STAR TREK COMICS WEEKLY 130
STAR TREK COMICS WEEKLY 130
Rich Handley, the editor of the Star Trek Graphic Novel Collection, leads us through the sci-fi franchise's publishing history. This week, Rich traverses Star Trek's mysterious paths with IDW's Waypoint and Deviations.
130: IDW PUBLISHING, 2017–2019
Before Grudge and Spot-73, before Chester and Neelix the Cat—but after Isis, Sylvia, M'Ress, Chuft-Captain, and Patches—there was Spot. Felines have long been a part of Star Trek, going back to the 1960s, but none have had as much longevity as Data's pet from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Spot appeared in eight episodes of that series, as well as in two films, and has been referenced several times on Star Trek: Picard. The cat changed not only her appearance along the way, but also her gender, and even briefly became an iguana. As such, it's not surprising that more than one comic has told a story from Spot's perspective throughout the years.
The first was DC Comics' Next Generation Special #1, which featured a tale by Diane Duane that depicted a typical day in a starship feline's life, while the second was IDW's Star Trek: Waypoint. The latter series, edited by Sarah Gaydos, Chris Cerasi, Chase Marotz, and Denton J. Tipton, launched with a six-issue miniseries, then returned as a pair of one-shots: 2018's Waypoint Special #1, followed by Waypoint Special 2019. This week, we'll examine how those one-shots, along with Star Trek: Deviations, offered prequels, sequels, and tie-ins to the TV shows and movies. Each special contained four tales from different creative teams focused on different iterations of the mythos.
"Only You Can Save Yourself", from Dave Baker and Nicole Goux, draws connections to the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes "Emissary", "Facets", and "Field of Fire". When Andorian terrorists attack a Federation base to which Ezri Dax is assigned, she bravely protects the escaping patients and personnel. Dax's former hosts from those episodes—Lela, Tobin, Emory, Audrid, Torias, Curzon, and even Jadzia—guide and support her, and she utilizes their unique skill sets to keep everyone safe. Joran, however (her murderous personality aspect) taunts her with the possibility of failure.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture is spotlighted in "Consider Eternity", from Brandon Easton and Josh Hood, in which V'Ger, after merging with Will Decker and Ilia, is drawn to the Q Continuum, seeking an understanding of its own purpose—and providing what is arguably the strongest story in all eight issues of Waypoint. The Continuum is depicted as it is in Star Trek: Voyager's "Death Wish", as a peaceful but dull countryside, and Q removes Decker from the trinity to teach him about the rules of omnipotence, coexisting as combined souls, and the importance of not shattering the multiverse. V'Ger thus matures from an "inter-dimensional adolescent" to a newly evolved deity.
This story explains how Q became aware of Jean-Luc Picard and the USS Enterprise-D crew before "Encounter at Farpoint", and why he chose to start meddling in their lives (an explanation likely soon to be overwritten during Picard's second season). After helping V'Ger, Q faces another eternity of boredom until spotting the starship embarking on its mission to Farpoint Station. Intrigued, Q dons the robes of a Post-Atomic Horror courtroom judge and looks forward to some new entertainment.
The Spot focus occurs in "My Human Is Not", from Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly, and Sonny Liew, an adorable story of a pet's love for its owner. When Lore ("Datalore" and other episodes) poses as his identical brother and nearly kills Reg Barclay, Spot senses something different in his owner and attacks. The cat saves Reg's life, enabling the crew to detain the rogue android. As with Duane's outing for DC, Lanzing and Kelly do a great job of portraying how cats think, as any cat owner will recognize.
Finally, Matthew Dow Smith's "Histories" takes place in the distant future, when the Federation is no longer omnipresent, and one planet's histories portray Starfleet and James T. Kirk's crew as villains with a Prime Directive of conquest. What's fascinating is that although the comic was published two years before Star Trek: Discovery's third season (specifically, the episode "People of Earth"), the two storylines align surprisingly well. The Federation has vacated some regions of the galaxy due to an unknown disaster, prophetically setting up Discovery's revelation that the Burn, a thousand years from now, will cause the interstellar union to collapse as a superpower.
The second Waypoint Special offers fewer episode connections but is highly enjoyable. One charming tale is Stephen Mooney's "Hearts & Bones", in which Leonard McCoy tries to woo T'Han, a Vulcan physician with whom he is smitten, resulting in his being awkward and distracted whenever she's around. The visiting doctor wears an outfit like that worn by T'Pring in "Amok Time", rousing McCoy's attraction despite his rather bigoted view of Vulcans. Bones turns to Kirk for advice (and to Spock, who tells him he's out of his league!), but T'Han politely declines his overtures. Poor Leonard.
A chief medical officer also takes center-stage in "Unfathom", from Corinna Bechko and Daniel Irizarri, in which The Next Generation's Beverly Crusher and Tasha Yar unravel a mystery involving missing members of a vessel's crew. Intriguingly, Beverly discovers they were pulled into a storage device that places stored assets between universes, in a region called "unspace", causing no one to remember they exist. The episode tie-in is to "The Most Toys", as the duo uses the shuttlepod Pike for their mission.
Malachi Ward and Matt Sheean, in "The Swift Spoke", unveil a chapter from the early career of Star Trek: Voyager's Kathryn Janeway, as she leads the first-contact mission for the USS Billings ("Night"), with Tuvok providing security. The mission goes awry due to the aliens being unfixed to Starfleet's reality, rendering interspecies communication impossible. The officers fail to get along due to Tuvok's harsh criticism of her command decisions, but by the story's end a friendship forms, sparked by their mutual scientific fascination. Ensign April Anaya, introduced as an Enterprise conn officer in The Next Generation's "The Nth Degree", is shown to have served aboard the Billings as well.
Finally, in "The First Year", Thom Zahler and Andy Price commemorate the murder of Jadzia Dax in the Deep Space Nine episode "Tears of the Prophets". On the anniversary of Jadzia's death, Ezri Dax visits Worf to help him deal with his loss. Worf carries out his ambassadorial duties, per "What You Leave Behind", but admits he'd only accepted the posting from Chancellor Martok to escape Jadzia's memory and avoid Ezri. With that realization, Worf decides to give up the job and return to Starfleet. A poignant, insightful tale, it satisfyingly wraps up Waypoint while explaining Worf's presence in Star Trek: Nemesis, something the film neglected to do.
Star Trek: Deviations was part of IDW's Deviations event, in which the company altered a single historical moment for each franchise, resulting in divergent character paths, similar to Marvel's What If…? line. "In addition to working with familiar (and great!) Trek creators like Mike Johnson," Gaydos explains, "I was always on the hunt for ways to bring different folks into the fold. I conceptualized Waypoint and Deviations as short bursts of stories that busy creators could fit between their other work… or as a platform for more 'indie' creators to try something outside the box. I felt like these shorter story structures lent themselves to wild story choices that maybe could not hold up for six issues but were still a ton of fun."
Deviations opened in 2016 with a set of five one-shots featuring Ghostbusters, G.I. Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The X-Files, and Transformers. The following year, a second-round involved Judge Dredd, My Little Pony, Orphan Black, Star Trek, and another helping of The X-Files. Not since IDW's Infestation zombie-fest had Star Trek been in such an uncharacteristic company. For the Trek chapter, writer Donny Cates—who has since earned acclaim for his work for Marvel Comics—teamed up with artist Josh Hood to tell an alternate-reality story involving the Romulans and Picard's crew.
In that timeline, the Romulans conquer Earth sometime after the era of James T. Kirk, with humans nearly extinct by the 24th century. Resistance cells arise, including one led by a one-eyed Will Riker and a cybernetic Deanna Troi. The team breaks Picard out of a Romulan prison so he can lead them to a mythical base—Kirk's Enterprise—and save mankind. It's a high-octane tale, one in which Wesley Crusher is a fallen hero, Worf is a pacifist, and Data's disembodied head serves as Geordi La Forge's eyes. This dystopian approach to the characters recalls DC's "The Worst of Both Worlds" storyline and IDW's Star Trek: The Last Generation, both of which also saw Will sporting an eyepatch.
At the time, IDW's ads had claimed the story would take place in a timeline in which Romulans made first contact with Earth instead of Vulcans (Star Trek: First Contact), but the actual comic does not bear out that description since Starfleet, the Federation, the Enterprise, and Data all exist, which almost certainly would not be the case had Zefram Cochrane's people been enslaved by Romulus. Plus, the comic implies the movie's events and the Vulcan first contact still happened, but that the Romulans suppressed all such knowledge. As such, it's not clear what historical moment was changed—but it's a fun story regardless, leaving readers wishing it had continued beyond a single chapter.
Deviations and Waypoint were designed to provide comics unlike what fans were used to reading. This recalls another unusual comic, which will be the subject of next week's column. Published in China, it adapted Star Trek: The Motion Picture… and was clearly illustrated by someone who'd never watched the movie. In the meantime, those wishing to learn more about Star Trek comics can check out my Complete Star Trek Comics Index, Mark Martinez's Star Trek Comics Checklist, and Colin Merry's Wixiban's Star Trek Collectables Portal, as well as Alan J. Porter's Star Trek: A Comics History (Hermes Press) and Joseph F. Berenato's New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics (Sequart).