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Star Trek Ultimate Edition Manga Review

6 min read
Darn it, Jim, it's a manga, not Gene Roddenberry.

The fans chose their eight favourite stories from the three earlier Star Trek volumes, and TokyoPop collected them into this extra-large, deluxe edition.

Writer/Artist: Various

What They Say
The best from the original Star Trek manga trilogy are collected here along with 16 colorized pages of “Side Effects” and a jacket that turns into a poster by acclaimed comic artist Art Adams (The Hulk, Alan Moore’s Tom Strong Terrific Tales). Stories were hand-picked by the fans on and include “Side Effects,” “Orphans,” and “‘Til Death” (Shinsei Shinsei): “Forging Alliances” and “Communications Breakdown” (Kakan ni Shinkou): and “Art of War,” “The Humanitarian,” and “Bandi” (Uchu). Also included is a forward by David Gerrold and a preview of Star Trek: The Next Generation manga.

The Review:
Tokyopop has provided a pretty tall volume for these stories. While there isn’t a hardcover binding like a few other of TokyoPop’s ultimate editions, the book still feels pretty good to hold in your hand. The cover is a good image, I believe one unique to this release, and it’s the one place where everybody except Spock and Uhura are recognizable without dialogue. The back of the book sports a nifty image of the Enterprise orbiting a planet underneath some text that tells you what you’re getting for your sawbuck. The interior is where the book really shines, though. The first half of the initial chapter has been given a super colouring job on glossy paper and looks so great I wish they’d been able to finish it out that way. When the regular black and white portions kick in they look a good deal better than a typical TokyoPop release. Paper is a nice, clean white; printing is sharp with deep, solid blacks; and of course, there are no cropping issues. Also, the art and text are situated far enough from the spine that you never have to pull the book open extra wide to see them. A fine job all around. And the full-colour fold-out poster in the back just makes it that much better. There’s also a one-page preface from series writer David Gerrold about the Star Trek legacy for those who care about those things – in other words, the people who will buy this book. Finishing things out is a surprisingly long preview of a chapter from an upcoming Next Generation release. This is almost as long as some of the chapters in the rest of the book, and better drawn than most of them too.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Star Trek changed everything. Or so they tell me. I’m not a Trekkie myself, but I have friends who are, so I’m fairly well up on the first couple of TV series. I like the original series the better of the two. I tend to prefer the kind of stories it tells, but that’s not the main reason. The main reason is I like the crew better. For all of those who like the original Enterprise crew, TokyoPop put together three volumes of stories concocted by a diverse group of writers and artists, and then pulled together eight stories chosen by readers and published them in the deluxe package that is Star Trek Ultimate. The result is inevitably a mixed bag in quality and in subject matter, but the mixture is mostly good and should please the readers for whom it was made.

“Side Effects” is one of the best stories in the volume and makes the most of its role in starting the book off. I’ll try not to say to much about the premise, which is a fascinating one; but there’s plenty of action, good plotting, and a good sense of the repercussions the events of the story will cause. “Forging Alliances” is one of the rare stories anywhere in Star Trek to focus on Dr McCoy. An unusual disease breaks out among the Vulcans that turns them from their traditional cool, logical selves into violent psychopaths. It’s a tense medical drama with McCoy racing to find the cure, Spock acting hostile, and Kirk trying to keep the hatches battened down.

“Art of War” is the most developed story in the volume and one of only two that feels like it couldn’t use any more time to tell its story. It uses a double-bladed approach that puts it well ahead of the other stories in terms of technique. Kirk and a Klingon commander have to collaborate to get out of a crisis with their lives, and are afterward put on trial for fraternizing with the enemy. The plot plays out through the testimony of the two trials, point of view switching back and forth between Kirk and the Klingon. The resourceful side of Kirk gets some good play here, as does the side that likes to throw punches. The chapter with the best technique is followed by the chapter with the best characterization. “Orphans” accomplishes the two-fold task of telling a good Star Trek story with mecha in it and allowing Kirk to display the qualities that make him the captain. Well-drawn, well-written; and who can say no to having a sword rammed into the bridge of the Enterprise? “Communications Breakdown” gives Uhura her chance in the spotlight. A distress signal from a planet supposed to be deserted leads the Enterprise into a crisis situation in which Uhura’s specialized skills are required to see it through. There are plenty of fun character moments along the way: Spock splits hairs, McCoy tells people what he isn’t, Scotty says something is impossible and Kirk replies, “Come on, Scotty. You love impossible.”

At this point, the book goes into a decline. “The Humanitarian” is easily the worst story, going nowhere and accomplishing nothing. I have a hard time believing there wasn’t a better story somewhere in the original volumes that could have replaced it. Spock, as acting captain, oversees a disastrous aid mission that results in losing a large portion of his crew with no improvement to the situation planetside. Much less pointless but not up to the earlier chapters is “‘Til Death,” the misspelled story of two antagonists that have annihilated an entire race of people, and take their chance to turn the Enterprise into a new battlefield. The best part of this story is that Kirk gets a lady to put the interplanetary moves on. It just doesn’t feel like the original series if you don’t see that every once in a while.

But my favourite story has been saved for last. “Bandi” was written by original series writer David Gerrold, the man responsible for the legendary Tribble episode. He shows he still has the old knack for creating funny situations that nonetheless fit perfectly into the Star Trek concept. The Enterprise has seen its share of hostile crisis situations, even in this volume. It’s time to relax a little and watch Kirk try to take back the Enterprise from a teddy bear. Just wait till you see him try to talk his way through this one!

In Summary:
Even if Star Trek did change everything, this book won’t. But it’s not supposed to. Darn it, Jim, it’s a manga, not Gene Roddenberry. Star Trek Ultimate does what it sets out to do. It gives fans of classic Trek a chance to see the whole gang in action all over again, and does a better job of it than I would have expected, even if a couple of the stories aren’t quite up to snuff. Whether or not the upgrade will be worth it to fans who already bought the original volumes is hard to say. But if you only buy one book of Star Trek: The Manga, this is definitely the one to get.

Content Grade: B+
Art Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: B

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Release Date: March 17th, 2009
MSRP: $19.99

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