Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Blast from the past

Paradise Lost: The Return of the Serpent Part One, written by Michael Carlin (DC Comics Star Trek 43, October 1987 issue)

(As reviewed in the lettercol of issue 47 by Steve Roby. I can't believe Robert Greenberger printed such a long letter. Yeah, I've been playing with the Star Trek: The Complete Comic Book Collection DVD-ROM, about which I was going to post a review, but basically, it would come down to this: this is an insanely affordable way to get a huge amount of Star Trek fun. And a lot of crap, too. But any Trek fan with the least interest in Trek comics should have already bought a copy. Anyway, one of the neat features is that each comic is scanned whole, cover to cover, including letter columns when they appear. I was a bit of a letterhack for a brief period, starting after university and ending around the time my old best friend from high school moved to town and I got my first serious girlfriend and I was working fulltime, so I didn't have as much time as I used to. Near as I can tell Bob printed eight more of my letters. One feature the DVD could use is searchable text, but that would probably have made the job a lot more difficult. And the end result a lot more expensive. But it was neat spotting letters from Ian McLean, John S. Drew, and Glenn Greenberg, who I assume is the same Glenn Greenberg who's written some Trek comics and SCE/COE stories, and it was fun reading Bob's own little bits in the lettercol.)

So here's the first appearance in an official Star Trek publication of a then 24-year-old blowhard.

Dear Bob,
What's wrong with Star Trek #43:

1) The cover. What is this, a kiddie monster comic? Many of your readers are adults and being one myself I'd like to see something a bit more dignified and sophisticated.

2) The monster. If, as Spock suspected, the monster was never truly there, why would one more phaser make a difference? I hope this will be explained, perhaps as part of Akuta's power. Remember, Star Trek is science fiction, not space fantasy. Provide explanations for what happens, and let them at least seem scientifically sound.

3) Another prime directive story -- complete with Kirk and the crew being seen as gods. Does "Mortal Gods" ring a bell? Or how about "Wolf on the Prowl," with its culture contaminated by Redjac to lure the Enterprise, including a depiction of Kirk? As if the orignial Star Trek didn't wear out the story potential in the Prime Directive.

4) The treatment of women in the story. Primitive societies don't necessarily have to be shown as sexist, as this one appears to be. Makora, at least, is a definite MCP. Bryce doesn't get a chance to do anything, she just waits around to be rescued by the men. A situation which allowed Bryce to escape on her own, perhaps with Konom's assistance, could have been more interesting.

5) Konom. A person who is so deeply opposed to violence that he almost allows himself to be killed by a big monster would be disturbed by violent acts committed by anyone. To make everything all right by having others do the fighting for him seems inconsistent.

6) "They're dead, Jim!" Whether the crew is dead or merely seems to be, it's been done, and everybody will be fine later on.

7) Akuta's mutterings, combined with two and six above, suggest an element of the supernatural. I hope I'm wrong on this one, because "supernatural science fiction" is oxymoronic.

On the brighter side, here's what I liked:

1) I liked the way the events on page 14, about Bryce, mirrored the events on page 13, featuring Konom. It was a nice touch.

2) Makora has become the bad guy and Akuta the good guy -- or is he? The characters are less predictable this time around.

3) Another Prime Directive story? Well, it is, but with a difference. There's no Phil Hodges or U.S.S. Horizon or Ron Tracey or Captain Merek or John Gill to blame. This time, Kirk is cleaning up his own mess. It's about time. The possibilities for this story are so numerous and diverse that I expect the complete story will more than make up for the things I disliked about the first part.

Steve Roby


At 1:14 PM, Anonymous Daddy Todd said...

More than 15 years ago, I wrote this about this issue:
"This is a fairly interesting story, but then I tend to like multi-issue stories a lot better than singles. I enjoyed seeing the aftermath of Kirk's earlier actions, but there've been far too many 'return visits' in the DC line for my taste. Let's think of something strange and new, O.K.?
"The art reproduction in this issue is pretty poor. Carlin uses a lot more words to tell his story than past writers, making the panels seem cramped and unattractive in order to make room for all the word balloons."

About the subsequent issue, I wrote this:
"A tempest of action does not, in and of itself, make a compelling story. Carlin continues grinding out marginally passable Star Trek tales. He has improved markedly since his first issues, but continues to aim his output at the kiddies, rather than at adults."

I didn't even comment on the third issue of this trilogy.

At 4:39 AM, Blogger Therin of Andor said...

I think I, too, had a letter in the lettercol for this arc, perhaps the last issue?

My good friend Wendy is a Trek fan, but even more of a "Starsky & Hutch" fan. I pre-ordered extra copies of these issues because I thought David Soul might appear as his alien character from TOS. I was a bit worried he might not be recognizable enough; not all the likenesses were being utilized.

However, Wendy was soon pointing and squealing, "That's David's nose!"


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