Best Shots Advance: STAR TREK: KHAN #1, CODE MONKEY SAVE WORLD #1

Credit: IDW
Credit: IDW

Star Trek: Khan #1
Writen by Mike Johnson
Art by David Messina, Claudia Balbont, Marina Castelvetro and Claudia ScarletGothica
Lettering by Neil Uyetake
Published by IDW Publishing
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10

Because you demanded it - wait... did we demand it? Regardless of your feelings over Star Trek: Into Darkness, IDW Publishing is determined to fix continuity holes between the 2013 film and the original Wrath of Khan in Star Trek: Khan #1. Yet between the prefunctory story and the sub-par artwork, this is a tie-in that only diehards need to buy.

For those who have been long-time fans of Star Trek, you probably know who Khan Noonien Singh is - and even if you aren't a Wikipedia-scouring Trekkie, if you've seen either the recent Star Trek: Into Darkness film or the original Wrath of Khan, you know enough to know who this character is: a ruthless ubermensch from the 20th century who comes back to wreak havoc in the future. Yet IDW's latest arc set in the movie universe winds up posing an uncomfortable question, as it essentially asks "why does somebody named Khan Noonien Singh look like a white guy like Benedict Cumberbatch?" It's the story that nobody really asked to hear, about how Khan went from being an Indian boy to a white man, and it really distracts from the rest of the story.

Well, actually, perhaps I'm jumping the gun. The story here is about as predictable as it gets. Mike Johnson is dealing with a licensed property here, so perhaps its not surprising that he isn't able to do anything too revolutionary here - but you can pretty much guess exactly what happens here, as the young Noonien is inducted into a genetic enhancement program and winds up defying all expectations. We get it, Khan is evil, and it's nature versus nuture in this case - but there is so much potential for something more to this story, rather than just a dreary retelling of what we could already infer from the movies.

The artwork doesn't help the cause, either. David Messina's introductory sequence is particularly rough on the eyes, as Johnson's wordy script winds up really putting the squeeze on Messina's flat, photo-based artwork. Claudia Balbont fares a bit better with the flashback sequences, as she's got a more fluid style and is a bit more adventurous with her layouts (particularly during the fight sequences, as Noonen spars with his genetically enhanced brethren). That said, Balbont still has room to grow, particularly during a bit where Noonen tries to take his own life, which barely registers when you see it.

Unless you're a completist, Star Trek: Khan #1 is definitely a book you can skip. Even though this series is set in the J.J. Abrams universe, the central theme of fate and altered realities isn't even mentioned here, and that robs this story of the charm of the rebooted Trek-verse. Poor artwork and a forgettable story make this book its own worst enemy.

Code Monkey Save World #1
Written by Greg Pak
Art by Takeshi Miyazawa and Jessica Kholinne
Lettering by Simon Bowland
Published by Monkeybrain Comics Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

One of the great advantages of comics is the industry's willingness to go for silly, absurd concepts just for the sake of fun - and Code Monkey Save World is just the latest example. Based on the songs of nerd-friendly musician Jonathan Coulton, Code Monkey wastes no time justifying its quirky premise, but instead revels in its inherently entertaining story.

If I were to sum up Code Monkey with an elevator pitch, I'd say it's a cross between Office Space and Axe Cop. Writer Greg Pak starts the comic off with the typical office doldrums, as Code Monkey is nagged by his lame boss Rob - a sequence based on Coulton's original "Code Monkey" song. Yet after the prerequisite meet-cute with one of Code Monkey's co-workers, suddenly Pak goes way off the beaten path, as Code Monkey is sucked into a world of killer robots and secret shadow organizations, as he struggles to rescue the girl he loves.

Ultimately, Pak's work is based on concept rather than characterization. For Pak, that's actually a pretty big departure, given his character-driven runs on Incredible Hulk, Incredible Hercules and Superman/Batman - but unlike his edu-tational Vision Machine, Pak is really throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks. While that isn't going to win him any Eisners, Code Monkey's adventures really hit that pulpy vein that comics do so well - why explain the craziness when you can just enjoy it?

Of course, much of the reason this works is because of artist Takeshi Miyazawa. Miyazawa, who co-created Incredible Hercules supporting character Amadeus Cho with Pak, brings a manga-style energy to this comic. Code Monkey, for example, really emotes well when he fumes at his boss or stumbles with a pretty co-worker, and Miyazawa's action beats are particularly memorable (especially when Code Monkey accidentally defeats a giant robot). Much like the absurd premise of Code Monkey himself, you can see that Miyazawa is having a lot of fun with the character designs, particularly Code Monkey's tough-guy partner/employer, Skullcrusher.

That said, this comic certainly isn't for everyone - there are going to be plenty of people who think Code Monkey is a cipher of a character, particularly with his caveman-esque speech patterns (although, c'mon, he's a monkey, for crying out loud). Those who want a deeper theme and meaning will probably be better served elsewhere - but for those who are looking for the sheer crazy spectacle that only comics can provide, Code Monkey Save World #1 is a fun debut for a most unlikely hero.

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