The final issue of Star Trek: Countdown was released this week, completing the prologue to this summer's Star Trek movie. If you skipped the series, then you missed a lot... including some old friends. Spoilers!
Countdown - plotted by the movie's Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, and scripted by Tim Jones and Mike Johnson from Orci and Kurtzman's production company - doesn't just set up next month's JJ Abrams-led reboot in style (complete with great art by David Messina); it also offers what may be the final canonical Next Generation story, as well, and it's one that satisfies even without knowing that a movie was coming out to follow it.
The series is really an introduction to Nero, the Romulan who'll rewrite history in the movie. What Countdown gives us is the reason why he does that, as well as make you feel some sympathy and empathy for how he ended up the way we'll see him in theaters a month from now. It's not a small-scale origin, however; it takes the destruction of the planet Romulus - and the death of his wife and unborn son - to turn the good-willed miner into the tattooed villain we've seen in trailers and posters, and it's a destruction that may have been averted had things not been the way they were... leading to his desire to change the universe in grander - and, in a way, much smaller - ways than saving his planet.
His ally in trying to save the planet is Spock, at this point the Federation's ambassador to Romulus and - in a nice allusion to Superman's origin - a scientist who warns of the planet's destruction ahead of time, only to be ignored by the powers that be. When Spock and Nero try to take matters into their own hands to save the planet, they run into the Enterprise (now being commanded by Captain Data), as well as Jean-Luc Picard and Geordi La Forge, both living surprising new lives outside of ongoing starship missions. When Romulus is destroyed, midway through the story, we get to see Nero's transformation into the movie's big bad, as well as the way that brings him into conflict with another familar face, Worf, now fully a Klingon warrior.
Ignoring the movie tie-in altogether, this would still be an enjoyable series; the story feels appropriately epic, with characterization that's spot-on to the Enterprise crew(s) that we know and love and shout-outs to Trek past that aren't self-important or pull you out of the plot (The Romulans have retro-fitted Borg technology to create their ultimate battleship, for example). Even the ending, which very clearly sets up the movie, could be taken at face value as a conclusion complete in and of itself (Spock and Nero's ship disappear into a singularity and are presumed dead by the Enterprise crew who watched it happen). The series doesn't just make you want to see the Star Trek movie, it also makes you want to read more Star Trek comics if they'll be as good as this one.
Star Trek: Countdown's collection edition is released this Wednesday, and the individual issues are available in comic stores and at iTunes right now.