On Things I’ve Been Reading

Let’s talk comic books! It’s a rainy day, so why not? πŸ˜‰

Star Trek: The Official Motion Picture Adaptation #5
IDW Publishing
Written by Mike Johnson & Tim Jones, based on the screenplay by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman
Art by David Messina with Claudia Balboni, with inks by Gaetano Carlucci

A year after J.J. Abrams reinvigorated a declining franchise with Star Trek, his blockbuster film that boldly went at the box office where no Star Trek film had gone before, IDW Publishing brings to comics shops everywhere the official adaptation of the film.

Some might say that this is a case of striking when the iron is so hot that you’ll get freezer burn, but in reality the delay between film and adaptation isn’t that difficult to fathom — the movie adaptation is the fourth chapter in a quadrilogy of series built around the film, and with the other chapters done, the groundwork laid elsewhere, the movie adaptation proceeds apace.

The other chapters, for reference’s sake — Countdown, set in the 24th-century and dramatizing the events that brought Spock and Nero back to the mid-23rd (and reviewed by me here); Spock: Reflections, which is about Spock before the events of Countdown (but doesn’t really have a lot to do with Countdown, in all honesty); and finally Nero, which explores what happened to Nero once he and the Narada arrived in the 23rd-century.

There’s not a lot remarkable to this adaptation of the film. A few scenes, here and there, are expanded upon. The one interesting thing about this fifth issue occurs on page 10 — elder Spock and young Kirk have their expository mind-meld, and there are brief cameo flashes of Picard and Data from Countdown.

There’s a lot of ground to cover in the sixth and final issue; this issue ends with Kirk assuming command of the Enterprise, and a lot happened in the film after that point. That’s a lot to cram down into twenty-two pages.

Star Trek: The Official Movie Adaptation also marks the passing of an era of Star Trek comics as, from what I understand, this is David Messina’s final work on the franchise. Messina has been part of some of IDW’s best output of the last five years, especially Klingons: Blood Will Tell. I wish Messina all the best in his future endeavors. The final four-color frontier won’t be the same without him.

Torchwood #1
Titan Comics
Written by John & Carole Barrowman and Gary Russell
Art by Tommy Lee Edwards and Adrian Salmon

For the past two years, Titan Publishing has published Torchwood Magazine, the official magazine of the BBC series and the Torchwood equivalent of Panini’s Doctor Who Magazine. Like its Panini cousin, Torchwood Magazine has a comic strip feature that runs about eight pages each month in addition to the articles on the making of the series, profiles of the actors and the behind-the-scenes personnel, etc. Torchwood, the comic book, collects some of the comic strips published in the parent magazine.

The first issue contains “The Selkie,” a story written by John Barrowman with art by Tommy Lee Edwards and the first chapter of “Broken” by Torchwood script editor Gary Russell and artist Adrian Salmon.

If you’ve not read these stories before in the magazine, this is a nice issue to have. Jack has to deal with the repercussions of a decision he made long ago in the first story, and it’s an exciting, yet also introspective piece as befitting a story written by the actor who portrays Captain Jack Harkness, and Edwards’ artwork is top-notch. The second story brings back everyone’s favorite creepy old guy, Bilis Manger, for yet another round of Torchwood torment.

Future issues will include the story written by Gareth David-Lloyd.

Red Hood: The Lost Days #3
DC Comics
Written by Judd Winick
Art by Jeremy Haun

I’ve made no secret that I would love to write a Jason Todd comic. Jason Todd, the second Robin, the one killed by fandom in a 1-900 stunt, the one who was brought back to life five years ago as an antagonist for Batman.

Jason is an awkward character; he doesn’t really have a role in the Batman family. Essentially, he’s Bruce Wayne’s prodigal son, brief stint as Batman in Batman: Battle for the Cowl was an utter failure, but he’s also treated as irredeemable because he’s Batman but taken to his extremes.

What’s interesting, now that I’ve written that, is that I can see why Damian Wayne’s characterization, taken to his future as Batman seen in Batman #666 and Batman #700 makes sense; he’s Jason if Jason weren’t kicked to the curb as he has repeatedly been.

I digress.

Red Hood: The Lost Days is a six-part mini-series that charts the development of Jason from his death at the hands of the Joker in A Death in the Family to his return to Gotham City as an antagonist for Batman in Under the Red Hood. In the first issue, Jason clawed his way out of his grave and he was found by Talia al-Ghul’s henchmen. Believing that she could rehabilitate him and return Jason to Batman, she tried to connect with Jason, but whatever force brought him back to life left him somewhat mindless and primal. She tosses Jason in the Lazarus Pit, hoping that it will cure his mind, but if anything it actually makes him worse. Jason eventually finds his mind in the second issue, and he decides that he wants to murder Batman for leaving him for dead. The third issue sees Jason training with a German assassin while Talia monitors his development from afar.

Jason, on his own, comes across as a very compelling character. In spite of his motivations, he displays the ingenuity and detective skills that a Robin should have, he has a strong moral core, but he’s also not afraid to dispense justice as he sees fit. The difference between Jason Todd and Batman is this — Batman won’t kill, but Jason will. To Batman, the law is more important than justice; to Jason, justice is the highest ideal.

I wasn’t expecting a great deal from Red Hood: The Lost Days, but I’ve found it to be a very good read. Winick draws the characters sharply, with their motivations and hidden plans, and Haun’s artwork is lush and realistic yet also dynamic. I can see Batman fans passing this up on the shelf because it’s about a character they really don’t care about (and, let’s be frank, DC has made it easy to not care about Jason Todd), but they’re missing out on a top-flight Batman book.

3 thoughts on “On Things I’ve Been Reading

  1. IDW Publishing

    Really? They license Doctor Who too. There could be crossover.

    To Batman, the law is more important than justice; to Jason, justice is the highest ideal.

    That’s an interesting statement. Back when I was reading all DC’s superhero comics (about five years either side of the Crisis on Infinite Earths), the relationship between the World’s Greatest Team changed when Superman and Batman both realized that Superman was more interested in law and Batman was more interested in justice.

  2. Paul, I’ll fix your comment in the database. πŸ™‚ WordPress probably got confused; it doesn’t need (or want, for that matter) the <p> tag in the comment field.

    As for IDW and crossovers, they are planning a crossover event for 2011, but it doesn’t involve Doctor Who. πŸ™ It’s called “Infestation,” and it’s going to involve (last I heard) Star Trek, Transformers, G.I. Joe, Ghostbusters, and Angel.

    John Byrne pitched IDW a Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover — the third Doctor and Gary Seven team up with UNIT to fight Daleks in the 1970s. IDW didn’t even pass it along to the BBC.

    As for Batman and his relationship to the law versus justice, I do agree that Batman is interested in justice, but he stays within the lines of the law, whereas Jason Todd believes that even if the law gets in the way justice must be served. I should probably clarify that.

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