“Star Trek: Lower Decks” #1

“Star Trek: Lower Decks” #1

Star Trek: Lower Decks is making its way into comics, as the animated series enters its third season. With Ryan North writing and Chris Fengolio providing the artwork, does the comic manage to capture the charm, humor, and overall love of Trek’s history?

Spoiler alert: yes.

Written by Ryan North
Illustrated and colored by Chris Fenoglio
Lettered by Johanna Nattalie

The hit Paramount+ animated series makes its comics debut with Eisner-winning comics writer Ryan North (The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl) at the helm! Soon after leading her crew on a planetary expedition aimed at building bridges and advancing Federation technology, Captain Freeman begins to suspect that the planet and its people are not all what they seem… Meanwhile, the crew in the lower decks take to the holodeck, enjoying some much-needed recreational time—until a bloodthirsty visitor decides to join in on their games.

Let’s start off by establishing one fact: I am a big fan of Lower Decks. I think it’s not only one of the funniest takes on Trek I’ve seen in a while, but it’s overflowing with love for the franchise as a whole. I’ve also been a fan of Ryan North since I started reading “Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.” As such, I went into this comic with high hopes, but also high standards.

And I’m pleased to say it lived up to them.

Like the show, the “Star Trek: Lower Decks” comics follows the crew of the Cerritos as they carry out “second contact” missions and generally cause trouble for themselves. In fact, that sums up the comic quite nicely: we have two concurrent plots, one where the higher-ranking members embark on a mission to a planet that should by all means be ready for first contact, and one where the lower decks crew gets into holodeck hijinks.

Naturally, things go wrong for both, with a bit of overlap for the “why” and “how,” as any good storylines should.

And what makes these work is how quintessentially Star Trek they are. Visiting strange new worlds, but having something go wrong and drive the plot’s conflict? Classic. Holodeck malfunctions creating fictional monsters come to life that attack the crew? That’s happened at least a few times. But in true Lower Decks fashion, the characters are very much aware of this – Boimler panics about the time the holographic Moriarty took over the Enterprise, Starfleet has guidelines in place for if and when a holodeck AI gains sentience, and they even talk about what Picard’s favorite holodeck levels are.

That comes along with plenty of nods to basically every Star Trek series. We’re talking every incarnation of the Enterprise, species like the Catullans and Satarrans, and more (enough that I’m sure I missed a few myself). So there’s no doubt that Ryan knows his Trek.

And the comic also matches the tone, atmosphere, and style of the Lower Decks cartoon perfectly. The characters all carry over their personalities, attitudes, and even their swagger from the show to the comic without missing a beat. Each line can easily be read in the voices of the show’s characters, with every inflection and emphasis matching how they talk. There’s also nice little touches, like how Commander Ransom has an exercise ball in place of a chair, that add to their personalities.

Plus, Ryan North has a tendency to include little notes at the bottom of each page adding additional jokes. They don’t detract or distract from the flow of the story, and they add a little extra humor and wit. So they’re nice little touches.

In short: the plot, characters, and humor all hit the mark. Now how about the art?

Well, if it weren’t for the fact that each image is perfectly sized for comic panels, I’d honestly believe someone if they’d told me these were screenshots from the show. Chris Fenoglio captures the style of the cartoon in both the designs and color, down to the last detail.

It’s one thing to say the comic has a cartoonish style, but another altogether to say it has the exact same cartoon style. But in terms of character designs, expressions, positioning, coloring – every last detail – it all matches the design of the show. Strong but simple outlines make each character unique, large expressive faces carry their personalities, and bright colors make it easy on the eyes, all while matching the show expertly.

Even the scenes set in space capture the look and feel of the ships in motion from Lower Decks, with glows coming from the lights on the ship and stretching as it accelerates into warp speed.

While it’s a perfect match visually, using the bright colors, thick outlines, and exaggerated proportions to look like the cartoon, the panel compositions still carry the pacing like a comic should. The way equally-sized panels are placed next to each other to show quick changes in a moment, or wider panels are set up to show larger groups or establishing shots keeps the flow moving nicely in a way that helps the comic stand on its own, and allow it to pull off gags that animated shows often can’t do.

So while the story could absolutely be done in the Lower Decks cartoon, and the artwork matches it perfectly, it still has visual touches that could only work in a comic.

All in all, “Star Trek: Lower Decks” had a high bar to clear, but it absolutely managed. The comic is overflowing with love for Star Trek, the artwork matches the show perfectly, and it’s a just plain entertaining read. If you’ve been enjoying Lower Decks, or wanted to get started on it, you can’t go wrong with this comic.

Final Verdict: 8.7 – Ryan North and Chris Fenoglio capture everything that makes Lower Decks great.

* This article was originally published here

* This article was originally published here


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