Star Trek: Countdown
Written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman and Mike Johnson & Tim Jones
Illustrated by David Messina & Giovanna Niro
If you haven’t seen Star Trek you probably don’t want to read this review. If you have seen Star Trek you probably don’t want to read this comic book.
Star Trek: Countdown‘s mission statement is to chronicle the origin of Nero, the new film’s villain. Old favorites from Star Trek: The Next Generation rear their increasingly wrinkled and gray-speckled heads, nerds are treated to a continuity reach-a-round that connects the two timelines, and not a single bit of it matters.
I don’t mean “matters” as in “is canonical” either. I mean “matters” as in “has the slightest artistic or entertainment value.”
In the film Nero, as portrayed by Eric Bana, moves with an abrupt physicality and is possessed with a thuggish insolence. He’s upset about the destruction of his home planet and the death of everyone he knows and loves. He’s out to make the universe suffer. His character arc is precisely that deep. Star Trek didn’t need anything more from its villain this go ’round; the larger concern was to re-establish the main characters.
The problem with Star Trek: Countdown is that Nero is no more clearly defined to me now than he was before I read this comic. I don’t know why his crew- a group of miners not bound by any kind of military discipline- is so loyal to him. Nero has a wife and unborn child. He loves them, obviously. What I didn’t gain was any insight into why Nero went batshit insane after the destruction of Romulus. Every surviving Romulan suffered the exact same tragedy as him. What sets Nero apart? I still have no idea. The only thing worse than a needless story is not bothering to actually tell the needless story you set out to tell!
The proceedings don’t become any more worthwhile when characters from The Next Generation are added into the mix. I know the appearances of Data, Picard, Worf, and La Forge are meant to push my nostalgia buttons. These are buttons that are easily pushed, I assure you. Yet I just don’t give a damn. As written these characters are so generic that they could be anyone. Some of the ranks are different to give the illusion of change but The Next Generation was never all that great with change. Let’s examine Data. He finally gets emotions in First Contact, thus experiencing the first significant growth in his character for years. So of course in the next movie, Insurrection, he “left his emotion chip at home” (FUCKING LITERALLY- I am not making this up- that is how lazy the writing was!) so he could rehash the same old storyline of trying to understand humanity. Then came Nemesis, which was obsessed with duality (particularly with becoming the double of The Wrath of Khan.) Picard had a clone, Data had a mentally challenged brother. Remember how stupid it was that Data died in Nemesis and B4 (FUCKING LITERALLY- I am not making this up- that was the name of the android brother!) was just hanging out waiting for a low rent katra-transference ceremony? Well in Star Trek: Countdown that made-to-order resurrection has occurred and now Data is captain of the Enterprise. Hooray, I guess?
Picard is the Federation ambassador to Vulcan. He is boring and adds nothing to the story. He might as well be Generic Federation Official #1. Worf is now a general in the Klingon fleet, happily continuing the work that the post-First Contact movies began by undoing all the progress that Deep Space 9 made with his character. Remember how Worf was the only non-annoying (and then only sometimes) Klingon? Well not anymore! He’s just like all the others! Honor! Fighting! War! Honor!
Geordi La Forge fares a little better in his brief cameo. His dialogue actually has the goofy, Reading Rainbow optimism and bounciness that Levar Burton brought to the role. Unfortunately this is just as annoying in print as it is on screen.
Spock is the only character who is at all compelling. Perhaps it’s because Leonard Nimoy’s performance in Star Trek was so good that it retroactively transferred from the film to the page. Perhaps it’s just because I’m desperate to like anything about this comic. Countdown portrays Spock as a creature of dignity and tragedy. Never quite at ease on Earth or Vulcan, he chooses Romulus as his third home. He toils for years to broker and maintain peace between the Vulcans and Romulans and just when he has gained a measure of acceptance and success there’s the whole matter of the universe-destroying supernova to tend to. Spock’s journey has a sense of finality and inevitability. It’s enviable, really. He gets to fly right out of this book and into an awesome movie.
Let me swim out of this kiddie pool of bile I’ve created to compliment artist Messina and colorist Niro. Their depictions of familiar and non-familiar characters, ships, and planets are spot on. They clearly poured a lot of effort into Countdown; it’s a shame the story let them down so much.
Star Trek: Countdown is concerned with filling in details that didn’t really need to be filled in- the ship that Spock flies is called the Jellyfish and was built by Geordi La Forge! Nero’s tattoos are a Romulan grieving tradition! The big spear the Nero carries is some kind of Romulan Senate badge of office (this is typical Trek bullshit- who the hell actually carries a badge of office around? William Adama’s badges of office? A glass of booze and a slow, slow clapping of the hands.)
If only these little details were set against a more engaging tapestry…
If only the story was more concerned with being good than being in continuity…
If only characters were actually used and developed instead of being shuffled on stage to hit their marks and wait for applause…
If only Star Trek: Countdown mattered.