"Star Trek The Next Generation: Hive" #1 is the rarest of beasts: a licensed comic that transcends the usual constraints of the genre and manages to feel both important and interesting. Must be a blue moon.
Described by writer Brannon Braga as a 25th Anniversary story for "Star Trek: The Next Generation," there was only one enemy that series could feature, and that's the Borg. Specifically, it returns to the events of "The Next Generation's" best Borg episode (and some would say best episode full stop): "The Best of Both Worlds" and brings back Locutus, the Dark Phoenix to Captain Picard's Jean Grey.
The story kicks off with some dramatic opening pages, before flashing back to the Enterprise E. It takes a little while to acclimatise to the continuity of the story, and it would have been nice for Braga to specifically signpost when and where it was set to avoid this sort of confusion. As it turns out, it's set post-"Nemesis," and in its own continuity. A good decision, but one that could have been better explained early on through exposition or footnote.
Things rattle along at a fairly good pace, reintroducing readers to a variety of old friends, and a couple of new ones. There's a rather "Buffy Season 9" quality to the story, as it broadly maintains the reality and visual language of the TV show -- something most licensed comics fail to do. There's a lot of pandering to the fans, there's no doubt about that, but when "Star Trek TNG" projects have been thin on the ground for the last few years, there's nothing wrong with that. Fun is fun, even if it's cheaply bought.
Artistically, there are some areas where it could be improved. The likenesses are brilliantly evoked, in both character models and attitude/posture, but some of the poses are stiff, and the expressions occasionally a little dead. That said, it's no worse than you might see in certain Marvel or DC Universe titles, and experience suggests it'll rapidly improve throughout the course of the series.
It doesn't even seem to be a huge problem that Braga isn't a comics veteran. A pair of co-writers undoubtedly helps the situation, but there are some moments that slip up. The Borg "voice-over" is the best example of this. It's inconsistently executed -- sometimes others hear it, sometimes just Picard, but you can't really tell the difference -- and for that matter, it's too understated. At least one plot-critical moment was lost on my first read-through because I missed the caption box entirely. It's the Borg! Make it pop!
Still, as a "TNG" fan, I can't deny getting what I wanted out of this issue. It's perhaps a little too close to the plot of the Voyager episode "Scorpion" for my liking (Borg encounter superior foes, turn to humans for help) but other than that, it was mostly well-executed and, more importantly, instantly familiar. A must-buy for fans of "TNG" who want to see what the old gang's up to.