IDW releases Star Trek: KHAN! The art is great! The premise? Not so much... ~ What'cha Reading?

IDW releases Star Trek: KHAN! The art is great! The premise? Not so much…

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As any writer or film director can attest to……..your hero is only as good as your villain. Every protagonist ( in the course of a story ) needs to submit to a trial by fire in order to earn the admiration of the reader or viewer. Of course the hero could perform any number of amazing feats to prove his valor. He could cut the green wire……and disarm the bomb, seconds before it explodes…….thereby saving the life of the hostage it was wired to. He could take over for the ailing pilot and land the plane, ensuring the safety of all the passengers onboard. However, a hero is ( also ) only as great as the threat he faces. And when that threat takes the form of an individual rather than an event, it raises the stakes for the hero in a more personal way.

For every hero there is always that ONE villain that he/ or she is inexorably linked to in both Life and Death. For Sherlock Holmes, it’s Professor James Moriarty. For Superman, it is Lex Luthor. And for Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise, there is no one who has brought him closer to the edge of Death than Khan Noonien Singh. Khan, a genetically enhanced warrior from Starfleet’s past is alike to Kirk in that their prime concern is the safety of their respective “families”, their crew. However, that’s where the similarity ends. Khan is superior to Kirk in every other way. Intelligence. Strength. Ferocity. You name it and Khan has it over Kirk in spades. Yet, Kirk ultimately triumphs over Khan in the end and we love him for it. We can identify with a character like Kirk because we’d like to think we possess some of the same characteristics as the hero. The villain, however, is far more interesting simply because we cannot put ourselves in his shoes. There is a limit to how far we would go, as moralistic individuals, to achieve our goals. The villain doesn’t possess, what he or she must feel or view, as that… disadvantage.

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And, with the release of IDW’s first issue of Star Trek: Khan, we are finally given our opportunity to delve further into the mysterious origins of the Star Trek Universe’s main antagonist. Or more specifically, Star Trek’s Alternate Universe.

The first issue begins with the Federation’s civilian trial of Khan after the events of the film Star Trek into Darkness. As fans know, Paramount Pictures has rebooted the Star Trek franchise using an alternate timeline, whereby both the old and new crews of the Enterprise can exist within the same universe ( albeit on separate planes of both Space and Time ). The Captain Kirk and Science Officer Spock from this rebooted reality are called in to question Khan as special counsel. Khan surprises everyone in the courtroom by pleading “not guilty” to the crimes he is on trial for. Kirk raises the question of the discrepancy of physical appearance between the original’s universe’s East Indian Khan and the reboot’s more Anglo-Saxon version. By way of an explanation, Khan starts to relate “his” story.

AND THIS IS WHERE I BLOW MY WHISTLE AND CALL “FOUL”!

I know that it might be presumptuous of me to take this stance (especially since it is the first issue ), but I have serious concerns where the writer is taking us. Much of the story, written by Mike Johnson and under the consultation of Star Trek into Darkness writer-producer Roberto Orci, is told in flashback. In the flashback, however, the focus is on the middle Eastern Khan and his development in the genetics program that made him into a “superman”.

First, since this story takes place in the rebooted continuity, there shouldn’t be any record of the original continuity’s Khan. Yet, Kirk offers up photographic records of Khan ( who was played in the original series by actor Ricardo Montalban ). All of the information that Kirk could possibly possess of the original Khan was provided by Spock Prime ( actor Leonard Nimoy ) to the alternate universe’s Spock ( actor Zachary Quinto ) in the film. And this was more of a verbal personal anecdote rather than any physical evidence that was existing.

Second, the flashback revolves around the middle Eastern Khan. Yet, this flashback springs from testimony given to the reader by the reboot’s Anglo-Saxon Khan ( played in the movie by British actor Benedict Cumberbatch ). There was considerable outcry by fans of the original series that Cumberbatch was cast in the role over a more ethnic looking candidate ( such as, say, Javier Bardem or Benicio Del Toro ). Since this is the rebooted timeline, the alternate Khan could not possibly be aware of the original Khan’s existence. It makes his courtroom testimony that more confusing if he is, in actuality, speaking of the other Khan’s Life.

Where my concern lies, is in my suspicion that the writers are using this mini-series to try to rectify the ethnic disparity in the two versions of Khan by tying the origins of the original universe and the reboot universe together. I never had a problem with the film-makers casting Cumberbatch in the role. I am not so much of a purist when it comes to the Star Trek canon and Cumberbatch is a brilliant actor. What I do have a problem with is the writers caving into the controversy and trying to appease fans by giving us a plot device that would explain why there are two ethnically different Khans ( which I fear is the direction this mini-series is headed ). I feel if the film-makers casted Cumberbatch, they should stand by that casting choice and not feel the need to “apologize” for it.

Aside from that, the artwork by penciller Claudia Balboni and inker Marina Castelvetro is wonderful. Ironically, it is the writers who have “painted” themselves into a corner by choosing  to go into a direction that is a paradox in of itself. All the same, I’ll follow the story with the hope that my suspicions prove to be unfounded. 2.5 out of 5 It’s a shame that what seems to be a questionable premise had to ruin such a good looking book.

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Star Trek Khan #1 (of 5)
Writer: Johnson, Mike
Artist: Balboni, Claudia
Cover Artist: Shipper, Paul
On Sale October 16, 2013
Publisher IDW
Diamond Id: AUG130425
Format: LIMITED SERIES
Price: $3.99
UPC: 82771400519600111

 

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5 Comments

  1. With all due respect, Edward, I think you misunderstand the “alternate reality” split.

    The timeline split once the Narada destroys the Kelvin sometime in 2233. Khan Noonien Singh was in hibernation between 1996 and the year he was unfroze in STID, roughly in the year 2258.

    So HIS backstory remains the same. Both Khans, beit Montalban or Cumberbatch, come from the same place. The point in time that was altered was in 2233, that didn’t change the past, it changed the FUTURE.

    • Thank you, John, for clarifying that! Still….if the point in time that was altered was in 2233, why would the split feel the need to change the nationality of ONLY Khan? Why don’t we have a black Sulu, or an Asian Uhura? Or a Klingon Spock? I just feel that no matter what….this book is going to try to justify the casting of Cumberbatch over someone closer to Khan’s traditional ethnicity.

      • “Still….if the point in time that was altered was in 2233, why would the split feel the need to change the nationality of ONLY Khan?”

        I don’t believe the timeline had anything to do with that, respectively. I think the reason we will get will tie in with Admiral Marcus’s tyrannical oppression of this Khan. In order to conceal Khan’s identity, he most likely tampered with his genetics and made him into an unassuming white man, to throw off suspicion. This not only hides Khan from detection, but further enslaves him. It’s like taking away a man’s identity before breaking him.

  2. John…..you should be writing these films. That is a BRILLIANT approach to the Cumberbatch/ Montalban dilemma that a lot of fans ( including myself ) had trouble reconciling. If that’s the case and that’s what the writers intended…..then I’ll be retracting this review and I’ll be writing a new one for the following issues.

    • Hah! I am glad you enjoyed my interpretation. This was the first theory that came to mind when they revealed “John Harrison” to be Khan. I hope the comic series plays out as such.

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