'Star Trek Into Darkness' Countdown: How the Comics and Video Game Help Set Up the Sequel

'Star Trek Into Darkness' Countdown: How the Comics and Video Game Help Set Up the Sequel

Apr 24, 2013

If you’re looking forward to Star Trek Into Darkness as much as I or any big fan of the franchise is, then chances are you’re ready to dive into some adventures you can read or watch right now to get you even more psyched for the film when it hits theaters. It’s about these times that I find myself dusting off my Blu-rays of the original series, trying to reinstall old Trek games that I loved to play on my newer computer (like Elite Force or Starfleet Command), and dive way back into the deep end of the whole Star Trek universe.
You may be interested to know, though, that you can actually enjoy a lot of new content without having to go back to the Trek of old. Trust me, I love everything Trek from “The Cage” all the way up to “Terra Prime” (let's ignore that last one), but since we have a new adventure of the original crew as played by the likes of Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban, chances are that my tastes are going to skew a bit in the direction of the 2009 cast. With their new film right around the corner, would you like to see what the new crew of the Enterprise has been up to since they vanquished Nero at the end of the last film?
I’m sure you would. Here’s how you can.
IDW Comics' Ongoing Star Trek Series
One of the best ways that Star Trek fans have been able to keep up with their favorite crews from shows past is through expanded-universe works. While not canonical in the events of the prime Trek universe, the novels didn't have to worry about actors' salaries or effects budgets. All fans needed to enjoy one was maybe $8 for a mass-market paperback and some free time to revisit old friends from any Trek series. They're still great outlets for revisiting the prime universe, but not a whole lot has been explored in the "alternate timeline" universe in which the new films take place.
Enter IDW Publishing, which has taken the number three spot after Marvel and DC from Dark Horse for comics publishers in recent years because of its prolific publication of licensed works based on the likes of TransformersG.I. Joe and Star Trek.
In September 2011, IDW published Star Trek #1, a series which promised to take place within the new film universe and reimagine classic original series episodes, tell some new stories, and basically just keep us current with the adventures between the ones we see on film. As a result, this series is one of the best possible ways to get a current Trek fix without having to watch your copy of the 2009 film over and over again. You don't have to be a fan of the original series, but if you are then you'll likely get a huge kick out of the reimagining of episodes like "Where No Man Has Gone Before," "The Galileo Seven," "Operation -- Annihilate!,"and "The Return of the Archons."
Beyond the creative reimaginings also come some fun, original stories like "Vulcan's Vengeance," where a sect of the normally peaceful people are seeking retribution out of the loss of their planet in the last film. Recently, with the new film upon us, certain issues have gone the route of focusing on a particular crewmember, telling a part of their past that we may not have known before. My favorite of these is probably the one that focused on Dr. McCoy, giving us greater insight into his seemingly odd desire to join Starfleet and what led him to become the legendary physician he's destined to become.
Beyond the very well-written stories of series scribe Mike Johnson, there's also a greater level of authenticity to the stories of the series since they're overseen by the new films' cowriter and producer Roberto Orci, a self-confessed Trek die-hard fan and one of the prime decision makers of the current Star Trek. Beyond that? The first issue of the series to be released after the movie comes out is the beginning of a story called "After Darkness." It should prove pretty interesting to read about what the immediate aftermath of the film will be without having to wait four years for the next one!
The series is currently collected into four trade paperback editions (with a fifth on the way) that can all likely be purchased at your local comic shop, or you can get either the collected editions or the individual issues digitally at ComiXology.
Countdown to Darkness Comic Book Prequel
As we also told you back in January, IDW has also recently published a separate dedicated series designed to directly lead readers into the events of the new film in its prequel aptly entitled Countdown to Darkness. It was released in January-April, and told a story of the Enterprise crew having to come to grips with the limitations of the Prime Directive in wanting to help a less advanced, threatened race from being destroyed.
Countdown also included some characters from the Trek mythos that I didn't expect to see in the new film universe, particularly Captain Robert April, who was the very first Captain of the Enterprise before even Captain Pike.
The richest character in the series, in my opinion, was Spock. The loss of Vulcan still weighs pretty heavily on his soul, and through the writing and David Messina's emotive artwork, it became clear that he still struggles actively with the warring human and Vulcan halves, and the emotional turmoil such a traumatic loss can create. It's a good thing that by and large Spock is one of the most stable individuals in the universe. I'd hate to see what some less stable Vulcan survivors have been doing to deal with their loss.
I enjoyed the series, and it likely told us what some of the components of the plot are going to be for Into Darkness, but it didn't feel very highly connected to the film until the last page of the final issue. I'm sure by the time I walk out of the the theater after my first viewing I'll be able to make more connections about what the series has set up, but even taking that into account this was a fun book also written by Mike Johnson and overseen by Orci.
The collected edition for the series is out now in paperback, which you can also likely find at your local comic shop, or you can also read this series digitally as well.
Star Trek: The Video Game
One of the things I found conspicuously absent from the marketing push of the last Star Trek film was the lack of a big-budget video game release. Someone did put a game out, but it was a rather forgettable starship skirmish piece that didn't really have very much replay value to it. So, when this game was announced at E3 in 2011, I was very intrigued because it looked like the game we should've been given back in '09, but it also looked like it might be worth the wait.
The main gameplay portion that sets it apart from other, similar third-person action games is that it's co-op driven. This means that the entire game is designed to be played by two people, though you can also play alone if you want. You choose either Captain Kirk or Spock, and the gameplay experience is pretty different depending on your chosen character. As Kirk, you're in the thick of the action where your trusty phaser is the only tool to get you out of a tight spot, and you can even use your command authority to call in an orbital strike from the Enterprise.
As Spock, you can use your Vulcan mind meld to learn how to pass a certain area, unlock parts of the developing story, and use your computer skills to get past other obstacles.
The story is overseen by both Trek screenwriters, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, features the voices and likenesses of the entire primary cast, and is actually canonical with the events of the new movies according to a high-level Paramount executive. So, if you want to check out what the crew was up to in addition to those aforementioned comics, it looks like the experience of the game can definitely help you find out. Also, if you haven't seen this awesome commercial for the game featuring none other than William Shatner, allow me to show it to you:

Star Trek is available for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC now.


TNG Greatness This Week

If you're a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, then you have a couple of really cool things to look forward to over the next week. Tomorrow, April 25, Fathom Events is presenting what is arguably the greatest two-parter in the entire seven-year run of TNG in theaters across the country: "The Best of Both Worlds."

After the introduction of the Borg in the previous season, the fearsome cybernetic hive mind returns with their eyes focused on conquering Earth. While the Federation is planning to send a giant armada to meet the single Borg ship, the crew of the Enterprise faces crisis when Captain Picard himself is abducted by the Borg, and transformed into a weapon that perverts his years of experience as a seasoned Federation commander against his own people.

The event will be happening at participating theaters at 7 p.m. local time, and will be shown as a full-length film with both episodes together in its new high-definition restoration for release on the upcoming Blu-rays.

It will also feature a first look at some of the special features to be found on the upcoming season three release of TNG on Blu-ray. Tickets for the event can be purchased at Fandango, and I'd encourage you to get them now if you want to see Picard's assimilation on the big screen!

Speaking of that season three release, it happens next Tuesday, April 30. The TNG Blu-ray releases have been nothing short of stunning thus far, with every episode painstakingly transferred into HD from the original camera negatives, with all of the effects shots newly recomposited and every episode edited together from the ground up using the original production notes. If you enjoy TNG as much as any big Trek fan, the Blu-ray releases are definitely worth checking out, and season three contains some of the best episodes of the entire series.

That does it for the Countdown this week, be back here in a fortnight as we bring you the FINAL COUNTDOWN before Star Trek Into Darkness FINALLY arrives in theaters!

Chris Clow is a geek. He is a comic book expert and retailer, and freelance contributor to GeekNation.comBatman-On-Film.com and ModernMythMedia.com. You can find his weekly piece The Geek Beat every Tuesday and the Star Trek Into Darkness Countdown every other Wednesday right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.


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