When we last saw the intrepid crews of the first four Star Trek series in issue #1 of ‘The Q Conflict’, they’d been snatched from across space and time by Q, in order to take part in an intergalactic contest to decide who was the greatest omnipotent Godlike being. A ‘Trek Sans Frontières’, if you like (or ‘It’s A Spockout’).
The story resumes in issue #2 thankfully having skipped all the tedious picking of teams (although we at least get to see poor old Quark from DS9 as the one who gets left right to the end, which pretty much tells us the view everyone – even beings from a higher plane of existence – has of the Ferengi barkeep. Cheers.). Anyway, we now have the first task for all of them to compete in, and – given the utter fanboy literary onanism of the opening part – it’s another gratuitous dip into the franchise’s history and little more besides, alas.
Star Trek hasn’t kept going all these years just by being insular and inward-looking – it’s managed to respect its past, while still trying to find new ways to move forward and tell new tales. However, there’s little evidence of this reflected within ‘The Q Conflict’ so far, as it’s foregone any hope as yet of treading new ground, or trying to do something new or even creative while playing with all of the familiar toys in the box. It’s the sort of pointless, nostalgia-fuelled exercise you might just forgive in an anniversary year (when you could be excused for feelings of self-indulgence), but in a regular comic release, you can’t help but feel like everso slightly cheated by something which is quite so derivative and unexceptional.
The mission involves travelling to a planet from the Iconian empire – as first seen in The Next Generation‘s ‘Contagion’ – and collecting one of their Gateway Engines, which the winning team will be able to keep as an advantage for use in a future challenge. I suppose they at least picked one of the less well-known or common of the Star Trek races to use, but in a story which already feels like overkill with all the continuity references thrown in, the writers probably thought it wasn’t worth trying to invent a new race, and instead keep playing to the crowd. As the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt, and it certainly seems to be doing the job here. Clearly, nostalgia’s not what it used to be.
READ MORE: Star Trek: The Q Conflict #1 – Review
All of this would perhaps be forgivable if there was at least a compelling story to be told, or an attempt to do something which was a little bold or a bit different within the confines of this creative straitjacket. Sadly, it seems the writing team – Scott and David Tipton – have other ideas, and hold the view so far that having different Star Trek crews meet up is enough of a raison d’être in itself, without needing to sweat the small stuff, like having a half-decent plot going on. Two issues in, and there’s no real indication yet of the story going anywhere, and the stakes – play the game, or have your planets wiped from existence – should be an ominous, urgent threat, but it somehow just falls flat here. It’s the way they tell ’em, apparently.
Okay, so even if the storyline isn’t up to snuff, surely there’d be the opportunity to have some cracking interplay between the iconic crews? Well, again, you’d hope that, but there’s sadly little evidence of it thus far – most of the characters appear to be rather generically written, with the odd exception, but mostly there’s very little to tell them apart, and much of the dialogue could easily be interchangeable. The big problem with having to service the four different crews is having 28 people to try and offer enough ‘screen time’ (for want of a better phrase), and many of them end up being relegated to the background, or even sidelined for much of the story. Most fans have their favourites, and it seems that the Tiptons are doing a great job in making sure no-one comes off well at all, so at least there’s no risk of favouritism.
When you have 50+ years of continuity to try and navigate, there’s always going to be potential pitfalls when you have this sort of crossover occurring, and a fairly big one is Captain Kirk having Worf on his team. Now, we know his major antipathy towards the Klingons became personal in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, when his son David was killed by them on the Genesis planet. Here, given Kirk is taken from the original five-year mission, you could almost forgive the writers not making such a big deal out of pairing up Kirk and a Klingon.
However, we also know from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country that Kirk has never trusted Klingons, and doubts peace will happen; it therefore seems to be a little too straightforward that Kirk just accepts a Klingon working alongside him without any reservations. Arguably, you could say that Kirk hasn’t yet turned into the bitter, cynical Cold Warrior that we see at the end of the movies; however, the Klingons are still the enemies of the Federation during the original TV series, so you might expect a little bit of frisson or tension. Sadly not. Characterisation is crushed under sheer weight of numbers, it seems. Not a case of too many cooks, but too many ingredients.
That’s not to say issue #2 is irredeemable, as there are some nice bits of business in here: Riker using the prefix codes for one of the Shuttlecraft to override its systems and scupper Team Picard’s bid to get to the prize is a nice throwback to Star Trek II (but his having memorised individual prefix codes to each Shuttlecraft makes him seem incredibly paranoid, to say the least). However, it all seems thin gruel in the overall context, as the story doesn’t really have any proper dramatic tension, and then fails to go anywhere. All a bit of a pointless runaround, and doesn’t bode well for the remaining issues, if they’re all going to be It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World-style races around the galaxy after various MacGuffins.
The art also seems to be suffering in this latest issue, with the quality being rather wildly variable, to say the least. Okay, no-one expects the characters to be depicted with near-photo realism, but you’d hope that the likenesses would at least be in the ballpark somewhere. However, on one of the pages, there’s an extreme close-up of Chief O’Brien which, well, if I were Colm Meany, I’d be tempted to write a strongly-worded letter of complaint. Resemblance to any characters, whether living or dead, appears to be purely coincidental at times in this issue. It should literally be back to the drawing board for David Messina as the artist responsible.
Hopefully, things will turn a corner with the next issue, as Q indicates that things are going to become more difficult for all the cross-generational crews, which may mean that things correspondingly become somewhat more interesting as a result. At the moment, however, the whole thing’s rather a Captain’s slog.
Star Trek: The Q Conflict #2 is now available from IDW Publishing.