The Good: Fills in the gaps well, Ambitious concept, Generally decent artwork.
The Bad: Abrupt (weird) turn in the story, Not as vital as one might hope.
The Basics: Star Trek: Nero is a nice bridge work for those who liked Star Trek and Star Trek: Countdown, even if its appeal is limited to the fans.
For those who loved last year's reboot of the Star Trek franchise with the film Star Trek (click here for my review!), it probably comes as no surprise that the rebooted Star Trek universe is being continued in the comic book series. It is far less of a surprise to those who read the prequel to the film, Star Trek: Countdown (click here for that review) which tied directly into the very first scene of the movie. Interestingly enough, while "Star Trek" did an amazing job of establishing Kirk, Spock and the new incarnation of the universe - rather than just becoming a standard "kill the villain" flick that the last several Star Trek films have become - the comic books have been working on fleshing out the villain more. They did that with the books that are now anthologized as Star Trek: Nero.
Star Trek: Nero was originally published as four issues of comic books, but now is a single volume with a bonus art gallery. The writing is split between concept (and a few executions) by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the writers of Star Trek and comic book writers Mike Johnson and Tim Jones. The story elements include some bits and pieces from Star Trek that appear in the two-disc version of the DVD/Blu-Ray as deleted scenes. But largely, this is the story of Nero, the villain from Star Trek in the gap between the destruction of the U.S.S. Kelvin and his assault on Vulcan, which were both illustrated in the film.
Moments after the Kelvin is destroyed, Nero vows revenge upon the Federation and the Narada drifts listlessly, dead in space. It is, therefore, easy pickings for the Klingons, led by Kor, who find the ship adrift and capture it. Nero, Ayal and rest of the tattooed Romulans find themselves on Rura Penthe where Nero frequently kills Klingon guards, but gets away with it largely because the mining output on Rura Penthe is so dramatically improved that the overseer, Koth, feels he needs Nero alive. As the years go on, Nero is tortured (his ear is torn off by a Klingon dog) and Nero begins using a drug that gives him a telepathic connection to Ayal while he remains outwardly silent.
After a daring jailbreak orchestrated with the help of their human ally, Clavelle, the Romulans retake the Narada, only to be swept to the edge of the Delta Quadrant. There, the Narada meets with . . . (I'm not sure a spoiler alert is necessary or if a shudder alert is more appropriate) V'Ger and Nero gains some essential information. The final chapter has the Narada returning to where Spock is expected to enter normal time and space again.
Star Trek: Nero feels at times like exactly what it is, a collection of vignettes that are more or less deleted scenes from the main narrative of Star Trek. Having watched the deleted scenes on the Blu-Ray disc, it makes absolute sense to me that the producers chose to cut out Nero's story of the twenty years between arriving in our time and the events of Star Trek. It would have slowed the film down and distracted from the emphasis of the Kirk and Spock storyline. So, right from the beginning Star Trek: Nero feels gratuitous.
Even so, it is hard for fans of the Star Trek franchise to not appreciate almost instantly the nods Johnson and Jones make to already-established Star Trek universe characters and phenomenon. Seeing Kor (despite the artwork which retroactively gives him his ridges) is cool and fans of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country will recognize the one-eyed jailer, Koth (though it is unclear how the final action of the book affects him). It is possible Clavelle was referenced in Star Trek: Enterprise, but V'Ger is one of the most recognizable (if groan-worthy) references from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The way V'Ger is used is mildly clever, but is a chapter that distracts from the other three which build up far better the idea of Nero's hatred for Spock, the Klingons and when and where he is now stuck.
That said, Star Trek: Nero does exactly what one would hope it might in terms of fleshing the antagonist of the film out. While the deleted scene involving Nero's final interrogation is left out of this comic book rendering, the character is still vivid enough that one does not necessarily feel cheated by it. The idea that Nero would become so obsessed with finding when and where Spock would return and then exploit the tools of the time to find and capture Spock makes a lot of sense. Even so, the Nero as psychic/Narada as a sentient starship concepts both feel like a stretch that makes the character seem more fantastic and less credible. I would have wanted to read more about the crew wanting to revisit Romulus or putting in place ways to prevent the star that destroys Romulus from going supernova. That is brushed aside some for a more generic sense of vengeance.
As with most trade paperback anthologies, the artwork is of utmost importance. David Messina is responsible for making all of the characters look good and he largely succeeds with Star Trek: Nero. The panels have recognizable renditions of Nero, Ayal, Koth and later on Spock. Even V'Ger is surprisingly easy to recognize and the sense artwork looks good enough to recommend the book on the merits as a result. Unfortunately, some of the sense of movement in panels – like in the escape scene – are not terrifically rendered and some of the panels do look more like thumbnail sketches as opposed to fully realized pieces of artwork. That said, the coloring done by Giovanna Niro are homogeneously wonderful, though the colors are brighter and more monotonal than adding truly realistic shading and depth to the initial artwork.
In this anthology, Star Trek: Nero's four chapters are given a bonus section of uncolored artwork sketches from the comic books and while the cover gallery is neat, the artwork thereafter adds nothing special to the experience and is fairly unimpressive.
Even so, those who want a richer understanding of Star Trek and its primary villain will do well to pick up Star Trek: Nero. It is entertaining and reinforces the character seen in the film and deleted scenes enough to make one reconsider his position in the pantheon of great Star Trek villains.
For other Star Trek graphic novels, please check out my reviews of:
Star Trek Omnibus 1
Star Trek: Mirror Images
Star Trek Archives Volume 3 - The Best Of Gary Seven
For other graphic novels, please check out my index page!
© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.