Star Trek has been popular enough that various comics companies have made adaptations practically since the first series aired in the late sixties. After Gold Key, DC, Marvel, Wildstorm – and even Tokyopop – had their runs, since 2006 the series has been licensed by IDW. To say the least they had good timing, managing to be in control of the property right as the much-anticipated J. J. Abrams reboot of Star Trek hit the movie theaters in 2009. Star Trek: Nero can be viewed as a companion piece to the movie.
With a story by Kurtzman and Orci, the writers of the movie, and scripted ably by Johnson and Jones, readers learn details about the life of the film’s head villain, the Romulan known as Nero. Originally published in four installments, the story starts moments after the end of the movie’s prologue, where the time-travelling Romulan ship has its encounter with the father of the series hero Captain Kirk. Where the film moves forward in time focusing on the main characters, this graphic novel shows what happened to Nero in the 25 years or so of intervening time before Kirk and company encounter him for the movie’s climax. The character of Nero is filled out substantially from the one-note appearance he has in the movie, and both his hatred for Spock and his ruthlessness are more fully explained and explored. The plot develops logically, and even has a clever call-back to a previous Star Trek film.
This is my second time seeing David Messina’s work as he illustrates stories based on live action, and my respect for him is growing. Admittedly, it is only Nero and Spock one would recognize from the big screen, but Messina’s confident, bold lines in his figure drawing let the characters from real life blend in with his other creations without either slipping into caricature or losing resemblance to the actors who play them. Messina also has a feel for showing realistic combat, lending his fight scenes a brutality that fits in so well with Nero’s character but still manages not to focus on blood or gore. Combined with the atmosphere of the book as we follow Nero from his dark ship, to a gloomy prison colony, to other moody environs, the art fits the story perfectly and lends the book a wonderful, almost cyberpunk feel.
While it stands on its own well enough for anyone with a passing familiarity with the Star Trek universe, Star Trek: Nero will have particular resonance with readers who enjoyed the film. If you have fans of the series, it’s almost a must-get for the young adult shelf, as it certainly answers the questions of ‘who was that guy, anyway’ that some had after watching the movie. While being a quality addition to the Star Trek canon, it could be skipped if the series in general isn’t a big seller in your area.