I had mixed feelings about the recently-released issue 29 of IDW’s ongoing Star Trek comic because gender swapping the cast is usually a gimmick that only serves to reinforce stereotypes. I’m happy to say that the Mike Johnson (script), Yasmin Liang (line art) and Zac Atkinson (colours) team don’t fall into that trap with this story, part one of their Parallel Lives two-parter.
The story opens in medias res with Kirk, Spock and Yeoman Rand on an away mission and the use of holoprojectors combined with the soundless nature of comics keeps us guessing which crew we are looking at here. It’s a very nice touch and it serves to introduce us to the gender-swapped characters in a way that ensures we judge their actions without prejudice; which is a really nice touch.
Kirk is reckless and has little regard for protocol, as usual. Spock is stoic. Rand hardly says or does anything. So far, so very much in character for the TV show and the films. When the reveal comes that we’re seeing the exploits of female Kirk & Co, we’ve already had a chance to see that they are going to behave just like the original crew would – then it’s straight into the action.
Sorry, did I say “action”? I meant to say “scene setting”. There’s precious little action in this issue and most of it happens in the first few pages. Even the “twist” at the end of the issue is signposted from the moment we meet this new crew.
This whole issue is a set-up for the next issue. As long as it pays off next issue, that’s no bad thing but I can’t help thinking this is a very long-winded way to introduce us to a crew that is only going to be here for two issues before the main cast take over once again.
Is there a spin-off to be had from this? Is that why so much time is being spent showing Kirk has to not only struggle with the responsibilities of command but also the prejudices of her superiors? It’s unlikely, but if it were to happen there will be a decent following for the new comic if the writing and characterisation is as good as we see here.
Anyone worried about the usual comic method of writing women shouldn’t worry about what we see here. Female Kirk is not a space slut – she’s written exactly as Male Kirk would be. The only reference to her sexual habits is when McCoy calls her a “heartbreaker” while discussing the potential effects of Female Khan’s blood on any children she may some day have (although McCoy finds the possibility of Kirk ever leaving the Starfleet life to raise a family very unlikely).
Spock is just as stand-offish in her relationship with Uhura as ever, rather than being played as a stereotypical Ice Queen. Even the uniforms look good – the main female crew get to wear trousers, which makes a hell of a lot more sense than flying off to fight bad guys while wearing a mini dress. There’s really nothing to fault here.
All in all, this is a surprisingly good comic and I’m hoping the resolution next month is equally as good. Fingers crossed for this two-parter not being the last we see of this alternate universe crew.