Writers: Christopher Cantwell
Art: Ángel Unzueta
Colors: Marissa Louise
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Release Date: April 12th, 2022
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Worf’s unsanctioned mission to stop Kahless and save his son is littered with questionable decisions–starting with stealing Defiant, the series’ titular starship. But perhaps nothing appeared more questionable in the first issue than the revelation that Worf had appropriated Lore’s head. With STAR TREK DEFIANT #2 we find out how Worf acquired the android’s head and why it’s necessary to have him in the first place.
STAR TREK DEFIANT #2 opens with a flashback that picks up on the shocking Lore reveal at the end of the previous issue. As Cantwell did with Worf, Spock, and Defiant, he uses Worf’s log entry to describe prior events. In this case it details a planet destroyed by what appears to be the result of a Crystalline Entity attack (which they know to be impossible because Kahless destroyed the Crystalline Entities as detailed in STAR TREK). Spock and Worf speculate that Kahless’s weapon doesn’t just destroy “gods”, but also acquires their abilities. They conclude that they will require the best possible scientific mind available if their mission is to succeed. To that end, they liberate Lore’s head from a secret Section 31 facility. When the narrative catches back up to the present, Defiant has tracked Kahless to very dangerous and untrustworthy Orion Pirates.
Cantwell does a better job in STAR TREK DEFIANT #2 with Lore’s flashback origin story than he did with Worf and Spock’s in the first issue. The issue explains little about Lore. This leaves the door open to further develop the character as the series goes on.
The characterization of the unstable android is somewhat surprising. He is, to an extent, repentant for his past actions. Part of this is chalked up to the loss of the emotion chip he stole from Soong and Data (both the theft and loss having taken place in Next Generation episodes). Fans of Next Generation and viewers of recent episodes of Star Trek Picard may take issue with the way Cantwell presents Lore because it feels abrupt and appears inconsistent with depictions of him in the future. It is worth noting, however, that unless Cantwell had advanced access to Picard episodes, he would not have known how Lore was being presented in that series. But Lore’s time in STAR TREK DEFIANT is so limited to this point that it’s fair to reserve judgment on Cantwell’s choices for the character.
Cantwell’s presentation of B’elanna and Ro in STAR TREK DEFIANT #2 is much more logical on its face. The issue does a good job presenting the internecine conflicts that would exist in an organization like the Maquis. Star Trek Voyager played with this idea in early episodes before largely dropping it as the series went on. Two former Maquis members disagree with each other’s reasons for joining the group. This tension repeatedly makes itself known in moments of hostility. It’s especially compelling to see verbal confrontations play out on the bridge–something that would never happen among a Starfleet crew. It’s a nice reminder that STAR TREK DEFIANT is not focused on a Starfleet mission.
The Art & Colors
Unzueta once again shows off his proficiency when it comes to drawing emotive characters. STAR TREK DEFIANT has so far charted a different course than its predecessor series. Where STAR TREK comes off as expansive and cosmic, this series is closer in, full of more intrigue and character conflict. Unzueta leans into that hard. The exchanges between Ro and B’elanna are all the more compelling because Unzueta never lets up when it comes to expressions ranging from dismissive antipathy to anger to borderline loathing. Cantwell’s dialogue tells us how the two former terrorists feel about each other. But Unzueta’s makes it real.
The issue makes a clever choice to bookend Worf and Spock’s presence on the ravage planet. We don’t know if Cantwell exclusively made this layout choice or if Unzueta had input. A very thin panel depicting a transporter effect set against black sits at each end of the sequence on the planet. It provides a very effective transition between the locations without the need for explicit comment. This is part of the flashback that Worf’s log entry prompts, so quick transitions aren’t particularly jarring. But this visual choice enhances the sequence’s effectiveness considerably. Louise’s coloring is doing a lot to keep Defiant’s interior a unique space in the comic. Even in an issue that features a Section 31 facility that isn’t brightly lit, she keeps the color palettes distinct. The dark lighting on the bridge especially evokes naval CICs. This bridge is not open and inviting.
Cowles’ work in STAR TREK DEFIANT #2 doesn’t stand out for most of the issue. There aren’t obvious opportunities for unusual font or color choices. Nor are there moments where Cowles has to show a deft hand arranging dialogue bubbles or caption boxes in particularly wordy pages and panels. What do stand out are his sound effect choices. He almost certainly has invented a new one when he describes the explosion of mines all around Defiant as it races through the Orion blockade: KAT-TOWWCHH. Space based settings, travel, and combat offer all manner of opportunities for sound effects. Cowles’ placement, color, font, and expression of the effects is creative. It adds a lot of fun to the high tension moments without being intrusive.
Not having to include as much exposition gives Cantwell more room for character interaction and development. Aside from questions about Lore, everyone in the issue is immediately believable. Ro and B’elanna are definitely a highlight. The art team continues to develop this world as well, reinforcing its separation from the series that spawned it. STAR TREK DEFIANT #2 is a strong issue that builds on and improves from the foundation built in the first issue.