Star Trek: Starfleet Academy #4ST-Academy04-coverRI
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Mike Johnson, Ryan Parrott
Artist: Derek Charm
Colourist: Derek Charm
Letterer: Neil Uyetake
Covers By: Derek Charm (standard), Robert Wilson IV (subscription), David Malan (RI)
Editor: Sarah Gaydos

Release Date: 16/03/16

Warning: This Review Contains Spoilers!

Overview

After a dressing down from Admiral Alexander Marcus for her recent break in to the Academy Archives, Uhura confronts Spock and demands to know why he interfered on her behalf; he responds that it was only logical as because of the depth of his feelings for her, he was incapable of inaction

While trying to cover more ground in the Inter-Academy Competition, the cadets discover a mysterious energy field which they attempt to use to slingshot their way to the front of the race but in doing so find themselves in a quarantined area of space codenamed Wagner 219 where time itself appears to have moved to a crawl. Further inspection unearths a Starship that’s been missing for over a century…

The Story
This month Starfleet Academy was fantastic and another feather in the cap of the creative team. It had it all – action, intrigue, romance and even a healthy dose of time travel!

The sequence with the new class of cadets being attacked was fantastic and we are finally seeing how effective these new characters are when they work together, with Shev in particular showing his commitment to the others by an impressive display of bravery – he wasn’t looking to good at the end of the issue though, I hope he’s ok!

I loved the inclusion of time travel in the story as it’s such a staple of Star Trek and puts the mystery of the USS Slayton front and centre of the narrative.

The creative choice to depict Lucia’s hail to the USS Slayton from the Slayton crew’s perspective was hauntingly good and another stroke of genius from Johnson and Parrott.

Spock’s declaration to Uhura was touching (he said the ‘l’ word!) and shows the depth of affection the couple feel toward each other in the JJ verse. It’s nice to see characters in any Star Trek universe actually happy, and I enjoyed the efforts made by the writers to showcase just how they feel about each other and how they got to where they were at the start of Star Trek ’09. I am firmly with team (editor note: there has to be a better shipping name than this!) ‘Spuhura’!

It should also be noted that issue #4 of Starfleet Academy is the first issue in the series which James T Kirk does not appear, even in cameo and it is a testament to Johnson and Parrot’s strong plotting and their efforts in creating strong fully rounded characters in the new cadets, that he is not even missed.

The Art
The interior art by Derek Charm is its usual mix of bright, fun and detail infused. The likenesses of the movie cast are always good and the storytelling is solid.

I loved the colouring of the starscape as the cadets worked on the planetoid; there were beautiful shades of blues and pinks that worked well in direct contrast to the monstrous design of the planetoids native. I also enjoyed the way Charm conveyed Vel’s noticing of the creature in the first place, it’s almost like he was using his ‘Spidey Sense!’

Charm’s art is a perfect choice for the story being told as it is infused with hope. There is plenty of time for the cadets (and other stories for readers to read) for gritty, realistic art. But this is a story about youth, about being young, making friends, making mistakes and in these characters cases trying to find there place in the universe. Charm’s art reflects this perfectly as this is how the cadets see life: through a bright and hopeful lens.

Favourite Panel: I liked the panel of all the cadets working at their consoles on the bridge of the ship as it’s the first chance we’ve had to get a good look at its interiors, also the sarcastic look on Lucia’s face as he quips that there lucky to be alive made me smile, but my favourite panel this month goes to the image of the Slayton being discovered in the quarantined zone. It appears like a ghost ship, creeping through the strange mist and the cadets shocked faces on the bridge reflected my own as the plot twist unfolded!

The Covers
This issue ships again with three covers. The standard cover by Derek Charm, a subscription variant by Robert Wilson IV and a retailer incentive cover by David Malan.

The standard cover this month by regular interior artist Charm depicts the new class of cadets (minus Grace) running in fear (who could blame them!) from the monstrous alien creature. It really is an exciting image and is reminiscent of Kirk’s fateful encounter with a similar looking beast just after being marooned on Delta Vega in Star Trek ’09.

The subscription cover by Robert Wilson IV is an action scene involving Grace piloting the ship in the competition at speed with Shev and T’Laan looking on. It’s a strange cover as cut up into five segments so we only get small windows in which to see the characters and the ship. However the urgent expression on Grace’s face and the speed at which the ship is traveling is conveyed well. I think this would have been a fine image if it was interior art but not so much for a cover in my opinion.

The retailer incentive cover this month by artist Robert Wilson IV absolutely blew me away. It’s a beautiful painted image that depicts Uhura, Kirk and Spock’s busts against a purple-blue background with the outline of the new cadet’s silhouetted against a sunset backdrop at the bottom. It really is stunning and is my personal favourite of ALL the covers for this series so far. We don’t see Kirk and Co in Academy uniforms on covers often and this image is really special, I want to put it forward as one of my ‘Best Cover of 2016’ already!

Overall
Johnson, Parrott and Charm are painting a fascinating story of learning, teamwork, love and trust with the inclusion of time travel to the mix ensures readers are invested. The characterization is spot on (as always) and the art compliments the story being told here perfectly. I for one enjoyed this penultimate trip to Starfleet Academy and eagerly await next month’s conclusion.

LLAP

Caleb
@CalebBeldom