“This plays to that cheeky nostalgia Lower Decks does so well. I had a great time reading it. The art successfully translates the animation and the writing means rereads are rewarded. If you are a fan of Lower Decks already then this is the comic for you. If you are not then hopefully this comic may change your mind.”
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Chris Fenoglio
Letters & Design: Johanna Nattalie
Star Trek: Lower Decks is the best of the current Star Trek shows. I realise some may disagree but they’d be wrong. Modern Star Trek ironically spends a lot of time looking backwards and indulging in nostalgia. It’s why we have a prequel series with Captain Pike, a man we know will end up communicating solely through blinking lights when he returns to save the budget of an original series episode by recycling the original pilot. It’s also why the next and last season of Picard will basically be the TV equivalent of a Next Gen reunion movie. These shows take their nostalgia terribly seriously which is fine , and if that’s your jam, that’s great. I just want something different from my nostalgia bait, and whilst Lower Decks does do a lot of ‘hey here’s that character from that thing’ and ‘hey here’s a reference you’ll enjoy’, it does it with its tongue firmly in cheek.
Lower Decks is essentially a well written work place comedy except instead of photocopier mishaps something might go wrong with the holodeck (to be fair when does it go right?). Lower Decks knows Star Trek and plays with every trope and alien race cliche in the book but it does it in such a charming way. The show knows these things are ridiculous and laughs at the legacy whilst still emulating that optimistic edge most commonly seen in Next Gen back in the day. It’s nostalgia bait done right.
So when IDW announced a comic based on the show I was excited. IDW has been mining Star Trek for solid comics for years. The Original Series has a lot of comic content from IDW as has The Next Generation and most recently Discovery. Lower Decks is a very different prospect. It’s an animated comedy show. However, IDW have experience with animated media too so things looked good.
It looked better when the creative team were announced. Ryan North is a near perfect fit for Lower Decks. His humour and plotting fit exactly with the tone and feel of the show and characters. It makes perfect sense after his success writing Squirrel Girl for Marvel and those beats and little edit notes at the bottom of each page are carried over to this book. It’s a Ryan North written book that also is a Lower Decks book.
Chris Fenoglio has a tough job with the art. After all this is an animated series that has a very distinct style. He captures it really well, successfully transferring an animated show full of motion onto the page. The designs and character expressions are exactly what you’d expect and really reflect the fun style of the show. Visually it works.
The plot itself is pretty straightforward in one sense. Like the show there’s a couple of plots. We open with a nice riff on the TOS episode ‘The Way to Eden’ but as with an episode of the show that’s just the opener. The actual plots are the bridge crew dealing with a second contact whilst the lower decks crew get in some R and R. Which means one thing. The holodeck.
What follows is a joyous romp through some classic holodeck settings and/or some classic Trek settings (and not so classic – I very much appreciated the dig to Enterprise’s final episode in one panel). Boimler is a Dixon Hill fan, no surprises there, but Mariner goes for Sherlock Holmes. Anyone familiar with TNG will know where this is going.
Elementary Dear Data is one of the most well known TNG episodes. It’s also one of my favourites ever since I was a kid due to the fact I was a Sherlock Holmes and Star Trek geek whose favourite characters were Data and Geordi. To see it played with here with Lower Decks just filled me with glee. From Mariner’s blasé attitude to the potential of the computer creating sentient life to Boimler’s sheer panic at said potential the scenes are full of exactly what I love about Lower Decks.
If I had any disappointment with this issue it was the fact Rutherford doesn’t appear much. He’s busy in engineering whilst his friends are off creating potential sentient Draculas on the holodeck. To be fair this is a criticism I often level at the show itself. I’m predisposed to have any favourite character in any Star Trek show as the engineer so Rutherford is no exception and he doesn’t always get the character development moments of Boimler, Mariner and Tendi.
That really is the only criticism I have. I haven’t really touched on the bridge crew antics. Second contact is a big theme with Lower Decks featuring in the show form the very first episode. Therefore it seems fitting it’s here in the first issue of the comic. The weird mix of a civilisation more advanced than the Federation in some ways who also see the landing party as monsters from the sky. I look forward to seeing how that develops.
This is very much a comic for fans. This plays to that cheeky nostalgia Lower Decks does so well. I had a great time reading it. The art successfully translates the animation and the writing means rereads are rewarded. If you are a fan of Lower Decks already then this is the comic for you. If you are not then hopefully this comic may change your mind.