May 21, 2013

[Comics] Star Trek: Khan - Ruling in Hell

I'm quite the avid comiXology user and the recent Star Trek sale over the weekend allowed me to purchase copies of a number of IDW's Star Trek titles at a great discount. I've already read a number of their titles because of a prior sale, although I haven't found the time to squeeze in more comic book reviews. But since I'm still working my way through some other novels, it seemed a good time to go back through my comic book queue.

Star Trek: Khan - Ruling in Hell was one of the titles that I picked up over the weekend given, well, Khan. I mean seriously, do I need another reason to pick up a comic book series about the superior intellect that is Khan? Seriously?

And while I was initially worried that the story might turn out to be hokey and weird, the book actually wasn't that bad. If anything, it was a nice little prequel story that tried to tell a unique story but well within the existing Star Trek broadcast canon.

So yeah, as if my being a Trekkie was still a surprise to you folks.

Synopsis: Star Trek: Khan - Ruling in Hell is a 4-issue comic book series published by IDW Publishing as written by Scott Tipton and David Tipton. Art was handled by Fabio Mantovani.

As a whole, the series aims to bridge the gap between the events of the TOS episode "Space Seed" and the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Considering the rather amicable end to Khan's taking control of the Enterprise in the TV series, it was an interesting angle to try and explain how things went from a civilized resolution to outright hatred to the very core of Khan's being as seen in the movie.

Things seem simple enough with the Botany Bay being set down on Ceti Alpha V. Despite the dangers of the planet, Khan was determined to prove himself worth of the challenge of taming the world and establishing a new empire for himself. The comics go on to show some of the internal conflict among the Augments as a rival faction began to ferment unrest and eventually go on to challenge Khan's rule. But of course we all know that eventually a catastrophic event alters the planet's orbit and turns it from a dangerous jungle to a desert wasteland. It's quite the transition indeed.

I do appreciate the efforts to continually present Khan as the cultured and almost benevolent dictator that he is. After all, his role as their leader stems from the knowledge that he is far superior to all others, even his fellow Augments. And in this regard the writers certainly get credit in their efforts to script their Khan as close as possible to Ricardo Montalban's original portrayal of the character. And that's never an easy thing to do - but I think it's safe to say that the writers managed to get us most of the way there while our imaginations took over from that point.

Admittedly some of the internal struggles between the Augments seemed ridiculously petty. Yes, I know that they were never the most emotionally mature of individuals, but I'd like to think that Kirk having exiled them to the planet would have been a sufficiently polarizing event to unite the Augments with the singular goal of finding a way off-planet. Then again, they were under rather stressful conditions and the story did need some form of conflict after all.

Admittedly another part of the story that I enjoyed a lot was the effort put into providing more of an origin story for the infamous mind-altering "Ceti eel" used to gain control over Chekhov in the movie. If you had never seen the movie, then the "reveal" of the eels would have been pretty interesting indeed. But having foreknowledge of their appearance, it was still a satisfyingly scripted moment in the comic.

Star Trek: Khan - Ruling in Hell is not the greatest comic book story ever told, but it's certainly an interesting one. As far was prequels go, it nicely tries to work within canon while still being brave enough to present a few new ideas and circumstances for the characters. The series as a whole gets 3.5 classic quotations that Khan espouses as words of wisdom out of a possible 5.

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