I’ve never read a piece of Star Trek fiction before. Well, unless you count that weird crossover comic with Doctor Who from 2012/2013. In fact, my only real exposure to Star Trek, in general, comes from a handful of episodes of The Next Generation, the first two JJ Abrams movies, and general cultural osmosis. But when the trailers for Star Trek: Picard started dropping, I found my interest piqued. It looked like the kind of show I’d be interested in, so I made a point of watching it. At this point, several episodes have aired and I’m really enjoying the show, so I went and looked to see if anything had been released to tie into the show. And lo, and behold, there was this three-issue prequel comic from IDW, written by Kirsten Beyer and Mike Johnson and illustrated by Angel Hernandez, that promised to reveal some of the events that happened prior to the start of the show. It sounded like the kind of thing I’d be interested in, so I picked up the issues and gave them a read and, I gotta say, it’s really solid. Though a bit short, Star Trek: Picard – Countdown tells a really good story that shines a bit of light on Picard’s history before the beginning of Star Trek: Picard. (Mild spoilers may follow.)
Star Trek: Picard – Countdown (written by Kirsten Beyer and Mike Johnson, illustrated by Angel Hernandez)
Witness the events leading to the new CBS All Access series Picard in this graphic novel where new characters are introduced and secrets will be revealed. Before he retired to his vineyard, Jean-Luc Picard was the most decorated admiral in Starfleet. Then one mission changed his life forever. The Countdown starts here!
If you, like me, found yourself wanting to know more about Picard’s time working with Starfleet to try and evacuate the Romulan people prior to their sun going supernova, then this is the comic for you. If you were wanted to know more about the backstory of characters like Zhaban, Laris, and Raffi, then this is the story for you. If you wanted to know more about what Next Generation characters like La Forge were up to between the end of that series and the beginning of Picard, then this is the story for you. It’s actually impressive how much is crammed into these three issues. Star Trek: Picard – Countdown isn’t a long story and it never goes as in-depth as you’d like it to, but it does a good job at introducing, and contextualizing, some of the new characters in Star Trek: Picard to readers while also letting us see what some fan-favorites, like Picard and La Forge, were up to during the Romulan evacuation.
In Picard: Countdown, we follow Picard and Raffi as they travel to one of the Romulan colony planets to try and make a deal with the governor to evacuate those on the planet. Once they get there, they quickly learn that the governor has no intention of making a deal with Starfleet but intends to derail the entire operation. To say any more would be to venture too far into spoiler territory, but needless to say it’s a pretty exciting ride. One of the coolest things about the story is getting to see how some of the Romulans reacted to Starfleet’s efforts to save them from dying in the aftermath of their sun going supernova. It’s interesting that the Romulans treated Starfleet about as suspiciously as some of Starfleet have treated the Romulans – but I suppose that makes sense given their history of conflict. Of equal coolness is getting to see Zhaban and Laris, who act as Picard’s house staff during the series and are later revealed to be members of the Tal Shiar, in proper action. We also get a hint of why they ultimately decided to live with Picard on his vineyard and that’s really cool. Overall, it’s totally not a necessary read in order to understand the show, but those who find themselves craving new information will definitely find some here.
While the story is extremely solid, I do have one complaint: it’s so short! I understand that comics are usually pretty fast-paced, but this one moves at the speed of a freight train and never lets up. While that works for keeping the energy and excitement up, it does rob some of the quieter moments of the chance to breathe a little. It’s clear that Beyer and Johnson know ho wot write a Star Trek story and have perfectly captured the voices of these characters, so it would have been nice for them to have been given a chance to do a little bit more with them. It’s a solid story, but I can’t help but think a fourth issue might have given it the room to be even better, allowing it to space things out just a bit better and giving everything the room to breathe.
What’s probably most impressive about this comic is Angel Hernandez’s artwork. Hernandez is able to perfectly capture the feeling of Star Trek while bringing their own style to the mix. All of the characters are immediately identifiable as their on-screen counterparts, but where Hernandez lets loose is with the background designs. Hernandez makes the various starships look that perfect mixture of clinical and homely; they still look like an important government machine but they also feel lived in. The same is true for the colony planet Picard and Raffi visit. This planet is sort of weird-looking, but it also makes sense. Hernandez even gets to design some new creatures, too, in the form of the planet’s indigenous lifeform. And those designs are excellent – they look suitably alien without feeling cliche. On the whole, Hernandez’s artwork breathes a lot of life into this comic and ends up stealing the show.
At the end of the day, Star Trek: Picard – Countdown isn’t essential reading, but it sure is fun. It’s a very solid story, very competently told by two writers intimately involved with the creation of numerous Star Trek stories. While the comic feels a bit too short, it’s still extremely entertaining and provides some insights on many of the characters and ideas that the Picard show explores. Hernandez’s artwork gives the whole affair a beautiful sheen, breathing life into Beyer and Jonhson’s words and tying everything together with a very cohesive look. While I don’t know how Picard: Countdown stacks up alongside other Star Trek comics and stories, I can’t say I wasn’t thoroughly entertained by it. I’m really enjoying Star Trek: Picard and this comic honestly furthered my enjoyment of the show. I hope IDW continues to make comics set around Picard – they’re a lot of fun!
4 out of 5 wands.