COMICS REVIEW by AJ Black
Writers: Kirsten Beyer & Mike Johnson, Art: Angel Hernandez, Colors: Joana Lafuente, Letters: Neil Uyetake
In an unusual quirk of fate, or perhaps intentionally planned, the third and final issue of the Star Trek: Picard Countdown comic prequel is being released *after* the premiere of the Star Trek: Picard television series itself. There are reasons why either of the realities above might be the case. Either way, Countdown finishes in a quieter, and more hopeful manner than you might expect, especially if you have now seen "Remembrance", the Picard premiere episode.
The second issue of this trilogy from Mike Johnson & Kirsten Beyer ended on a cliffhanger that promised major ructions for Admiral Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the USS Verity, after Shiara—Governor of Romulan colony world Yuyat Beta—managed to seize control of the vessel as Picard was ready to expose her plan to leave millions of the native Yuyatis slaves to be destroyed by the oncoming Hobas supernova and guarantee her own survival. Johnson & Beyer choose to very quickly discard the treat of Shiara in order to craft a much more discussion-based, philosophical, and revelatory conclusion which very much is designed to facilitate aspects of Picard.
In a key moment of the first episode of Picard, "Remembrance", Jean-Luc refuses to draw a distinction between Federation and Romulan lives, and issue three of Countdown very much establishes the narrative and thematic building blocks for why Picard believed this, and how it factored into his decision to quit Starfleet shortly after the events of this comic. Shiara ultimately goes to extreme lengths because she believes the Federation are using the supernova threat to capitalise on Romulan weakness. “Every Romulan world you evacuate is just another piece of the empire you can chip away. The Federation cloaks itself in charity, the better to ensure conquest”. Shiana’s cynicism is telling because, deep down, there is perhaps some truth to the matter, but not where Picard is concerned.
What is also true is that the Tal’Shiar, the Romulan intelligence service, are behind this entire problem in terms of taking control of the Verity. They simply want to destroy the rescue effort because they believe in Shiana’s concern about the Federation gaining too great a foothold, and Johnson & Beyer provide a genuine surprise in how Zhaban is actually in on the plot. The final issue becomes more about establishing the conditions that get Laris & Zhaban to Earth, and how by the time of Picard they are essentially carers for the retired Admiral, than it is Picard resolving the moral conundrum of the Yuyatis. Perhaps the only downside of this story is that they end up being a footnote, a means to an end, as opposed to the reason Picard takes a stand.
Yet the biggest surprise is how much hope exists at the end of the story, with Picard aware of Tal’Shiar treachery but convinced the rescue of the Romulan people will end well. It’s telling we see Geordi La Forge again on Mars, because "Remembrance" and the Short Treks episode "Children of Mars" both establish a cataclysmic event on the red planet soon after that will change everything about Picard’s situation, and there is an ominous open question now hanging over the fate of Geordi as a result. Johnson & Beyer clearly designed this comic as a means of wrong-footing you, hoping you may read this story and expect the series Picard to pick up on the Admiral in Starfleet as the man we remember… only to find much has gone wrong since.
That further suggests production realities delayed the third issue beyond their control and, to a degree, it lessens the impact of the final issue in the run up to the new series. Nevertheless, while a fairly talky ending to a series which struggles to forge too much of its own story given the canonical need to sync up to Star Trek: Picard Countdown nonetheless will absolutely add to the enjoyment of the new show, filling in pieces of the "future history" of those intervening twenty years in a satisfactory way.