I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of licensed comic adaptations. Too often, they come off as tired retreads of source stories, reading like bad fan-fiction as opposed to faithful continuations of beloved characters and themes. Continuing with this theme of honesty, I’ll confess to being an immense Star Trek fan. I once used my detailed knowledge of the various starships Enterprise to defeat a rather squirrely solution to an education resolution in a high school debate league, and positively bubbled over with glee at the successful relaunch of the franchise under JJ Abrams.
So, it was with great skepticism that I approached IDW’s latest offering: Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness.
The title is being billed as a direct lead-in to the upcoming film Into Darkness, so it seemed worth investing some time in. IDW has, for the last year, been publishing a series set in the new cinematic universe, but it never really captured my interest, as the stories seemed rather generic and blase.
Countdown, on the other hand, feels like a completely organic bridge between the last film and the new one. The characters feel very much as they did when we left them, and the opening pages do a fine job of portraying the disparate emotional struggles facing Kirk and Spock. These panels, and the conflicts they depict, help to remind the audience that these characters are still scarred by the events of the first film. Whether it’s Spock’s uncertainty in the wake of losing his mother and his planet, or Kirk’s as he struggles with the isolation of command, these seem like real people facing real problems.
Mike Johnson was responsible for scripting the book, though producer Roberto Orci is credited on the story along with him. Orci’s involvement helps to explain the consistency with which the characters match up to their cinematic counterparts. The dialogue flows freely, and it is possible to hear all the characters’ lines in the voices of their respective actors without anything seeming forced or unnatural.
The art helps tremendously with this task of characterization. David Messina’s line work is clean, simple, and very expressive. The shading and coloring are what really shine here, however. The team of Marina Castelvetro and Claudia Scarletgothica do an amazing job of using the depth they create to add a layer of subtlety to characters’ faces, making them seem truly human (even Spock).
Finally, in a great nod to long-time fans, the last page reveals a character whose appearance is a delightful surprise. I won’t spoil it here, but it should be exciting to see how this character is utilized in this changed universe.
Countdown to Darkness is incredibly solid. Between art, dialogue, and pacing, there is not a weak spot to be found. Whether you’re a classic Star Trek fan or a neophyte who came to the franchise with the latest film, this title is everything you could want from a companion comic. This is how you do licensed comics right.