet officer, polarized the factions of the Klingon Empire.
Growing up Klingon
We know very little about T’Kuvma other than what we’ve seen on the show. What we do know is that he restored the honor of his house by restoring the ship once belonging to his father, and started a movement based on the ideals of Kahless. What we find out in this first issue of Star Trek: Discovery is that T’Kuvma wasn’t the mastermind of the grand plan to restore his house. We see him as a boy on Qo’noS (the Klingon homeworld) and the feeble holdings of his family due to costly debts and his uncle’s squandering. T’Kuvma is often hunted by his cousins for sport and only finds solace in the company of his older sister. What follows leads him on a path that no Klingon since Kahless has walked, and shapes the rest of his life.
Longtime Star Trek writer Mike Johnson and Kirsten Beyer do an outstanding job with this premiere issue. This was a remarkable collaboration. T’Kuvma was by far one of the most interesting new characters to come out of Star Trek: Discovery and it’s nice to see that his death didn’t exclude him from further development. Personally, I’ve been a fan of Johnson’s work on IDW’s Star Trek books. As usual, he is able to capture the essence of the characters. His and Beyer’s ability to write a thought-provoking story while still maintaining the elements that make them Trek-worthy is commendable. Johnson understands Star Trek and its characters and it shows in every issue he writes. His work on IDW’s Star Trek books should set a standard for any writers who succeed him.
Kirsten Beyer writes for the Star Trek: Discovery TV series and is an accomplished Trek novel writer. You couldn’t ask for a better team-up to write this series. She is part of the staff writing team and has credits for the first nine episodes of the show so far. Beyer has also authored ten novels in the Star Trek: Voyager series, so she has well represented the Star Trek universe. It will be interesting to see how her insights and experience on Discovery‘s television voyages will play out in the pages of this comic.
If one were to find any flaws in this issue, it would have to be in the art. However, it is not the fault of artist Tony Shasteen. The designers of Star Trek: Discovery dishonored the Klingons as a whole. The darker skin tones of most Klingons make it difficult to distinguish details and features of individuals. The racial insult used in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, “they all look alike”, certainly applies here. The lack of hair and forehead ridges synonymous with the Klingons of old cause fans like myself to nearly cringe when comparing the two.
The newly-redesigned Klingon technology is also difficult to accept, and even more difficult to flesh out artistically. Everything has a deformed turtle-shell look to it which makes it difficult to believe them to be any more than props from a poorly-made sci-fi movie. Again, this is no fault of Tony Shasteen, who certainly does well with what he has been given. The dark skin tones of the Klingons, against an even darker background, muddle shapes, and details are lost.
If you’re a Star Trek: Discovery “denier”, then you’ll probably have a lot of things to criticize in this issue. If you’re a Star Trek: Discovery fan, the story alone is worth reading. The story taking place outside of the regular continuity of the show may be hard for readers to grasp, but it hardly seems to matter if you can let go of prior prejudices and just enjoy the book. This is simply good reading, a good Trek-style story and the beginning of something I plan to stick with for a while. Maybe in time, I will grow to like or at least tolerate the look of these Klingons.
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