Friday, November 27, 2020

Comics Commentary: Science Fiction Tie-In Comics


(Part One)

(Part Two)

This is a Media Diet Comics Commentary video review of Star Trek: Voyager—Seven's Reckoning #1 (IDW, November 2020), Doctor Who #1 (Titan, December 2020), and Dune: House Atreides #1-2 (Boom, October-November 2020). Unscripted, unedited. Just a guy talking about comics.

Audio only (Part One). Audio only (Part Two).

Transcript below...
Today's kind of a grab bag of science fiction tie-in and licensed comics. We have Star Trek: Voyager—Seven’s Reckoning #1, which just came out by IDW with a publication date of November. We've got a new Doctor Who comic, a #1—Peach Momoko cover here—published by the BBC and Titan Comics with a cover date of December. And then the first two issues of a new Dune 12-issue series, I believe, coming to us from Boom—Dune: House Atreides. We've got #1 and we've got #2. Those are the three series we'll be talking about, the three sets of books, and we'll start with the Star Trek comic

I've never watched Star Trek: Voyager. At all. I know Captain Janeway as a strong female character and a character that people like, one of the probably favorite captains that people have that are Trekkers. But I just never watched Voyager. This comic was interesting to me. I occasionally am challenged by tie-in or licensed comics because I can't get past the media or other literary portrayal of a character before I come to the comic. If I haven't seen a show, it's interesting reading the tie-in comic because I don't hear their voice, I don't see their mannerisms. I can just read it as a comic rather than reading it as a channel of this other cross-media property. So, a slightly different and somewhat interesting experience as a reader.

I haven't watched Star Trek: Voyager. I don't know the characters, don't know their relationships, and don't know the way they carry their bodies, speak, or move. It was fun. It's interesting to encounter this two-page sequence relatively early in the book. It is pretty interesting, and I show that mostly for the scale and scope of that derelict hulk that they encounter, but this exchange between Tuvok and the captain, not knowing the two characters, was just fun to read. It sets up that that he is a Vulcan, therefore overly logical, but also a joking, gentle, and loving relationship between the two of them.

The gist of the story is that they do encounter a derelict hulk in space. They board it and encounter a series of murals as they enter that outlines the story of this space-faring race. It seems to be a conquerors’ race, a colonization race. There's some prophecy built into it, some apocalyptic prophecy. They then encounter a corpse of one of that race, indicating that this has been floating in space for some time. As they continue, however, they then find that a bunch of the creatures are in stasis, and one of them is revived. That ends up being a leader for the race called the Ohrdi’Nadar traveling for close to a thousand years on the craft.

There's two portions of the race. There's the leading class, the upper class, and then there's a multi-armed laborers’ class that sets about repairing the ship. There's an unstable warp field. The warp core needs to be repaired. So Seven, who is a Borg—I know at least that much—spends time with the working class to work on the ship and encounters a couple of things. One, she starkly encounters the gulf or the gap between the two classes in the society, the working class and the leading class. She also encounters some of the culture's philosophy about story and the possibilities that they see various people have.

The way that they view history is all in context of story. I'm just looking for some language about this. “Someone like Greeb? They only write one story.” “Which is?” “Trouble.” And then later on, “This warrior, the Dawn Bringer... ended an old story... and began a new one…  and, as with all stories, this will happen again… .” There's this idea of story, about being in control or out of control of your story, about the idea of stories succeeding or replacing other stories, and—interesting: One character says the story must develop and then hedges by saying “for now.”—even the idea that stories can be allowed to progress before they're pulled back or slowed.

Really interesting: “Just think…  all those little lights...”— It’s the first time you've seen stars in space having been in the bowels of the ship—”They have existed for millennia. What a story.” Interesting commentary from this race, the Ohrdi’Nadar, about the role that story plays in a society or a culture. Personally, I think this comic is worth sticking with just for that. If you're interested in storytelling, if you're interested in stories, history as culture as communication—of societal mores, norms, and values—this comic is addressing that in a pretty interesting way.

Star Trek: Voyager—Seven's Reckoning #1 is coming to us from IDW. What the “reckoning” is going to be is unclear, but with the seeds that have been planted, it seems as though it's going to probably involve a disagreement between the two classes in the society, perhaps the crew’s alignment with the working class. We'll see what happens with that.

Let's move on then to Titan's Doctor Who comic, a #1. I’m not going to give away too much of this because there are some delightful surprises and tie-ins across multiple doctors and multiple companions, but the gist of this is that it's a 13th Doctor story. They end up returning to Earth finding out that this race called the Sea Devils have taken over Earth—but perhaps centuries ago. Whatever change has occurred occurred a long, long time ago. The Sea Devils are an existing race in the Doctor Who storyline. They look like that.

The Sea Devils have taken over Earth centuries ago, and it seems to be your basic police state. We've got squads of soldiers roaming the streets, rounding up humans that don't have the appropriate paperwork. There's a Nazi Germany parallel there. The humans are actually being used as workers or as slaves and some of your other favorite doctors and companions might come into play.

There's a number of variant covers, including a photo cover. The others are all illustrated. This Peach Momoko seems to be relatively popular these days. The art doesn't really speak to me. I like the page design, but I'm kind of curious that she's so popular—or why they're so popular. If you like Doctor Who, if you like the 13th Doctor, it’s a good read. Not a lot happens in this comic, so we'll see where it goes.

This, then, was probably the more exciting—well, no. That Star Trek comic was good, so I can't even say that this is most exciting. What I can say is that I just reread Dune not too long ago because of the forthcoming movie and just loving Frank Herbert's writing. I'd read the Dune series when I was younger all the way through, halfway through Heretics, I think is when I petered out. I didn't make it to Chapterhouse. I loved the books and plan to revisit them.

Rereading Dune was an amazing experience, so if you read it a while ago or haven't, reread it. It is a wonderful novel by Frank Herbert, and his son, Brian Herbert, has done a good job working with Kevin J. Anderson to keep the storyline alive, chipping away at various aspects of the story, the history, the legend, the lore—prequels, sequels, interstitial stories, and so forth. This comic is interesting because it's timed related to the release of the movie. It focuses on House Atreides and is actually written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.

We've got Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson writing, with illustration by Dev Pramanik. The comic takes place before Dune, so it mostly just touches on characters from Dune, settings and scenes from Dune. It establishes the Baron Harkonnen, establishes spice and spice mining, takes us to Kaitain and the palace of the Padishah Emperor. This is mostly to introduce Pardot Kynes, who ends up becoming the imperial planetologist on arrakis. So it's a prequel that mostly sets up characters that we'll know. We meet Leto Atreides on Caladan. His father talks about going to Arrakis. We've got one of the bull fights that was referred to in the novel Dune. But all prequel. [It might be a comics adaptation of their novel Dune: House Atreides, which was a prelude to Dune.]

The second issue continues that prequel approach but introduces some other things. We've got Kynes as imperial planetologist actually on Arrakis or Dune. We've got what seem to be some Harkonnens messing around with a thumper to attract a worm—and that's really why you get the comic. You get the comic for the portrayals of the sandworms. It takes us to the Bene Gesserit and talks about tracking the genetic lineage to figure out who the savior is going to be, the Kwizatz Haderach. 

Then we end up at at Geidi Prime with Duncan Idaho. It’s an interesting comic. If you like Dune, it doesn't really progress the story a lot, it feels, because it's a prequel, more like a setup for the novel or for the movie to introduce newcomers to it. But there's enough reference to and riff on existing characters, people, places that you'll already know, that as a media tie-in or licensed comic, it does bolster the cross-media world. It doesn't really take the story in any new directions, mostly feels like putting mortar between the bricks before the first novel.

That said, it is kind of neat. I do think we see Pardot Kynes with white eyes earlier in the comic—or normal eyes—and then with blue eyes once he's gone native and spent more time with the Fremen later on in the comic. I think that's maybe in the first issue. Dune: House of Atreides #1-2 are interesting for fans of Dune, a good introduction if you're not a fan of Dune or already immersed in it—but if you're a fan of Dune, it doesn't do anything new. Maybe wait for it to be collected. But it is worth waiting to check out for the pictures of the worms; the scale and scope of the art is relatively interesting.

It wasn't #1 that we saw with blue eyes, anyway. There it is: perhaps the best image of the worm, a two-page spread. Awesome. Absolutely awesome. That's fun. This is where he has blue eyes. This is actually with Kynes. This is a preview to a Dune graphic novel. There's also been a graphic novel adaptation of Dune. That's actually where we see Kynes with the blue eyes. 

I don't know the creative team, and that makes me think I might have neglected the creative team of the other two comics. So the Doctor Who comic was written by Jody Houser who co-wrote with Jim Zub the Stranger Things D&D comic that we talked about not too long ago, and art by Roberta Ingranata. The Star Trek: Voyager comic was written by Dave Baker and drawn by Angel Hernandez, both of whom I haven't encountered recently, but decent enough for a tie-in comic to check out their work again. I think that the writing in this is particularly interesting. It'll be neat to see where Baker goes.

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