Star Trek: Countdown #1

If there's anyone else out there who's been anxiously awaiting for more info to trickle out about the new Star Trek movie, a few interesting links have hit the net in the past couple of weeks:

JJ Abrams Explains How Only He Can Stop Get the Trek Franchise Out of the Shadow of Star Wars.

Esurance Had a Neat Featurette About the Film with Footage as Well as a Contest to Attend the Hollywood Premiere.

Playmates has Revealed a Slew of Toys Tying into the Film.

Pocket Books Plans to Stick to the Tried and True Original Timeline for the Forseeable Future

Okay, This Do-It-Yourself Star Trek Chart Has Nothing to Do with the Movie-- But I'm Throwing It In Anyway

But probably the mother lode of clues to what the new film will be about would be the Star Trek: Countdown limited series from IDW, billed as the official prequel. Since Star Trek screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman have a "story" credit for the first issue, there's a good chance that this 4-issue mini will provide some impactful backstory to lead into the May '09 release. Because I'm so obsessed with trying to figure out how much I'm going to love or hate the movie, I'll be combing through this series with more spoiler details than I usually get into. So if you are trying to keep reasonably ignorant before getting to actually see the film, this is not the post for you.

Although the Abrams film is famously about the early days of Kirk and crew, the origins of the tale take place in the 24th century, sometime after the events of Nemesis. How long after is a little unclear so far. The wizened Ambassador Spock reflects in internal monologue that he has been on Romulus for "four decades"-- "Unification" plus 40 years would place the mini about 29 years after Nemesis. However, in a review on Trekmovie.com, Alex Fletcher decoded the stardate and claims it's just 8 years later. Here I thought stardates were arbitrary claptrap... who knew they actually meant something? Hopefully future issues will clarify when we are, but I guess all we really need to know is that Spock has devoted his life to trying to unify the Romulans and Vulcans for a good long time now.

The issue open with Nero, destined to be the big bad of the film, but here he is just the captain of a mining ship trying to make a living on the fringes of Romulan space. No tattoos or vengeful 'tude, (nor, for that matter, does he wear a quilted gray jumpsuit with giant shoulder pads) just a hard-working guy providing for his emerging family. During a fateful mission in the Hobus system, Nero and his crew get a firsthand look at a dangerous threat to the Empire-- the system's star is losing stability and threatens at any time to go supernova. They barely warp out in time before a rampant solar flare destroys the planet they were mining on moments before.

Back on Romulus, Spock addresses the Romulan senate. For many years our old friend has been working underground, but in the past five years has become the official Federation Ambassador to Romulus. In that capacity, Spock warns that the destruction of Horus may be so powerful that the entire Empire could be consumed. This is met by disbelief and derision from the Senate, particularly when Spock explains that the only way to quell the star is by allowing the Vulcans to process the Empire's highly valuable store of decalthium into "red matter" which will create a black hole to counter the supernova (technobabble, anyone?) Much like the Kyrptonians ignoring doomed Jor-El, the Romulans are dismissive of Spock's findings and promise only to investigate further. Apparently after all this time, there is still no love lost between these galactic cousins, so much so that the Romulans would rather risk annihilation than trust Vulcan to take control of their highly valuable isotope.

Although he always considered himself a loyal servant of the Empire, Nero can't sit idly by and wait for bureaucrats to decide the Empire's fate. With the lives of his family and his people in the balance, he makes the only choice he really can, which is to offer the services of his ship and crew to Spock in order to mine some decalthium without the Senate's knowledge or permission. No sooner are they in range of their goal than a couple of quick plot twists occur to close out the issue-- c'mon I can't spoil the entire thing.

The comic's credited writers are Mike Johnson and Tim Jones, so I don't know how much they are responsible for or what came from Orci and Kurtzman. What we have here is a perfectly okay setup that unfolds a little on the slow side, and so far is just a little too neat of a predicament. A supernova that can only be stopped by a certain element and the aid of a distrusted world? Convenient. I assume all involved are aware of Superman's origin. The artwork, by David Messia is serviceable but unspectacular. I like his ships and technology better than his people and his action.

You can see that this won't end well, although how Nero will end up so hateful and wanting to destroy Vulcan is not yet clear. Also, I still can't predict what the time travel in the movie will accomplish, even if the star does end up destroying the Empire, as seems inevitable. Or rather, why the movie Nero will be obsessed with destroying Vulcan and/or Spock-- if he's traveling in time anyway, why not cook up some "red matter" at his leisure and then go back and throw it in the star before it becomes a threat! Oh well, maybe I'm anticipating too much, I should just wait for the rest of the series to come out...By the way, naming your protagonist "Nero" in a story where a planet called Romulus is in danger of burning? Cheesy!

Rating: 7/10

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