This review contains SPOILERS
Written by: Mike Johnson / pencilled by: Erfan Fajar
What’s this issue about?
“The Khitomer Conflict” Part 1 of 4: the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise prepare to embark on their five year mission of deep space exploration but soon find themselves facing a renewed threat from the Klingon Empire…
IDW Publishing’s ongoing Star Trek series continues to chart new territory (and all the better for it) in the aftermath of Star Trek Into Darkness and this month’s 25th issue (unfortunately no expanded page count like those special “anniversary” editions once common in the medium) launches another original storyline which builds upon the title’s “After Darkness” three-parter from issues 21-23.
“The Khitomer Conflict” opens with a Romulan attack on the newly founded Klingon colony on the planet Khitomer (an incident from Star Trek canon that established fans will no doubt be fully aware of) before cutting to the Enterprise docked at a deep space station where the crew are making final preparations to head out into the unknown. It’s here that we’re introduced to new crewmember Yuki…Sulu, much to the dismay of the Enterprise helmsman of the same surname. It’s a fun little sequence (especially since Chekov is rather taken with Sulu’s younger sister) that provides some levity before the proverbial storm gathers.
Of course it isn’t long until Kirk and his crew find themselves embroiled in the Klingon’s quest for vengeance against the Romulan aggressors, a dishonourable act that is complicated by the fact that the nefarious Section 31 have provided the Romulans with the very weapons used to carry out their attack. With the Enterprise responding to a Klingon ‘distress’ call there’s a steady build up to a tense cliffhanger with Kirk a prisoner of the Klingon Commander, Kor (who was played by John Colicos onscreen in the ‘prime’ Star Trek universe).
Long-serving writer Mike Johnson delivers another decent script, deftly balancing those lighter moments between the Enterprise ‘family’ (he certainly knows the universe and nails the character voices perfectly, you can quite clearly imagine Chris Pine or Zachary Quinto delivering the dialogue) with the darker more sinister elements of the story as well as both the space and planet bound action scenes.
For me, the weakest link really is Fajar’s art which I didn’t really take to during the “After Darkness” storyline. Sure, the character likenesses are generally fine (the odd facial expression aside) and I did like the overall design of the Romulans (sporting Nero-like facial markings and uniforms not unlike those seen in Star Trek Nemesis) and the cover is good, but I’m really not a huge fan of the style (maybe it’s the colouring). I’m certainly no expert but I’ve read enough comics to know what I like and what I’m not so fussed about and I much prefer Claudia Balboni’s art from last month’s standalone issue which was more reminiscent of the clean, sharp lines of Stephen Molnar’s detailed pencils (I hope he returns to the title someday).
At least the story holds up well and IDW’s Star Trek title has usually been at its best when telling original stories, the standalone character back stories featured in issues 17-20 where generally excellent (with McCoy’s story in #17 the highlight) and it’s good to see that now Star Trek Into Darkness has been and gone the series can continue to move beyond those patchy original Star Trek episode adaptations of earlier issues (although I’m not totally averse to the occasional one).
The bottom line: The opening chapter of “The Khitomer Conflict” is a promising start to what could potentially be the best story arc IDW’s Star Trek has had to offer. Although the artwork may not be to everyone’s liking the writing is top notch and faithful to the characters and lore of Star Trek.
Star Trek #25 is out now in print and digital formats from IDW Publishing.