Star Trek: The Next Generation: Ghosts TPB – Zander Cannon

3 out of 5

Rather narratively dense, the flavor of Zander Cannon’s scripting for his Next Generation 5-issue mini-series can be sensed from its opening pages: laying out the political landscape of a culture-divided planet, between the ‘civilized’ Juuletians and the ‘primitive’ Dorosshians, with the former trying to downplay the latter’s relevance in order to secure approval for Federation admission – this can take a couple rereads of the narrative chunks into which it’s compressed to keep things straight, especially since it’s background to the reason the Enterprise has arrived on scene – a distress signal from a Juuletian research ship flying above Dorosshian airspace. Accepting that readerly comprehension is variable – meaning I may just be dumb – I found myself flipping back and forth between the first few pages, double-checking names and places as it felt like some details were slipping through the cracks.

This isn’t necessarily as bad a thing as it might be for other series, as Cannon rather nails Captain Picard’s voiceover narrative style, and I sense that the details provided would be subsumed easier in a TV episode, where the pace is set by the directors. That is: if this were someone’s first and only exposure to Star Trek, it might be more of a knock, but with some awareness of the series’ general cadences, I did feel like this setup was the norm; Cannon thus not only “gets” Picard, but also the tone of the show.

However, the mediums are different, and so where a 40ish minute runtime can help move things along over stumbled plot points, here they stick out a bit more: Cannon is never quite able to fully flesh out the two nations believably – they’re rather flatly defined – and an attempt to hook Picard emotionally in to the key plot device of a Juuletian who’s seeing “ghosts” similarly doesn’t connect. There’s also some cool concepts tied in to these ghosts that don’t feel fully explored. As said: narratively dense.

But that same density also means we’re never at a sticking point – the story is always up to several somethings at a time, whether that’s solving the mystery of the visions of this particular Juuletian, or navigating the political quagmire between the factions, or, as things heat up, quelling the violence being threatened by the Dorosshians. And given Cannon’s clear appreciation for Next Gen’s cast’s personalities, we get the same range of brusqueness (Riker), diplomacy (Picard), analytics (Geordie), moral quandaries (Worf), and pragmatism (Beverly) as the show offers, with well-written dialogue to support that.

Art-wise, I’ll just say that I never admire any artist who has to work from likenesses. Javier Aranda’s are pretty good, but the stiffness that’s inherent to that style are present here, and Aranda occasionally miffs his figurework in general. But for how talky the book is, the page flows are varied and well-handled. So it’s rough at points, but never a chore to look at.

The TPB collection includes covers and page numbers.