Comic powerhouse IDW Publishing enjoy a good novelty hook to hang an event upon and their first for 2019 is the 20/20 project. Spanning multiple IDW properties, the idea behind a range of one-shot comics is to flash back, or flash forward, 20 years each way, and explore a hidden facet of whichever universe is being explored. Star Trek of course has a wide remit in this regard but in line with a recent focus on The Next Generation, with IDW’s Mirror Universe TNG series, 20/20 focuses on Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
IDW aren’t daft where this is concerned. Not only has the Mirror Universe come back into fashion this past year thanks to Season 1 of Star Trek: Discovery but, as any Trek fan will now know, Picard himself is returning next year for a sequel series set over 20 years after the end of The Next Generation. Peter David, a renowned Trek author of dozens of books and comics combined going back decades, is not charged with flashing forward to Picard’s future but rather his past. Anyone who knows Picard’s backstory knows where that will lead.
The Stargazer. Picard’s first command, long before he took over as Captain of the Enterprise-D at the beginning of TNG. Though only given scant exploration in the TV series itself, the backstory of the Stargazer has been well documented in tie-in fiction over the last 30 years – Michael Jan Friedman alone has written a full novel series about Picard’s captaincy of it – but David, someone stooped in Trek lore, manages to carve out a small niche in Picard’s backstory for this enjoyable one-shot: learning a key lesson of command with the help of someone very important to his future.
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That someone being Beverly Crusher, or more appropriately Cadet Beverly Howard here; engaged to Picard’s first officer and best friend, Commander Jack Crusher, TNG 20/20 details the rather awkward first meeting between Picard and Beverly and how she comes to help save his life during the assistance of an alien race new to the Federation from political insurgents. David doesn’t really have time to fully flesh out the Tellerux species and what could have been an intriguing backstory to their leaders, but enough is there to help carry through the life lesson Picard learns across the narrative.
If anything, TNG 20/20 is worth picking up as much for J. K. Woodward’s gorgeous artwork, with panels and colours which are dampened with a natural, often grey hue but which accentuate the photo-realism of particularly Patrick Stewart, whose facial features are expertly rendered across the entirety of the comic. It feels of a piece visually with previous TNG comics and while the story won’t blow anyone away, David does ensure this can neatly slot into assumed Trek canon without really compromising what we know from elsewhere… except perhaps one thing involving a wedding…
One more for Star Trek, and particularly TNG die-hards than casual readers one suspects, but there’s a lot to enjoy if you’re invested in Picard’s past as well as his future.
Star Trek: The Next Generation 20/20 is now available from IDW Publishing.