Writers: Christopher Cantwell
Art: Ángel Unzueta
Colors: Marissa Louise
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Release Date: March 15th, 2022
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Star Trek’s world is too big to be contained in one series. That’s true on television, and it’s true in comics. It was only a matter of time before the new STAR TREK comic series spun off a companion, and that brings us to STAR TREK DEFIANT #1. But rather than go in a whole separate direction from its parent series, STAR TREK DEFIANT looks to tell the same story but from a different angle. This issue’s task is to convince us that the series has something different to offer.
Kahless is on a genocidal rampage against the most powerful beings in the galaxy. Worf originally teamed with Captain Sisko in hopes of stopping the Klingon emperor. Unfortunately Sisko’s extreme tactics drove a wedge between the two men. In the aftermath, Worf seized control of his own ship and in STAR TREK DEFIANT #1 he leads a renegade mission to stop Kahless. When the issue opens Worf is already in command of Defiant and has assembled his crew: Spock, B’elanna Torres, Ro Laren, and Lore. The issue is essentially split into two parts. The opening pages explain how Worf found himself in command of Defiant. The rest of the issue concerns itself with the crew looking for a way to track down Kahless.
STAR TREK DEFIANT #1 needs to do a lot. The main STAR TREK series contributed nothing to the setup for this spinoff beyond the few panels that featured first Alexander and then Worf’s disagreement with Sisko. As a result the first thing Cantwell tries to do is set up Worf’s break with Sisko and Starfleet, his newfound partnership with Spock, and his acquisition of Defiant. Unfortunately this is also the weakest part of the issue. Spock’s decision to join Worf comes fast, and the means by which Spock is able to get Defiant for Worf is exceptionally convenient (and, if one remembers that Starfleet briefly thought Dpock was a defector, extremely implausible). Cantwell also introduces the possibility of Romulan intrigue during this sequence. This may be setting up future story arcs, but it’s out of place in what is basically Worf’s origin story.
The issue improves considerably once the flashback story is told. Cantwell uses Worf as the point of view character and takes the reader through the ship. It helps the reader get a better grasp on Worf’s mission versus Sisko’s. It also introduces the rest of the crew. The way Cantwell introduces Ro and B’elanna is a major contrast to how he introduced Spock. Their presence gets only a surface level explanation. This is likely background information that will be developed in later issues of STAR TREK DEFIANT. But in any event, this minimalist choice works well for the characters and approaching Worf, Spock, and Defiant in a similar way would have improved the book considerably.
Cantwell’s character choice is intriguing from the start. Including B’elanna when Tom Paris is already on Theseus in STAR TREK opens up a lot of storytelling possibilities, some of which include scenarios where one or the other’s loyalty is in question. Ro, even when she was on the Enterprise, has always been an antagonistic presence which introduces plenty of opportunity for internal conflict. And the tendency of both Ro and B’Elanna toward emotional outbursts has the potential to create both serious and humorous friction with Spock.
STAR TREK DEFIANT #1 also centers the plot around Kahless and the Klingon Empire rather than the genocide itself. Cantwell touches on how the emperor’s actions are impacting Chancellor Martok, for instance. This is an aspect that hasn’t been touched on at all in STAR TREK, and it creates whole new avenues with which to examine the same foundational story.
STAR TREK DEFIANT #1 is light on action and heavy on character interaction. Unzueta delivers the kind of detail that makes this engrossing. In the case of Worf especially, who is in virtually every panel, Unzueta conveys a high volume of emotions throughout. Expressions change subtly. The character looks contemplative. In many cases, Worf’s side of a conversation isn’t necessary because his basic response is readable on his face. Unzueta’s ability to depict such vividly emotional characters then leads to a compelling contrast with her portrayal of Spock. Seeing Spock’s far more restrained appearance comes across as a deliberate choice. It is quite effective. Louise’s color choices in STAR TREK DEFIANT #1 create a telling contrast with the STAR TREK series it spun out of. STAR TREK DEFIANT is dark and moody, from the unadorned non-Starfleet attire to Defiant’s low lighting. Louise on her own gives this series an identity from the start which can only enhance the stories Cantwell will tell.
The opening pages with their difficult introduction to the series’ premise results in an overall uneven first issue. That said, STAR TREK DEFIANT #1 offers a great deal of potential. Cantwell has peppered in a number of small details, of which any or all could lead to future story arcs. When it comes to the art, though, the issue is a runaway success and establishes a distinct feel from the start. Readers currently enjoying the new STAR TREK series should definitely pick this up. This series doesn’t get off to quite as smooth a start as its parent. But it’s still worth it to experience this very separate side to the same story.