I found myself in need of a quick read before the new Star Trek novel, “The Latter Fire” by James Swallow arrives in my mail box this week. Just enough time for a graphic novel.
Star Trek: The Modala Imperative is a 8 part graphic novel (OK – a comic book) published in 1991 that spans 80+ years. The first 4 parts involve the TOS crew while the final 4 parts pick up 75 years later with the TNG crew.
Although this story pans two Enterprise crews Doctor McCoy and Spock are the true stars here. The Modala Imperative tends to play this fairly straight as these characters are the most involved because they’re in both legs of the story, but in each story the spotlight is shared equally among the main cast the same way it would be in an episode of Star Trek. The first part focuses on Chekov, Kirk, Scotty, Bones, Spock, Sulu, and even Transporter Chief Kyle, with moments set aside for Uhura and several other characters. The second part focuses even more equitably on Picard, Troi, Spock and Bones, as well as giving attention to Riker, Data and Worf.
The first half of the story is reminiscent of the episode “A Private Little War”. Here we find a potential Federation candidate’s fascist faction has been armed by a mysterious benefactor with advanced weaponry. Unfortunately, it is all that Kirk and Chekov (and their rescue team of Spock and McCoy) can do to get back off of the planet without breaking the Prime Directive, and the source of the weapons remains a mystery for another one hundred years. It’s not until a celebration for the 100th anniversary of Modala’s entry into the Federation that the suppliers of the weapons show their faces, and it’s not the Klingons: it’s the Ferengi!
Perhaps more interesting than the plot – which is good, but is standard episode fare – is the arc for the characters in question. This is Pavel Chekov’s first away mission, and he is dealing with issues ranging from nerves to hero worship of his Captain. Throughout the first four issues Scott, Sulu and Kirk all lend their hands to help Chekov develop, while McCoy, Kirk and Spock debate the wisdom of taking him along on this particular mission. The end result is a great story for Chekov in addition to a standard one for the more seasoned officers.
The second story is about aging. McCoy fears he might grow irrelevant, and he even implies that the existence of Data indicates that Spock himself is becoming outdated. Unfortunately, this leg of the story is hurt by the fact that Bones really is pretty pointless in a crisis at this point. At close to a century and a half, there is not much he can do to defend himself. He’s not needed for any medical situations, either; the most he does is to influence morale simply by being his abrasive self. Bones and Spock do bring up the age-old “Kirk vs Picard” debate, but they cop out by choosing “Spock” as the answer.
Here are Spock and McCoy, reunited at last in the pages of issue #2 of the second Modala series:
The first story is significantly better than the second. Not only does it focus entirely on its regular cast members of its own show, but it also provides character development for Chekov that his character rarely enjoys. The second story, on the other hand, focuses more directly on guest stars Spock and McCoy, with nobody on the TNG crew really developing in a way that they would not on an average episode.
All in all, this is a good story for fans of either series to pick up. The story is well paced, exciting and really captures the feel of both series to a really good extent. The art, while not great, especialy in the second half of the graphic novel, is still good enough to make the action and characters feel like their real life counterparts.