IDW/Titan Publishing, out now
The mission before the mission that opens the movie…
I’m not entirely certain what the purpose of this comic book was, given that, unlike the period leading up to the release of the 2009 movie, there has been a regular monthly Star Trek title coming from IDW, which has focused on the new cast and was apparently supposed to set them up for the next film. There are even references in Countdown to Darkness to events in that series (the rewrite of Return of the Archons for example).
That said, it’s a handy (and on the whole very well-illustrated) reintroduction to the cast for those who may have forgotten about them in the four years since the last film came out. The Spock/Uhura relationship is spotlighted (although the resolution of elements within these pages contradicts what Uhura tells Kirk in the film – if it had been left as it was in the first part, with Spock consciously avoiding Uhura, it would make more sense), and there’s a hammering home of the Prime Directive, and the problems with breaking and keeping it.
The story features a former captain of the USS Enterprise (and states pretty clearly that the ship that Pike/Kirk take out in 2358 is this universe’s equivalent of the Motion Picture 1701, a redesigned ship brought into service more than a decade early), who has gone native. The scenes between him and Kirk are clearly meant to echo those of Prime Kirk with other rogue captains (The Omega Glory/Bread and Circuses), but lack their resonance.
Countdown to Darkness also reinforces the Klingon threat, hints at some sneaky goings on, and culminates with the barest hint of an appearance by John Harrison, but these are elements which have already been suggested in the ordinary run. It’s a lightweight preface, but – unlike its predecessor, which gave a lot of backstory – not essential.
Verdict: Perfectly enjoyable adventure for the nu-Enterprise crew, but you won’t feel you miss nuances from the movie (bar one ADR line) if you’ve not read it. 6/10