GRAPHIC NOVEL
Star Trek
To Boldly Go

Author: Mike W Barr
Artists: Tom Sutton, Ricardo Villagran and Sal Amendola
Titan Books
RRP: 14.99, US $19.95
ISBN 1 84576 084 0
Available 22 July 2005


Following the death of Captain Spock in the battle with Kahn, Admiral Kirk requests command of the
USS Enterprise - and he is somewhat surprised when Grand Admiral Turner instantly agrees. Kirk and his crew are assigned to investigate how the Klingons are managing to appear and disappear without trace as they make lethal strikes against Federation ships...

This is the first volume of a series that promises to reprint the entire original run of DC Comics' Star Trek. This series, which ran between 1983 and 1988 is, in my humble opinion, the best Trek comic there has ever been.

Unlike the Marvel run that preceded it, which was only permitted to use characters and concepts from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and the second DC series, which faced more restrictive control by Paramount and was forced to remove certain characters at the studio's insistence, the initial DC series was allowed a very free creative hand. As a result, editor Marv Wolfman and writer Mike W Barr were able to craft stories that not only worked well as comics, but felt like "real" Star Trek and moved the mythology forward.

Many of their ideas actually pre-empted future Trek movies and series. For example, Star Trek: The Next Generation boasted a Klingon crewmember, Worf, but DC got there first with the creation of Konom, a Klingon defector, who makes his debut in this very volume. Star Trek: Voyager gave us a recurring native American character, Chakotay, but - been there, done that - DC gave us the bigoted Ensign Bearclaw, who is also introduced here.

DC's stories - particularly Barr's - also contained plenty of fan-pleasing old enemies and returning characters. In this volume alone, which collects issues 1-6, we see Klingons, including Kor (Errand of Mercy), Organians (Errand of Mercy), Excalbians (The Savage Curtain), Ambassador Robert Fox (A Taste of Armageddon), and a shape-shifter trained in the same techniques as Garth of Izar (Whom Gods Destroy), whose disguises include the form of a Gorn (Arena).

More importantly, Barr gets the main characters just right. When Kirk becomes annoyed at Saavik for not being as efficient as the sorely-missed Spock, it is up to Dr McCoy to remind him that no one could hope to replace their fallen friend. When Sulu is left in temporary charge of the Enterprise, he longs for a command of his own. My only real criticism of Barr's writing is that he has a tendency to have the characters reprise lines from The Wrath of Kahn.

The first four issues collected here are packed with action and would have made a great movie. The subsequent two stand-alone tales, Mortal Gods and Who is... Enigma?, seem a little rushed as they try to cram their plots into just 23 pages each. The set-up of Mortal Gods, in which a stranded starship captain has gone native on an alien planet, seems to have taken place rather too quickly, in the mere days that have elapsed since the conclusion of the previous four-parter. Therefore, perhaps this story would have worked better if it had been held over until later on in the run. The notion of a starship commander going rogue and/or setting himself up as the ruler of an alien civilisation had already been done several times in the original TV series, but at least this time we get the twist that the captain in question is one of Kirk's former students rather than one of his former mentors.

All six issues fit in well between the events of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. It may strike some readers as odd that Admiral Turner allows Kirk to take command of what was previously a training vessel, when in The Search for Spock the ship gets decommissioned. However, I theorise that Turner is acting under the influence of the Excalbians at the time, and they want as many ships as possible to participate in the war that they provoke. The final two issues build towards The Search by setting up the peace negotiations mentioned in that movie.

I could be biased, because this series was the first Star Trek comic I ever encountered, but I have a soft spot for the work of penciller Tom Sutton and inker Ricardo Villagran. Occasionally, characters' bodies and hardware such as starships appear a little out of proportion, but Sutton and Villagran are very good at capturing the likenesses of the screen actors while maintaining a sense of dynamic action, unlike many other artists, who are lost without reference photographs.

Sal Amendola, the guest inker for Mortal Gods, has a sketchier style than Villagran, which isn't entirely to my liking. However, it does at least highlight the important contribution that inkers make - they do more than simply trace over the penciller's work, contrary to a memorable line in the movie Chasing Amy!

Titan appears to have accessed the original printing films, rather than resorting to scanning from old comics, because the fine details of the artwork show up like never before.

However, the reproduction is less kind to the work of colourist Michele Wolfman, whose brash and bold paintwork was created with the newsprint-style paper of 1980s comic books in mind. Shown here on the pristine white paper stock that Titan has chosen, her colours look rather crude. Titan should perhaps have chosen cheaper paper, but you can compensate for this by dimming the lights before you read. No, really - it works!

This volume also contains a new introduction by Walter (Chekov) Koenig, who discusses the second and third films rather than the comics that take place between them; ten-year-old interviews with William (Kirk) Shatner and DeForest (McCoy) Kelley; and all six of the comics' original covers.

If you're a fan of vintage comics or of Kirk and his crew - or, indeed, both - you should boldly go to the shops and beam up this excellent collection.

Richard McGinlay

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