GRAPHIC NOVEL
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Maelstrom

Authors: Michael Jan Friedman and others
Artists: Pablo Marcos and others
Titan Books
RRP: 14.99, US $19.95
ISBN-13: 978 1 84576 318 3
ISBN-10: 1 84576 318 1
Available 22 September 2006


An interplanetary peace treaty is threatened when Chief O'Brien falls under the influence of a devious alien telepath; a skiing holiday turns deadly when Riker and La Forge are taken captive by a dangerous band of Ferengi profiteers; a mysterious energy surge causes some very odd behaviour among the crew and puts the ship in the line of fire of two Romulan Warbirds; and one of Wesley Crusher's experiments might just mean the end of an entire civilisation...

The Hand of the Assassin!, the first tale in this collection of stories reprinted from issues 13-18 of DC Comics' second series of Star Trek: The Next Generation, breaks with writer Michael Jan Friedman's usual two-part format. This spotlight on Transporter Chief Miles O'Brien is just one episode long. It's quite possible that it started out as a two-parter but was decreed too uneventful by editor Robert Greenberger.

Certainly this is an exceptionally wordy piece. Two pages at the beginning of the strip are crammed with log entry text in which Captain Picard explains the elaborate security procedures he has put in place for a diplomatic conference. Later on, the would-be alien assassin spends a couple of pages just gloating to O'Brien about what he is going to force the Chief to do. It seems as though Friedman has forgotten that comics are supposed to be a visual medium.

There's rather more action in the next story, the two-part Holiday on Ice, which sees the welcome return of the dastardly Ferengi. Here Troi seems to have changed her tune since the first volume, in which she sensed no emotions from the android Data. In this story she declares him to be a true romantic.

But the liveliest tale of the bunch is I have Heard the Mermaids Singing, a decidedly Naked Time-ish affair in which various members of the crew act strangely.

The Romulans put in an appearance during the second instalment, in which Pablo Marcos shares the art chores with Ken Penders. The result is rather uneven, with some pages - especially those featuring the Romulans - looking clumsier than Marcos' usual work but others looking a lot smoother - of particular note is the artists' depiction of a very shapely Counselor Troi! There are some errors on the part of colourist Julianna Ferriter, who gives us some blue-clad security guards in part one, and pale blue Romulan Warbirds and a green star field during part two.

Troi makes an interesting comment when she starts to go doolally, stating that the Captain no longer has a proper character but has become merely a role. This is possibly a reference to the way in which Picard became rather stiff and stilted during Season 2, much to the disappointment of actor Patrick Stewart.

Friedman is less astute when he has the Romulan Commander stating his belief that "Federation vessels do not simply break down." What about the events of the episode Contagion, in which the Romulans were also involved? And why do only later pages refer to the Romulan Commander as Tomalak? You can tell by the handwriting that this name was added at a late stage. The character doesn't look much like the Tomalak of the TV series, as played by Andreas Katsulas. In fact, in certain panels he happens to look rather like Gary Graham, alias Ambassador Soval from Star Trek: Enterprise.

The final tale, Forbidden Fruit..., is a one-shot by guest writers Dave Stern and Mike O'Brien, and guest artists Mike Manley and Robert Campanella. This is another of those "Wesley's invention goes wrong" stories. With this spotlight on Wesley and the first story's focus on Chief O'Brien, one wonders why Data, who doesn't feature particularly strongly in any of these comics, is depicted on the front cover. La Forge gets a more prominent role in a couple of episodes.

This volume also includes a 2000 interview with La Forge actor LeVar Burton and a 1995 interview with Michael (Lt Worf) Dorn.

These are not the best Trek comics ever, but they're still worth exploring.

Richard McGinlay

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