Star Trek: Lower Decks #1 – 3
Written by: Ryan North
Art by: Chris Fenoglio
Letters & Design by: Johanna Nattalie (#1 – 3) and Jake Wood (#3)
Published by: IDW
All three issues of the very highly anticipated comic book adaptation of Star Trek: Lower Decks are now available, and the miniseries does not disappoint (except, perhaps, in not being an ongoing series). Featuring plenty of beta shift and a holographic Dracula, this story combines the aesthetics and sensibility of the show with the special talents of the creators to replicate a worthy tie-in comic to the ongoing animated Trek series.
First and foremost, fans of the show will be extremely satisfied with these three issues. In addition to nailing the voice of each and every familiar Cerritos crewmember that appears, this issue tells an original story with two dovetailing subplots that each feel very much in the vein of Star Trek: The Next Generation (by way of the California class).
This is bolstered by Fenoglio’s art. As far as the scenes featuring the characters and interiors of the Cerritos go, you’d think you were looking at screenshots from the show. When it comes to the exterior shots of the ships, which are rendered via computer generated images onscreen, there is some difference – but since Fenoglio is human rather than computer (as far as I know), this distinction makes sense. Plus, the more “illustrated style” images of the Cerritos (and the mini-Enterprises that make a cameo in #1) serve the comic perfectly well, especially on the double splash pages.
That isn’t the only place where the Lower Decks comic’s aesthetic soars, either. Flipping open the cover of any of the three issues immediately treats the reader to a well-rendered “LCARS” introduction/recap page, a design element that is also utilized for the back matter in each issue. By adopting the composition of the Starfleet OS for these pages, the comic ensures that any post-TOS Trekkie will feel immediately at home upon opening the book.
Programming by North Central Positronics
We’ve already established that the series works well within the context of Lower Decks: it’s even set on a specific stardate (58120.6), placing the storyline in the back half of season 2, between “The Spy Humongous” (58105.1) and “First First Contact” (58130.6). According to an interview with StarTrek.com, this is thanks to the fact that North worked closely with series creator Mike McMahan on the developing of the miniseries.
In addition to the eye towards continuity, there are plenty of references to most of the rest of the Trek canon, including The Animated Series and Enterprise. Plus, improbably enough, there are even a few allusions to the Kelvin timeline trilogy.
But on top of being a great Lower Decks and Star Trek comic, each of the creators brings their own special addition to the mix. For North, this means an emphasis on a storyline that predominantly features computer programming, with plenty of actual “science” mixed into the “science fiction.” This latter philosophy is even emphasized by one of the bottom-of-the-page notes spread throughout the three issues, a hallmark that will be familiar to any readers of North’s work on The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.
Likewise, Fenoglio leaves his mark, even managing to sneak in a character wearing a scant. Trekkies have literally been demanding this for years, and Lower Decks has delivered. Qapla’!
Hologram Fans Rejoice
Maybe it’s no surprise that North penned a “holodeck gone wrong” story: for one thing, they are considered one of the most memorable episode archetypes from TNG, which takes place just before Lower Decks (and is naturally fresh in beta shift’s mind). Plus, with the holographic advancements that have taken place since The Doctor returned from the Delta Quadrant at the conclusion of Star Trek: Voyager, the topic is ripe to be revisited – especially with someone as well-versed on the material as North.
But this story subverts the usual “evil Moriarty” storyline by giving holographic Dracula the opportunity to become a hero by the conclusion. As pointed out by the beta shifters, this is Federation philosophy at its best: helping sentient life achieve their full potential. Plus, it also means we get to read whole paragraph written by Dracula and talking up Bram Stoker over Leo Tolstoy. No arguments here, Drac!
Badgey’s Back Matter
Finally, the back matter – the “lower decks” of any comic – is stupendous. Each issue not only features a full variant cover gallery (an essential inclusion, considering how good this batch of variant covers are) but additional material. While my personal favorites were the full-page advertisements for food items from the Cerritos replicators (elote FTW), there is plenty more, such as pages revealing Trek references and a two-page spread with a photograph of the massive Lower Decks mural Fenoglio painted at New York Comic Con 2022. As mentioned above, all of this is presented via an outstanding design, making you feel as though you’re browsing through advertisements on a PADD in the Cerritos bar.
And of course, all of this is hosted by Badgey, the homicidal program who murdered Shax and attacked Douglas Station in the season 3 finale. This is a good way to include the series-level antagonist without making him oversaturated, a wise choice for the comic.
Hope for Second Contact?
The Trade Paper Back is scheduled for release in May 2023. Alternatively, if you aren’t the trade waiting type, all three issues of the Lower Decks comic are available now, possibly at your Local Comic Shop.
But I do have some questions: why only three issues? Where the jug is the Erica Henderson variant cover to go with my prized Derek Charm variant cover? What other comic has a “Chekov’s Blood” joke? Why not make this your ongoing flagship Trek comic?
To paraphrase Captain Carol Freeman’s voice actor Dawnn Lewis, put some respect on the Cali class! The Lower Decks comic has earned it.
Verdict: REPLICATE A COPY FOR EVERYONE YOU KNOW (AND YOUR PETS).
Cover image: Lower Decks #3 Variant C by Philip Murphy.
This piece is the inaugural entry in a new series called TRADE RATING, in which The Beat’s contributors review recent and forthcoming collections of comics material, from single issues to webcomics and more. Check back each Thursday for a new trade review!