Mike Johnson

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Star Trek 31 (March 2014)

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This issue feels very much like a Star Wars approach to Trek. Not storytelling, but franchise stuff. Apparently there's a new character in the Into Darkness movie who has no memorable lines and isn't a familiar actor, but he's got an amazing story and the comic gets to reveal it.

It feels like when you only knew a Return of the Jedi character's story because of the fan club and action figure exclusives.

This new character is a living computer, which will undoubtedly some day make the Abrams continuity Data feel very not special. The issue opens with Johnson writing from his perspective, then moves into a flashback to explain things.

The flashback stuff isn't bad until it becomes clear where the story's going. For about five pages, the comic just feels like a decent "Star Trek" episode.

And I think Fajar's art has improved a little. A little helps.

C 

CREDITS

I, Enterprise, Part One; writer, Mike Johnson; artist, Erfan Fajar; colorists, Ifansyah Noor and Sakti Yuwono; letterer, Robbie Robbins; editor, Sarah Gaydos; publisher, IDW Publishing.

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Star Trek 30 (February 2014)

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Besides Liang’s art problems–she can’t make the photo-referencing look good and the female McCoy is a disaster–and an illogical cameo, this issue of Star Trek has got to be the best in the series so far.

Johnson’s got a lot of easy jokes, except they’re still honest jokes, so he can get away with all of them. He’s also unconcerned with written–though visual ones get through–nods to the original series. The characters, confronted with their gender opposites, are fully defined. I only wish it were the start of an arc where Johnson traded Chekhov for her female counterpart. She’s less annoying.

A lot of the art is fine. Liang still does well with most of the female characters (except regular Uhura, of course) and she has positive, playful vibe to her work.

Johnson writes a bunch of good scenes.

The issue’s a very successful outing.

B+ 

CREDITS

Parallel Lives, Part Two; writer, Mike Johnson; artist, Yasmin Liang; colorist, Zac Atkinson; letterer, Gilberto Lazcano; editor, Sarah Gaydos; publisher, IDW Publishing.

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Star Trek 29 (January 2014)

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All it takes for a great Star Trek is a gimmick. And I don’t want to give away the gimmick, so it’ll be a little difficult to talk about. The gimmick alone makes for a fun comic, but somehow Johnson manages to find all these great insights into the characters through the gimmick.

Some of there insights are slight and for fun, but he’s got one profound one. Loved it. Maybe even teared up a little.

Johnson gets to the story at the end and it’s not bad–running with this gimmick actually would be a better series than the regular one–but it’s disappointing it’s ending soon.

The art helps a lot. Until the likenesses become important, Yasmin Liang’s art is rather strong. It’s somewhat cartoonish, but that tone doesn’t hurt Johnson’s script at all. Liang also pays attention to expressions, which is important.

It’s a shockingly good issue.

B+ 

CREDITS

Parallel Lives, Part One; writer, Mike Johnson; artist, Yasmin Liang; colorist, Zac Atkinson; letterer, Gilberto Lazcano; editor, Sarah Gaydos; publisher, IDW Publishing.

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Star Trek 28 (December 2013)

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A couple fast observations about Star Trek, in general. First off, Johnson has no confidence writing Kirk. A lot of the other characters have a “voice,” except maybe Chekhov who Johnson just uses absurd spellings to show the Russian accent, but at least Spock and McCoy feel like characters. Johnson’s lost his handle on Kirk. He just spouts off when he needs to profound; also, Johnson’s playing him way too reliable. Spock’s the rebel here.

Second… that damn Fajar art. It’s all photo-referenced for the people, then weak space battles between ships with terrible designs. Maybe it’s just the new all Enterprise. It’s made to be visual, not functional (even as a model). Maybe it doesn’t translate. But the static people? Fajar needs to liven things up. Or IDW just needs to get a regular comic book artist.

Still, it’s inoffensive if talky. It’s hollow licensed malarky after all.

C 

CREDITS

The Khitomer Conflict, Part Four; writer, Mike Johnson; artist, Erfan Fajar; colorist, Beny Maulana; letterer, Gilberto Lazcano; editor, Sarah Gaydos; publisher, IDW Publishing.

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Star Trek 27 (November 2013)

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It’s too bad Fajar is still on the art for this series. Johnson’s writing–and his post-Star Trek 2 plotting–is getting fairly entertaining and the bad art really just kills the issue’s momentum.

There are some rather good parts with Kirk facing off with the bad guys, Spock and McCoy bickering… Even with the idiotic way they spell out Chekhov’s accent, Johnson has made Star Trek feel like it has an actual cast and not just photo-referenced stand-ins. But Johnson also gives Fajar way too much to do.

Not usually making that compliant–a writer giving an artist a lot of chances to do different things. Fajar fumbles all of them. The space battle is terrible, but it’s leagues better than the away team getting into a phaser fight. That last action sequence is just atrocious.

The bad art is holding this series back–nothing else.

CREDITS

The Khitomer Conflict, Part Three; writer, Mike Johnson; artist, Erfan Fajar; colorists, Ifansyah Noor and Sakti Yuwono; letterer, Chris Mowry; editor, Sarah Gaydos; publisher, IDW Publishing.

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Star Trek 26 (October 2013)

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If it weren’t for the terrible art from Fajar, this issue might actually be pretty good. Johnson splits the crew–spending Spock off to consult the Federation while everyone on the Enterprise questions him leaving Kirk and Kirk off with the Klingons as a prisoner.

Johnson’s juxtaposition is interesting because Kirk’s the one who has the most faith in Spock; now, will Johnson answer the question of whether Kirk has faith in Spock’s own decision making or does Kirk really have faith the human crew will convince Spock to act. Or will Johnson ignore that plot thread because he’s really more about wowing the reader.

Except Johnson has no ammunition. As a sequel to Into Darkness, this story arc will always have to be muted–it’s a poorly drawn licensed comic after all. Paramount won’t allow anything major.

It’s a fine enough issue, though the hard cliffhanger is spectacularly lame.

CREDITS

The Khitomer Conflict, Part Two; writer, Mike Johnson; artist, Erfan Fajar; colorists, Ifansyah Noor and Sakti Yuwono; letterer, Tom B. Long; editor, Sarah Gaydos; publisher, IDW Publishing.

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Star Trek 25 (September 2013)

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There are too many dang people in the main Enterprise cast. Johnson just added Sulu’s sister as a love interest for Chekhov. Why does Chekhov need a love interest? No idea. Johnson’s not doing anything with Carol Marcus and Kirk–probably doesn’t want to step on future movie toes–but come on… When does Scotty get a girlfriend?

The issue opens with a reference to Star Trek VI, which sadly might be the best thing about the issue. Johnson is able to tell original series adaptations–though this arc is apparently more a sequel to Into Darkness–with material established later. Though he could easily go overboard with that practice. Ignore that comment–I’m cringing at the thought of Spock versus the Borg.

Fajar’s art is really bad this time out. If Star Trek isn’t selling enough to pay for a good artist, maybe IDW should just drop it.

CREDITS

The Khitomer Conflict, Part One; writer, Mike Johnson; artist, Erfan Fajar; colorists, Ifansyah Noor and Sakti Yuwono; letterer, Tom B. Long; editor, Sarah Gaydos; publisher, IDW Publishing.

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Star Trek 24 (August 2013)

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No way, decent art from Balboni? It’s unbelievably acceptable, probably due to Marina Castelvetro’s pencils. Now, it’s not great but it’s far from the usual Balboni eyesore.

This issue is a done-in-one episode, which is kind of nice. The Enterprise finds a ravaged colony of prospectors; turns out the Gorn are back (from the “Star Trek” video game no one liked earlier this year) and Kirk’s holding a grudge.

Johnson tries hard to split the comic between Kirk and Spock, but he just gives Kirk way too much action stuff to do. I’m still confused how they lose track of Sulu when they should have communicators. I don’t even think he gets a line.

It’s not bad stuff, just a little too quick a read. I can’t remember Johnson doing a done-in-one issue like this one before; it’s how the series should go so probably won’t.

CREDITS

Writer, Mike Johnson; penciller, Claudia Balboni; inker, Marina Castelvetro; colorist, Arianna Florean; letterer, Neil Uyetake; editor, Scott Dunbier; publisher, IDW Publishing.

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Star Trek 23 (July 2013)

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So Johnson doesn’t reveal the human female who is conspiring with the Romulans. It’s probably that chick Khan hooked up with in Space Seed but who cares. He comes up with a wacky way for Spock to get out of Pon Farr without having to fight Kirk (a sad oversight) or get busy with his Vulcan lady (and upset Uhura).

Chekhov–why’s he such a genius in the new Star Trek again–and Carol Marcus come up with the solution. Only Carol Marcus doesn’t really get any lines. Not sure why they put her on the Enterprise if she’s not going to have anything to do except play second chair to Chekhov, who’s really annoying.

It’s not terrible, though Fajar’s art gets tiring almost immediately. Badly painted comic art doesn’t seem appropriate for Star Trek.

The Romulan and Klingon thing is particularly lame as it doesn’t impact the main story.

CREDITS

After Darkness, Part Three; writer, Mike Johnson; artist, Erfan Fajar; colorists, Ifansyah Noor and Sakti Yuwono; letterer, Neil Uyetake; editor, Scott Dunbier; publisher, IDW Publishing.

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Star Trek 22 (June 2013)

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Not a particularly special continuation of the story… mostly because there’s so much extra stuff to complicate the “Amok Time” adaptation.

First, there’s no Vulcan anymore so Spock’s on New Vulcan. Turns out there’s a tribe of wild Vulcans running around the planet–in its volcanos, which leads to a terrible action sequence from Fajar, who tries way too hard to be cinematic. So far no big fight with Kirk.

Spock’s Vulcan girlfriend, T’Pring, is the same and Uhura takes it all in stride. Johnson writes some good lines for Bones on all the Pon Farr business, but gives way too many pages to the Romulan conspiracy, the Klingon war machine, Sarek and the new Vulcans… there’s just nothing for the actual cast to do but sit and mope.

Until that misfired action finish and then the crew’s all in environment suits and unrecognizable.

It should’ve been fun and isn’t.

CREDITS

After Darkness, Part Two; writer, Mike Johnson; artist, Erfan Fajar; colorist, Stellar Labs; letterer, Chris Mowry; editor, Scott Dunbier; publisher, IDW Publishing.

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Star Trek 21 (May 2013)

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Interesting, very interesting.

Well, sort of interesting. This issue, beginning a sequel arc to the Star Trek Into Darkness film, does feature a return to form for Johnson in some ways. He’s enjoying writing the scenes between the crew, not trying to fit in a bunch of silly new history. The worst he does is tie into the movie prequel comic IDW did, but he also recaps that series’s repercussions in decent expository dialogue.

And there’s the interesting twist to the whole thing… it’s actually “Amok Time.” Spock’s going into Pon Farr for the first time (and I also realized Star Trek III has a big continuity gaff in that regard) but things are different. He’s got a girlfriend now. A human one who can’t relieve the Pon Farr stresses.

It’s a great setup, hopefully Johnson can deliver. There’s political intrigue too, but who cares… it’s “Amok Time” time again.

CREDITS

After Darkness, Part One; writer, Mike Johnson; artist, Erfan Fajar; colorist, Stellar Labs; letterer, Chris Mowry; editor, Scott Dunbier; publisher, IDW Publishing.

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Star Trek 20 (May 2013)

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Not only don’t Sulu and Chekhov rate their own origin issues, they don’t even get one bad artist. They have to share two lousy artists.

I wonder if Johnson knew he was going to have two artists or if the told him later. The change is handled somewhat seamlessly. It goes from bad to bad; I thought maybe Sulu would get one part, Chekhov the other, but no… it’s all jumbled. Except Kirk shows up in Chekhov’s story arc because, well, apparently Chekhov’s even less interesting than Sulu.

Johnson’s problem with all these origin issues is pretty simple. He’s writing inane adventures in Starfleet Academy. Everybody’s in the Academy at one point or another in their stories and they’re all bad. It’s like Johnson hasn’t got it figured out how not to be condescending about the morals of the Star Trek universe. It’s a shame.

Produces terrible comic book too.

CREDITS

Writer, Mike Johnson; pencillers, Claudia Balboni and Luca Lamberti; inkers, Erica Durante and Lamberti; colorist, Arianna Florean; letterer, Tom B. Long; editor, Scott Dunbier; publisher, IDW Publishing.

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Star Trek 19 (March 2013)

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Maybe there’s a reason Scotty isn’t the star on “Star Trek.” Johnson gets absolutely no mileage out of the character, even going so far as to include the transwarp Beagle incident the film writers thought so much of. It doesn’t help Balboni’s on the pencils, but there’s just no story.

Some of the problem stems from Johnson’s inability to distinguish the character from Simon Pegg’s highly effected performance. Reading the comic feels like reading a newsletter from Pegg’s fan club. Johnson does include a lot of little moments in Scotty’s history, but they’re all pointless.

And I’d love to see the odds one of his ancestors worked on the H.M.S. Enterprise. It’s probably billions to one, yet Johnson expects the reader to consume it without question.

The series’s original concept–revising the original television series episodes–is sadly forgotten. Johnson is just doing movie tie-in crap now.

CREDITS

Writer, Mike Johnson; penciller, Claudia Balboni; inker, Erica Durante; colorist, Arianna Florean; letterer, Neil Uyetake; editor, Scott Dunbier; publisher, IDW Publishing.

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Star Trek 17 (February 2013)

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The Bones McCoy origin issue. Not sure if Johnson doing origin issues is such a good idea after this one.

Definitely not if the art team of Claudia Balboni and Erica Durante continues. It’s sometimes a little amazing the artists IDW gets for Star Trek. It’s one of the oldest licensed properties out there and they get these not ready for prime time players on it.

In other words, the art is bad. So bad one occasionally pauses to bewilder at the terrible faces, especially on poor Bones McCoy.

Johnson–he brought an M.D. relation along as cowriter, though there’s almost no medicine discussed, only shown in montage–doesn’t have a story for Bones. I thought it was going to be about his father dying. Nope, it’s about what made him join Starfleet. It’s not convincing.

The writing’s not bad, just misguided and pointless. The art is bad though.

CREDITS

Writers, Mike Johnson and F. Leonard Johnson; penciller, Claudia Balboni; inker, Erica Durante; colorist, Claudia SGC; letterer, Chris Mowry; editor, Scott Dunbier; publisher, IDW Publishing.