Anticipation is running high for the upcoming summer blockbuster season, and Star Trek Into Darkness is most certainly at the top of most fans’ lists as ‘must see’ material. The buzz surrounding the film has been so huge during the last year that it certainly feels to be an enthusing time to be a sci-fi geek. And in tradition to form with the previous Star Trek movie, IDW Publishing has released a prequel to the upcoming movie entitled Star Trek: Countdown To Darkness.
Prior to the events of the upcoming movie, the crew of the USS Enterprise, under the authority of Captain Kirk, arrives at the planet Phaedus to conduct a survey of the development of the intelligent race on the surface. Observing the protocol of the Prime Directive, the crew aims to observe the “iron age” home-grown species from orbit – until a high tech jamming signal from the planet disables communication and transporters.
With the warning that the Prime Directive has been violated, Kirk decides to head to the surface in a shuttle along with Spock, Sulu, and a redshirt. On their way down, their ship is blasted by phaser technology, making a return trip to the Enterprise impossible. On the surface, they discover members of Phaedans using older Starfleet technology, as it is revealed that it was provided to them by former captain of an older Enterprise, Robert April.
April reveals to Kirk and Spock that the Phaedans have been caught in a civil war being raged between them, and that he walked out on (or rather, transported out on) his Enterprise to “go native” and support the aliens being brutally tortured and killed. Despite the moral predicament they find themselves in, Kirk keeps his focus on a more important point at issue: who gave advanced technology to the dominant Phaedans, and why?
Countdown To Darkness is an enjoyable read – but be aware that those pursuing major clues and spoilers for the upcoming movie will most likely be disappointed. The book does provide hints and clues to elements that will arise during Star Trek Into Darkness, but there are no major manifestations by characters such as Benedict Cumberbatch’s villain (though he does have a cameo at the end presumably leading directly to the events of the movie).
No, Countdown To Darkness is a standalone adventure that just so happens to occur before the experiences of the movie. It’s a fun romp, with many tips of the hat to all elements of Star Trek (Harry Mudd has a part-Bajoran daughter for one, and she’s a sexy smuggler too) and works well as an adventurous comic. The atmosphere of the tale is one that fits nicely into the feel and flow of the original series, as well as with the revamped image provided by J.J. Abrams in his first Star Trek movie.
The artwork is of an agreeable caliber, with many of the characters seemingly being a blend between the current crew’s likenesses and a hint of the classic cast. For the most part, David Messina’s pencils and Marina Castelvetro’s inks deliver a nice and unique style to them, while not straying too far from the imagery we’re accustomed to. The colors are good as well, except in some portions during the closing chapters in which aspects like tinges and hair colors are noticeably, well, “off.”
As far as continuity within the incalculability of the Star Trek universe is concerned, there are plenty of references. Harry Mudd’s daughter is a primary character, and Robert April is the first captain of the Enterprise once making an appearance in the animated series. There are also allusions to several episodes and incidences from the original series, as well as major callbacks to the previous film. Observant fans will note some rather obvious cues used here and there as set-up for moments in the Star Trek Into Darkness, that are nicely included in a manner that won’t spoil the film for you.
So is Countdown To Darkness worth reading? If you’re a Star Trek fan or thoroughly enjoyed the last J.J. Abrams movie, then hell yes, definitely grab this one. However, if you’re simply a hardcore movie geek hoping to get majorly spoiled in advance of the film? Save your time – this is just a fun romp for Star Trek fans with an original story that happen prior to Into Darkness. This in and of itself makes it an enjoyable read. Give it a glance, you might dig it.