Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek Manga

Battlestar Galactica: Echoes of New Caprica by Emily Salzfass, Anthony Wu, Mike Wellman, and Richard Hatch

The stories in this anthology are set during season three of Battlestar Galactica. I can see how the Cylon occupation on New Caprica and the aftermath of the fleet’s escape would leave room for untold stories but the third season of the show also differed in tone from the previous seasons and featured the horror that was Fat Apollo, so I found it to be a curious choice for a manga adaptation. There are three stories in this volume with varying degrees of quality in the plotting and art.

“Teacher’s Pet” shows events that take place in Roslin’s classroom. She uses her students to pass information on to the resistance, but quickly suspects that she may be teaching forbidden colonial history to a pint-sized Cylon collaborator. The art for this story is serviceable, but the artist did a better job capturing the look of some characters like Roslin and Cavil and a less than great job making Anders and the Eights look recognizable. I suspect character design is always going to be tricky when people already have a firm idea of what the characters look like.

The second story was the most interesting to me because it was tied closely to the events in the show. “Shelf Life” was written by Richard Hatch and explores the events during Tom Zarek’s brief term as president that led him to order the independent jury and execution squad to seek out and perform their particular brand of justice on suspected Cylon collaborators.

“Visitation” focuses on Kara Thrace’s relationship with the child Casey who was passed off as her daughter on New Caprica. I found this story a little annoying, partially because the characterization didn’t seem to really fit with what I’d imagine Starbuck’s actions to be. On the other hand, Starbuck’s personality is all over the map, so I guess it is hard for anyone to predict what she’d do. There were individual panels in the story that had a retro feel due to the heavy application of pesudo Benday dot tone in lieu of backgrounds. Some of the characters were drawn a bit inconsistently and occasionally looked like they had shark mouths and this was a distraction.

Since this volume is tied so closely to the show’s third season, it definitely isn’t for a casual BSG fan. Richard Hatch’s story was the best of the three, and while the volume as a whole was uneven I didn’t feel like I wasted my time reading it. I won’t be rereading it though. Fat Apollo is fat in this book, and I prefer to not remember that time period at all. This would be a good book to check out from the library if you are feeling nostalgic with the upcoming end of the show.

Star Trek Ultimate Edition by Chris Dows, Wil Wheaton, Paul Benjamin, Rob Tokar, Christine Boylan, Luis Reyes, Mike W. Barr, and David Gerrold

This volume of Star Trek repackages fan-selected stories from the three volumes that were previously published. This was my first exposure to Star Trek manga, and I enjoyed it more than I was expecting. Many of the stories did a good job capturing the blend of campy science fiction mixed with philosophical overtones found in the original show. Perhaps I am easily amused, but I thought it was hilarious every time I saw a manga version of Kirk ordering someone to fire their phasers or photon torpedoes.

There are eight stories in this volume. Kirk and the crew investigate a strange ship at the edge of a singularity, where they meet a sexy female mutant with a horrible disease. They then proceed to have a fateful encounter with a group of Klingons, followed by a fight with an army of mecha piloted by little kids who were kicked out of war college and left to fend for themselves. Alien artifacts set off a gender war on the Enterprise, but the deadliest enemy by far is a psychic teddy bear. Witness Kirk’s powers of persuasion!

I thought the stories and art in this book were much more consistent than the Battlestar Galactica volume, probably because this was a greatest hits compilation of Star Trek manga. Since Star Trek has self-contained episodes instead of an overall storyline like Battlestar Galactica, it was easier for me to sit back and enjoy reading the book without feeling the need to wonder where the stories would theoretically fit into the continuity of the show. This is definitely a book I’m going to keep to reread in the future. Psychic Teddy Bears menacing the Enterprise!

Both volumes are oversized, and the Star Trek volume features a prologue story with color pages and a tear-out poster.

Review copies provided by the publisher.