Star Trek: The Tholian Webs (Part one of two)
Published by: IDW Publishing
Writer: Mike Johnson
Artist: Rachael Stott
Colourist: David Mastrolonardo
Letterer: Neil Uyetake
Cover by: Joe Corroney (Art) and Brian Miller (Colours)
Editor: Sarah Gaydos
Story Consultant: Roberto Orci

Release Date: 17/06/2015

Overview: After the events of “Eurydice”; the Enterprise is heading back home to Federation space with the crew eager and ready to continue their mission of exploration. Unexpectedly the Enterprise drops out of warp and the ship encounters pockets of “interphase” space. It doesn’t take too long for Kirk, Spock and McCoy to realise that being adrift within this area of “interphase” space is having some kind of negative effect upon the crew who in turn are each being affected in different ways and taking very different courses of action. As the crisis continues we see Sulu and Scotty take matters into their own hands with some drastic consequences and if things couldn’t get any worse; the issue ends when unknown alien ships arrive and start to surround sections of the Enterprise with a strange web.

The Story: Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS) for me was always about the trinity of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. The relationship between the three was often put to the test within the series and while their friendships may have been strained at times they were always able to overcome any obstacles by working together and using their individual strengths combined to find the solution. A perfect example of this was the third-season episode “The Tholian Web”. Here Kirk is separated from Spock and McCoy who have to somehow work together without Kirk there to bring balance to the trinity. It takes a recorded message from Kirk to remind Spock and McCoy that they are friends and can work together before a solution can be found.

When the ongoing comic series first started I was very dubious about there being “retellings” or “re-imaginings” of TOS episodes but as Mike Johnson wrote more, these stories, while still having elements of the TOS episodes, felt fresh and would often take the story into areas not yet explored. They weren’t simply a “rehash” but something new and exciting. An example of this was “The Return of the Archons” back in issues ten and eleven. When I heard that the next story after “Eurydice” was going to be called “The Tholian Webs”, I wasn’t sure how I felt since the original was an enjoyable episode and I wondered how else the story could be told.

This story is very different to the TOS episode, this time we don’t encounter the Starship Defiant but by removing this aspect of the story I feel the pace quickens as we begin to see the effects of “interphase” much quicker and this allows us to see the impact upon the ship and crew. Something that stood out for me in the story was unlike the original episode it wasn’t only Chekov who was affected by the spatial interphase but Sulu and Scotty as well. This meant that Kirk and Spock were under even more pressure within the story since they could not rely on their key officers.  The way in which crew members were being affected reminded me of “The Naked Time” from TOS. In that episode, the characters were freed from their inhabitations and were reckless and we certainly see that here with Sulu (sorry, no swords in this story) and Scotty.

Some comments by Star Trek fans of the JJ verse is that the trinity is now between Kirk, Spock and Uhura but it’s really nice to see that within this story McCoy is important to the story and that his actions within the story do surprise Kirk and Spock. I must admit knowing McCoy as I do; I was surprised as well by his actions and look forward to asking Mike Johnson about his motivations behind this turn of events. Is that cryptic? Well, you’re going to need to read the comic then!

I am also enjoying how Mike Johnson writes Captain Kirk. The ongoing series has continued reminding us that Kirk is not just a womanising, risk-taking “cowboy” but is actually an intelligent officer who can use his brains before jumping in (something Kirk has been learning since Into Darkness). We see a great example of this towards the end of the issue when Kirk puts everything together after the aliens arrive and start to use their “webs”.

We also get to see the Enterprise do something that has only been mentioned at various times within TOS.  We actually see the Enterprise undergo a saucer separation! It’s also an important part of the story which makes the crisis even worse for Kirk and the way it’s been drawn by Rachael Stott adds to the drama. I really enjoyed seeing this and again it was something I didn’t expect to find in the story.

The story ends with the appearance of the Tholians (I think we all know these are the mysterious aliens) and I feel Mike Johnson has used them well in this issue by only having them make a brief appearance. It is interesting to note, however, that the ships are not recognised which means that in this timeline (unless I’m assuming too much) the Federation have not yet encountered the Tholians while in TOS they were known to Starfleet. I’m looking forward to seeing the Tholians of the JJ verse in the next issue and how different they might be.

The Art:  Rachael Stott came to everyone’s attention in the Star Trek / Planet of the Apes crossover series. Rachael Stott has a wonderful style of art and I’m a big fan of her work on that series. I was really excited when I found out that Rachael Stott would be working on the ongoing series alongside Mike Johnson for these two issues. Along with colourist David Mastrolonardo, Rachael Stott has produced some incredible artwork for this issue.

Starting with likenesses; I thought these were really good. The standout ones for me were Kirk and Spock. Rachael Stott has captured the essences of Pine and Quinto perfectly and as the story moves on I can imagine those actors saying the lines that Mike Johnson has written.

One of the most important characters for me in Star Trek is the Enterprise and within this story, the ship is in the forefront. Rachael Stott draws the JJ verse Enterprise perfectly, as I mentioned above we get to see the ship do something amazing and these sequences are some of my favourite within the issue. Moving inside the Enterprise, most of the story takes place in sickbay, engineering and the bridge and in each of these areas the details are incredible. Take a look at sickbay, Rachael Stott has done her homework and the details stood out for me in these panels.

While the appearance of the Tholian ships is only brief towards the end of the story, Rachael Stott has drawn an interesting concept combining the original design but adding a fresh look that makes them look menacing and unknown. I also enjoyed the “web” effect that is used to surround the Enterprise; again it is different from the original episode but easily recognizable.

The Covers: The standard cover is drawn by Joe Corroney and again for this issue, we have a generic cover of Kirk, Scotty and Chekov – although Chekov is in a red uniform which is something we have only seen in Star Trek Into Darkness. It’s a nice cover, but for me, it’s not the best that Joe Corroney has produced and while I understand that the covers are often drawn before the comic has even been written, it is annoying for the cover to have no relation to the story. The subscription cover is a photo cover of Chekov which, again, is baffling since we only see him in one panel within the story. I must admit, it would have been great to have seen a cover drawn by Rachael Stott.

Overall: The one thing I always expect when reading a multi-part comic story is at the end of each issue I am left wanting more. I must admit I didn’t feel that with “Eurydice” but with “The Tholian Webs” I did.  Mike Johnson has taken the best elements of the original episode and has set up a story that I can’t wait to see concluded. It’s great to see Kirk, Spock and McCoy together again (as it should be) and I hope this continues. The art by Rachael Stott is amazing, Rachael has surpassed her work on Apes and I really hope that after issue 47 we get to see her draw more Star Trek very soon.

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