I think it goes without saying that this review will contain spoilers for Star Trek Into Darkness. If you haven’t seen it you probably should. OF course if you’re buying this book without seeing the movie your existence puzzles me and I don’t know of what help I can be to you.
The issue begins at the trial of Benedict Cucumberbatch’s Khan following the events of Into Darkness. I know Cumberbatch’s casting as Khan is still a touchy subject for a good number of people, so the panel where the Federation is confused as to why this whitebread Englishman is purporting to be Khan while the photo they have for him clearly looks like Ricardo Montalban puts a great big grin on my face
The book then turns into an origin story for Khan, beginning in the 1970s where a company is interested in genetically engineering super soldiers. Khan is shown as a cripple who through genetic tampering in combination with a superior intellect grows into a violent, sociopathic threat.
I don’t know how “canon” this story is meant to be. I know that Robert Orci gets a “story consultant” credit on the opening page, but beyond that I do not know if anything contained herein will do anything to assuage the feelings of people offended by Cumberbatch’s casting as Khan. It is shown that young Khan does indeed look far more dark skinned than Cumberbatch, so are we going to find that the Khan from Into Darkness may not be who he claims? I doubt it because the general public is not going to read this book, so it would do nothing to add to the story unless they adapt part of it for the third installment of the film franchise, which I doubt very much will happen.
On its own merit the book is interesting and easily a recommended read to Star Trek fans. Where the series will go after this first issue is a real mystery, one better kept than Abrams’ attempt to hide Cumberbatch’s identity as Khan.
Charles Soule has busted onto the comics scene with a fiery vengeance. His name is popping up all over the place. Last week I lauded his Superman/Wonder Woman # 1 as being one of the best books of the week and a huge surprise in my eyes. He’s slated to write a new She-Hulk book for Marvel and this week his creator-owned book from Oni Press, Letter 44 hits shelves. How does it measure up when compared to his other work?
I will say that the premise is interesting. The idea is that the incoming president recieves a letter from his predecessor outlining the fact that upon taking the job he learned of the existence of an extra-terrestrial craft within the solar system. This of course freaked the man out somewhat hard and his response was to send a team into space to intercept the craft. All of this seems like a great premise for a book. It could really sing if handled correctly. The stumble comes in this instance when Soule insists on making the book an obvious parallel to Barack Obama’s entry into the oval office. The departing president is a not-at-all veiled pastiche of George W. Bush and the book posits that the wars in the middle east were an attempt to battle-harden our troops in the event of hostile alien contact.
Revisionist history doesn’t work when you don’t have the stones to actually utilize history’s characters in a fictional manner. This book could have been really great satire if Barack Obama were the protagonist. But the problem is Soule is writing this book several years too early to utilize his term as president effectively. Better still would have been if Dubya had been our protagonist. Instead we get these effigies that don’t necessarily have the weight we would like for this story.
Now, the art is gorgeous and Albuquerque’s pencils on the page drawing the stars makes me pine for the days of Blue Beetle, but on the whole the first issue fails to live up to the weight of its own premise.