"The Gorn Crisis"

by Michelle Erica Green

Wildstorm's first hardcover Trek comic finally answers a question that has plagued many Next Generation fans, namely: where were Picard and the Enterprise-E while Sisko and his allies were frantically fighting the Dominion War? Popular Star Wars novelists Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta have come up with the perfect diversion: the Gorn! These clever silver-eyed reptiles have been too long absent from the annals of the Federation. Like the Horta, who probably could have melted the Founders in a matter of hours, the xenophobic lizards would make potent allies for Starfleet.

The Gorn Crisis begins with Picard studying tapes of his predecessor's encounter with the alien leader from "Arena" (naturally, Kirk has his shirt ripped). The Enterprise-E hopes to recruit Gorn assistance against the Dominion. Unfortunately, their timing couldn't be worse. The Gorn have just suffered an insurrection led by the Black Crest, an aggressive warrior caste who believe Kirk's defeat of their leader at Cestus III marks the beginning of the decline of Gorn civilization. When Picard beams down to the Gorn council chambers, only to find the leaders slaughtered, Black Crest leader Slessshh takes the away team hostage. Data must decide whether to rely on diplomacy or force to contend with the new Gorn regime.

Riker cannot assume command of the Enterprise because he has accompanied Klingon Commander Qyrll to Elkauron II. The cruiser Gar'tukh is escorting scientists from the Starfleet Corps of Engineers to bring new satellite defenses online. When the Black Crest's General Khaaarr launches Gorn assaults against Federation outposts on Cestus III and Elkauron II, the Enterprise's first officer must convince a group of rebellious Klingons to support the disgraced Qyrll as they take the battle from the surface of the planet into space.

The paintings by Igor Kordey are exceptional, offering lots of background detail and subtlety of shading very unusual for Trek comics. Readers will get a strong sense of Gorn architecture, fashion, and decorative armor. It's a little disappointing that the culture seems so similar in some ways to the Klingons, incorporating a lot of red-and-black coloring, plus weapons that look like pain-sticks and mek'leths, but I suppose that makes a certain amount of sense for a warrior culture. More frustrating is the fact that all the Gorn look alike, so readers have to pay careful attention to clothing and ornamentation to figure out which Gorn is which.

The painting style of The Gorn Crisis is a bit more impressionistic than traditional comic book sketch art, so some of the Trek regulars aren't immediately recognizable -- particularly Beverly Crusher, who seems to be in perpetual blurred soft-focus. Riker, however, looks wonderful, taut and sculpted as he engages in near-naked bat'leth practice with a sweaty Klingon. Most improved from their original rubber-suit appearance are the Gorn, whose physiology is explained in a concluding dossier showing the differences among human, dinosaur, and Gorn skeletons.

Picard looks superb as well, conveying authority and strength even though the Gorn tower over him. We see some interesting differences between Kirk and his successor in terms of style. Picard never uses false displays of bravado and doesn't try to hide his personal weakness, but focuses on the obvious schism in the Gorn culture as the principal sign of weakness in his enemy.

This is a violent story with graphic mayhem, including blood leaking from wounds and pouring from the mouth of a dead Gorn. During a climactic scene aboard the Gar'tukh, it's also a little hard to tell what's going on because everything is tinted red. Fans of battles will appreciate that there is hand combat, a struggle with energy weapons, and a giant space battle, but it does get pretty gory. On the other hand, the restored Cestus III looks a bit like Mos Eisley, a colorful, lively spaceport surrounded by desert, and the Gorn council chamber is replete with intriguing symbols. One longs to know more about this long-neglected culture after reading The Gorn Crisis.

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