Everything about this issue works as well as any Lower Decks episode and is just plain fun. It’s playing with concepts and ideas that are staples of Star Trek but isn’t mired in nostalgia. If you’re looking for a book featuring Dracula this Halloween start reading Lower Decks. You’ll enjoy it.
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Chris Fenoglio
Letters and Design: Johanna Nattalie
This issue feels very much like watching an actual episode of Lower Decks. It has the right balance of upper and lower decks plot, the humour, the intrigue, the small things that are important later moments. It’s all there with art so true to the show itself. Given that we’ve just had the season three finale (what a finale) it means that for now if we want our Lower Decks fix (aside from rewatching old episodes) we must turn to the comic form. Said comic form is doing such a great job that it really does fill that gap for me (though only more issue left after this makes me hope for more in the very near future).
Previously on Lower Decks the comic (or should that be in?) Mariner, Boimler and Tendi were on the holodeck when accidental sentient holographic vampire life was created in the form of Dracula. This issue we get to see the fallout of that accidental creation as our heroes, joined by Rutherford, are alerted to Dracula being activated. Normally the sentience test and decision of what to do with Dracula would be left until they reached the nearest Starbase but the reactivation means our brave (ish) Lower Deckers must go in and perform the sentience test themselves and fix their mess.
Meanwhile, another routine second contact has gone slightly off plan as Freeman, Shaxs and T’Ana have been greeted, not by the expected technologically advanced civilisation, but villagers with pitchforks or at the very least burning torches. Trying to get out of that mess will lead to further complications because hey remember those unusual energy readings last issue? Yeah that could have led to some rather unfortunate implications regarding scans and communications and why the people Freeman talks to are somewhat completely different to what they expected.
There are still plenty of references this issue to a myriad of things but they feel a bit more subtle this time. Fans won’t have to dig deep to find them but it’s not quite as in your face. Still pretty obvious though which I really appreciate. You can even check how many references you got last issue in the back of this one. A fun little game that does give you a warm and fuzzy ‘I understood that reference’ feeling. We all like to feel smug like that on occasion. I really enjoyed the back matter in this issue and the previous issue. It’s both amusing and vaguely world building.
The art by Chris Fenoglio remains really excellent. Not only are the characters and setting well captured but also you can see the action too. That sounds a bit crazy, like the idea of a sentient Dracula hologram but trust me it makes sense. This is a comic based on an animated show. The main difference between comics and animation is that the latter moves, animatedly, some might say. A comic has a series of pictures which when done right can give you the visual illusion of movement. This comic does it perfectly and your brain does make you feel like you’re watching an episode because the art retains that movement feeling.
There’s also some wonderful background touches. I loved the purple streaks in the planet’s sky, nicely different. Then there are the pictures Dracula has in his castle a nice mix of references. My personal favourite possibly being either baby Dracula with Mariner and Boimler (a nod to his origin) or Dracula with the Tribbles.
The lettering does what lettering should and allows the characters to speak for themselves. Johanna Nattalie has chosen a nice style that evokes the voices of the characters. Mariner does tend to come across as loud and the lettering nails that. For all the characters I can hear the surprise, the panic, the fun and the weird creepy vampire style.
As always Ryan North’s pacing works really well. There’s a lot packed in this issue but it doesn’t feel overpacked. It feels like a solid meaty episode does, plenty going on, different events. There’s the little asides at the bottom of each page which can be a source of trivia, character insight, a joke, or all three. They work well with the Lower Decks tone and the fact the show trades well with Star Trek nostalgia.
I loved this issue a lot. In a world where Moriarty is making a live action comeback it is in fact holographic Dracula who is the ambiguous villain we need. Everything about this issue works as well as any Lower Decks episode and is just plain fun. It’s playing with concepts and ideas that are staples of Star Trek but isn’t mired in nostalgia. If you’re looking for a book featuring Dracula this Halloween start reading Lower Decks. You’ll enjoy it.