Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Hearts and Minds
(1994 - four issues, published by Malibu)
Writer: Mark Altman. Art: Rob Davis. Inks: Terry Pallot.
Klingons think that Cardassians destroyed one of their ships in the Gamma Quadrant, leading the two powers to the brink of war. On the space station Deep Space Nine, Commander Sisko tries to mediate between the two empires while also sending Dax and Dr. Bashir (along with a Klingon observer) into the Gamma Quadrant to see if they can learn what really happened. Meanwhile, a mysterious trader makes Quark an offer for his bar that may be connected to the goings on -- an offer he literally can't refuse.
Hearts and Minds was Malibu's first DS9 mini-series and kind of begs the question: why not just publish it as part of the on-going comic? Whatever the reason, writer Mark Altman delivers a self-contained story (there may've been a prologue in Malibu's Star Trek: Deep Space Nine #9, and an editorial promises some of the characters introduced here might appear later) that emerges as a pretty good romp. It's not a great story, per se. But it's a good story. Despite the various Star Trek TV series having had a long history in comics, by a variety of publishers, the field is pretty barren of stand out tales. Altman has a pretty good handle on the various characters and, perhaps by virtue of its length, can indulge in badinage, humour and character bits that allow them to breathe (while still staying focused on the suspense plot). The story has enough plot threads that most of the characters are given their moments (though Chief O'Brien is short changed, as is Major Kira, to some extent) and seems sufficiently complex to fill out its pages. When you're done, you realize that not all that much actually happened, but while reading it, the story seems briskly-paced and complex.
Familiarity with the TV series helps, of course, since Altman occasionally throws in references that are given little, if any, explanation (like that Dax has lived many lives). This was published during the early years of the series (Sisko has hair!) and, as such, the plot takes on an odd innocence. The premise here is that the heroes are trying to prevent the unthinkable: a war between two super powers. But, of course, the later half of the TV series concerned an interstellar war between all the major Trek races.
Altman employs the cinematic style popular in comics these days, telling the story almost entirely in dialogue and pictures (no thought balloons, and few text captions). This can make for a few confusing scene changes and, as is usually the problem with that style, fails to exploit the full potential of the comics medium, rendering things a tad superficial, and not really digging into the characters' psyches. Conversely, it makes it an easy, breezy read.
Artist Rob Davis does a pretty good job of evoking the actors and telling the story, without quite being exciting or dynamic. But given some of the artwork I've seen on other Trek comics, he does a better-than-average job. He also nicely manages to evoke the interiors of the space station itself, so that the whole thing really does create the sense that you're watching an episode of the TV series. Though his Kira is rather unflattering, and his O'Brien needs a bit of work.
I was never as big a fan of DS9 as I was of the original Star Trek TV series, but I liked aspects of it. Which might explain my enjoyment of this. I liked the show enough to appreciate the mini-series, without having especially high standards that it was unable to meet. I read another review of this that suggested it was by far the best of Malibu's Deep Space Nine stories. It certainly struck me as an enjoyable, better-than-average Trek adventure. Though I'm not sure what the title "Hearts and Minds" meant.