Thursday, August 11, 2011

Surprisingly Good, The Unique Graphic Novel Debt Of Honor Tells A Classic Star Trek Story!

The Good: Artwork, Principle storyline, Moments of character concept.
The Bad: Plays fast and loose with the Star Trek timeline.
The Basics: The Star Trek graphic novel Debt Of Honor tells the story of an alien invasion that will take three crews going rogue to stop.

Back in the day, I was quite the fan of the Star Trek comic books and lately, I have been going through my old collection for enjoyment and review. I remember at the time being both very excited and feeling a little exploited when, in addition to the two monthly series' and the Annuals for them DC comics announced a hardcover graphic novel that would put a dent in my allowance (at the time). It was Star Trek: Debt Of Honor and what it was about was a closely guarded secret until the book was actually released. So, despite my trepidation at the time, as a loyal Trekker, I had to buy Debt Of Honor.

Debt Of Honor is a 96-page adventure set in the original Star Trek timeline. Beginning after Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (reviewed here!), the story flashes back to one of James T. Kirk's earliest adventures on the U.S.S. Farragut. Through the years, Kirk and a Romulan, T'Cel, encounter a brutal alien race from another dimension. The story is engaging, but it is pretty low on character development.

While Kirk is acclimating Gillian Taylor to the future, he considers all of the tragedies he has survived. From the death of David, Khan's downfall, the destruction of the Doomsday Machine and the undercover operation to obtain a Romulan cloaking device, Kirk's thoughts go back to his first professional tragedy. Aboard the U.S.S. Farragut, James Kirk is with a mysterious woman when the ship is attacked. Green parasitic aliens begin to grab crewmembers and Kirk and the mysterious woman barely manage to repel the attack, nearly destroying the Farragut in the process. The woman disappears and while the Farragut is being refit, Kirk is told by his captain that because there is no one to corroborate Kirk's story, StarFleet is pretty much sweeping the alien threat under the rug.

But years later, Kirk encounters T'Cel, the Romulan, again. As the Klingon schism between the two Klingon races reaches its zenith and the Romulans and Klingons dissolve their peace treaty, T'Cel discovers both a Klingon destroyer and a giant hive ship of the alien invaders. With the Klingon, Romulan and Federation governments refusing to get involved, Kirk teams up with T'Cel and takes the Enterprise to stop the threat the parasitic aliens represent.

Debt Of Honor tells a long narrative arc and the villain is pretty cool. The parasitic aliens resist phaser fire and they have been manipulating the victims of the ships they have attacked. The creature design is both cool and creepy and it works nicely to make a viable villain. Sadly, the concept occasionally works better than the execution.

For the most part, the artwork is wonderful. Adam Hughes has both clear character design and a decent sense of movement within the panels and between them. Most of the characters are instantly and consistently recognizable, though the inker and colorist do not have the same ability as Hughes does for rendering vivid images. Some of the panels look more like a comic strip than a rich graphic novel as a result. The only place in the book that is detailed but still looks lame is the introduction of the alien ship, which has a globby look that comes across as more sloppy than distinctive.

That said, writer Chris Claremont has a decent sense of the voices of the characters. Kirk, especially, reads as true and Debt Of Honor has a very classic Star Trek feel to it. The concept of a threat so big that the Klingons, Federation and Romulans have to work together is a good one. But the theme of cooperation is pretty thin and the fact that the characters all have to go outside their respective governments lessens the impact of much of what they have to do together.

Still, Star Trek fans are likely to enjoy Debt Of Honor, though it is harder to find now. Ironically, the price has dropped on it from when I first purchased it, but for a diverting read it holds up and can be a nice addition to a fan's collection.

For other Star Trek comics from this era, check out my reviews of:
The Best Of Peter David
Death Before Dishonor
The Trial Of James T. Kirk


For other book reviews, please be sure to visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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