While J.J. Abrams' new Star Trek film has been a hit for fans and non-fans alike, IDW Publishing's official prequel comic collection is aimed at long time Star Trek fans.
Star Trek: Countdown ultimately serves as the background story for the film's main villain, Nero; only known in the film as the captain of a Romulan mining vessel, the Narada, who seeks revenge on Spock after his home planet, Romulus, is destroyed. This trade-paperback collects the four volume series which was released earlier this year (January through April) as a lead up to the film, but can easily be read before or after seeing the film (in my case, after).
As stated above, Star Trek: Countdown serves as Nero's back story, since he is practically the only "new" character introduced to the Star Trek franchise via the new film; and I'm sure everyone is curious as to what would cause a man to literally divide the timeline of the Star Trek universe in half.
What I thought was really cool about this series was the way it connected Nero, and ultimately the entire Star Trek film, with the Star Trek: The Next Generation series and characters. In actuality much of the book is inspired by the TNG two-part episode, "Unification", which had brought Spock into the 24th Century, and it shows. As a fan, it was just neat to see familiar faces in new scenes, but if you're not a Trek fan, chances are you won't even be picking this up in the first place.
If you left Star Trek wanting more, this is your best bet; and thankfully, the writing makes it feel like it really is an unseen part of the film. As the "Official Movie Prequel" (as stated on the back of the book), Countdown's story was thankfully penned by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who co-wrote Star Trek alongside Abrams; while the book itself is written by Mike Johnson and Tim Jones. What's also nice is that the inclusion of The Next Generation feels natural, and not just tacked on, as the characters exist in a time not long after Star Trek: Nemesis, so it's nice to see that they tried to make this as canon as possible.
As for the book's focus, Nero, much like the film his story is an understandable one; but there's never a moment that you can really feel for him as his actions are always self-centered. Yes, I understand his entire planet was destroyed, and he did all he could to try and save it. But if you got the vibe that he's just a self-centered jerk from the film, his vibe is no different in the book.
This is actually the part of the book I disliked the most, which can't be very good for what is essentially a visual medium. Call it my taste, but I was never wowed or overly impressed with David Messina's artwork for Countdown. It's not bad, his recreations of live action characters is pretty spot-on, but it never surpasses the look of generic comic book art.
Thankfully the great writing in the book makes up for the so-so art, but that may just be my personal preference of having a distinct, well done art style in comic books, and then good writing just ends up being the bonus factor.
As said, this is really a collection for Star Trek fans. If you left Star Trek wanting to know more about Nero's story, or just missed your Next Generation buddies, this is certainly a book to pick up. But if you only know Star Trek because of the new film, I don't think this book is a necessary inclusion to your reading list.
Overall Score: 7.8/10
For more Star Trek, be sure to read my review of J.J. Abrams' Star Trek.