Review – Galaxy Quest #1
Galaxy Quest is one of the greatest movies ever made. It took two genres that didn’t really need extra entries – the LA in-joke movie about how broken actors are and the sci-fi parody – and meshed them into something tight, something perfect. I’ve always been fascinated by the stories of the R-rated cut that the crew will mention every now and then, because I can’t really imagine the movie being anything other than what it is. It gets so much right, from the incredibly sharp script to the perfect cast. And even though the movie is ripe for Star Trek-style expansion, the source material is so strong that everyone involved is a little afraid of returning to the well, and even the film’s most ardent fans tend to be ambivalent at best about whether they even want a sequel.
Adapting Galaxy Quest to other media is tricky. In some ways, the work is done for you – the film so briskly and adroitly lays out the players, the world, and the stakes that your heavy lifting is done for you. Anyone picking up a Galaxy Quest comic is already in love with the world and people of the story; you just have to let them keep playing off of each other. In other ways, you’re hobbled by the fact that you don’t actually have that cast playing those characters – maybe more than any other franchise out there, Galaxy Quest is dependent on the ability to capture the chaotic, narcissistic, fearful voices of its characters.
This is actually the second Galaxy Quest series for IDW. The first, called Global Warning!, came out in 2008. Picking up where the movie left off, the cast of the show is called upon when a “Judgment Ship” arrives on Earth to rip it apart. The only hope is the recovered NSEA Protector, and the only people it’ll allow on board are Nesmith and company. The miniseries plays it pretty safe – it keeps to Earth, it doesn’t expand the universe by much, etc. – but it does feature the gang acting close to character, and while the dialogue isn’t as sharp as the film’s, it’s still a lot of fun, even if it didn’t really drive the overall story forward. (One particularly effective bit shows an alien mind-prison that traps each of the cast inside their greatest fears. Not only does it make full use of the actors’ neuroses, it also demonstrates a great understanding of them on behalf of the writer.)
This second comic series seems to follow from the first. It picks up on the handful of long-term threads that Global Warning! laid out – the “Journey Continues” series has been fairly successful, Guy’s still angling for a spinoff, etc. – but it makes some interesting choices.
The crux of this first issue hearkens back to the end of the movie. When Nesmith activates the Omega-13, he resets time for 13 seconds across the entire universe. Galaxies away, a small band of freedom fighters is trying to liberate their planet from oppressive technocrats. They gain control of an outpost, but then time resets. When they storm the outpost again, the guards are ready for them. The rebels are routed, they lose their leader, and they swear revenge on whoever was responsible for their defeat.
MAN, it’s an interesting move. To have, again, such an iconic cast, and a well-built world, and to open the story so far away from all of it. We’re used to seeing Galaxy Quest open with fantastic tales, but we usually then see that it’s a super-cheesy episode of the show-within-a-show. In some ways, it almost feels like a fake-out to realize that this scene is really happening. It’s a fun play.
After that, we return to Earth. The cast are at a comic convention to promote the new season of the show, unaware that the rebel aliens have come to Earth looking for them. It’s here that the book left me wanting a little more. Front and center is Brandon, the nerd who saved everyone in the movie with his encyclopedic knowledge of the show. He’s still the likeable goof he always was, and he’s stayed in contact with the Thermians. But when we move away from him, the cast don’t really look or sound much like themselves. Jason still feels like Jason. He’s appropriately self-centered and dismissive. But aside from covering his absence, Gwen, Alexander, Tommy, Guy, Fred, and Laliara don’t really have much to do. There’s a little bit of banter between them, but not as much as you’d hope, again, given how great each of those characters are.
I’m hoping that this is just a first-issue problem. I figure that dedicating the first half of the book to the backstory took time away from spending time with the stars of the show. That group of people are absolutely the heart and soul of that movie; they’re the reason anyone cares. I hope that now the groundwork’s laid, we’ll get more of the back-and-forth that makes Galaxy Quest work.
I’m intrigued by what they’re doing with the story. I love re-casting the end of the film as having unforeseen consequences. I think that once the book finds its legs, it could be off to something beautiful. And I really hope it is, because if there’s any story out there that deserves to be explored, that deserves to be big and bright and fun, and awesome, it’s Galaxy Quest.