Saturday, June 14, 2008

Looking at IDW

In its steady and unspectacular way, producing a few monthly miniseries titles in regular comic format, IDW has now published more individual comics than Wildstorm, the last holder of the Trek comics licence. No hardcovers, no perfect-bound extra-length stories, just a handful of issues of a handful of titles.

What's more, IDW's line of comics has improved from its shaky beginnings (The Space Between and Year Four). It's also experimenting more. The Alien Spotlight stories ranged all over the map, in terms of the presence (or lack thereof) of major characters from the TV series and in terms of how the creative teams approached the series concept. Some merely featured the cover aliens as guest stars; others made them more pivotal to the stories being told. Add the fact that we're finally getting a Gary Seven series, and DC Fontana's writing TOS again, and we're getting a better mix of standalone and continuing stories... well, things are looking good.

Four of IDW's Trek miniseries so far have been collected in trade paperback. The Next Generation series The Space Between and the first original series IDW title, Year Four (volume one), are skippable. But Klingons: Blood Will Tell and Alien Spotlight are both rewarding and entertaining reads for Trek fiction fans. The former revisits a few classic encounters with the Klingons from the latter's perspective; each issue has a standalone flashback story, but there's also a framing story that continues from issue to issue. Alien Spotlight is a collection of standalone stories dealing with various iconic Trek alien species, set in different eras and with some interesting choices in guest stars (two Pike stories! Bring on a new Pike series!).

It's premature to say this now, but I'll go out on a limb... the series that haven't been collected yet will all be worthwhile buys for Trek fiction fans who don't generally buy comics. Intelligence Gathering is a solid TV-era TNG story that builds nicely and has a strong climax; New Frontier is carrying PAD's story forward from the last novel; Year Four: The Enterprise Experiment is TV-era TOS written by that show's DC Fontana and building on her "Enterprise Incident" episode (as well as looking ahead to a TNG episode or two); Assignment: Earth is a light romp with Gary Seven, Roberta Lincoln, and Isis in the late 1960s. The first issue has the feel of a '60s espionage show, while the second puts a spin on another of the Enterprise's visits to the past.

Wildstorm's approach mixed one-shots, graphic novels, and a few miniseries. It was splashy, and many of the stories were good, but it was unpredictable. IDW's model is simple: produce a miniseries of five or six issues and collect it in trade paperback a few months later. It's not nearly as flashy, but I think it may have better results with both comics buyers and book buyers. Long may it last.


At 12:32 PM, Anonymous Allyn said...

I've been severely disappointed in both Enterprise Experiment and New Frontier. I've found EE to be excessively fanwanky, and New Frontier has serious structural problems. (Also, it would be damned near incoherent to someone who's not up to date on New Frontier.)

Assignment Earth has been awesome, and I'm looking forward to Byrne's two-issue sequel to Alien Spotlight: Romulans.

I'm also curious about the upcoming Mirror Images, but I'm also a little leary, as it seems that IDW is taking their lead from the novels and Mirror Universe. While I like the idea of synergy between the two, at the same time, I don't want to see the comics slaved to what the novels are doing. Staking out their own ground — which IDW has generally been doing — is a good thing. Doing comics based on the novels-only franchises? Maybe not so much.

At 1:11 PM, Blogger Steve said...

I liked EE okay so far, but it's kind of early to judge.

As for New Frontier... I'm not crazy about it, but I think anyone who reads and likes the books is going to have to read it.

One thing I do like about both EE and NF is that they're not a series of standalone stories; in general I don't think one issue is enough room for a complete story.

At 8:30 AM, Blogger Therin of Andor said...

I'm enjoying the IDW "New Frontier" storyline very much but it must be very confusing to anyone who isn't familiar with the books. Morgan looking like Number One, Chapel and Mrs Troi is worth a smirk or two in the novels (and her face was obscured by a hand mirror in the Wildstorm one-shot comic), but seeing Number One phasing in and out in the new comic issues requires some background knowledge from the books.

Likewise, Arex and M'Ress (formerly of TAS) have just turned up for their NF cameos and casual TOS readers (or anyone who's just been reading IDW's various "Year Four" issues) are gonna wonder why they're suddenly in the 24th century.


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