Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Star Trek #7 (DC; 2nd Series)

In order to discuss DC's second volume of Star Trek comics, I am afraid that I will have to touch on, at least briefly, a rather unpleasant topic: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.  Around the time of "that film's" release, Paramount took it upon itself to renegotiate all of it Trek related licensing deals.  As a result, DC's first Star Trek series came to an end with #56.  Ultimately, DC retained the rights to produce Trek comics.  Thus, one year after the conclusion of the first volume, a new Star Trek series began, preceded by an adaptation of "that film." 
The new comic was published in what DC referred to as their "New Format."  This was sort of a middle ground between the traditional newsprint of the so-called "Standard Format" titles and the higher quality and price tag of the "Deluxe Format."  Besides the quality of the paper stock, one other thing that distinguished the "New Format" from "Deluxe Format" comics was that select "New Format" titles, Star Trek among them, were made available outside comics shops alongside "Standard Format" books.
Although Peter David, who had come onto the previous volume as writer with #48, continued on in that capacity for the first year and a half of the revived comic, the second series otherwise shared no continuity with its predecessor.  The events of that series, along with the new Enterprise crew members created by its initial writer Mike W. Barr, were relegated to a footnote to Trek history.  Paramount, as a matter of fact, forbid the addition of new characters to the cast of the second volume, insisting that the stories focus on the already established main characters.  This decree forced the abrupt disappearance of the David created character R. J. Blaise following the twelfth issue.  Blaise was introduced as the Enterprise's "protocol officer," however her true purpose on board the ship was to keep an eye on the controversial Captain Kirk on behalf of the Federation council.  She figured prominently in David's early storylines, yet David was given no chance by Paramount to properly write her out of the book and wrap up her plotlines.
"Not...Sweeney!" in #7 kicks off a three part story that begins with the Enterprise being assigned to evacuate the inhabitants of a doomed planet who don't want to be rescued by them.  When I phrase it that way, it kind of sounds like a replay of Marvel's seventh issue of Star Trek.  However, Peter David took that basic idea in a whole different direction than Tom DeFalco had.
The residents of the Federation colony on Tau Gamma II desperately want to get off their rapidly disintegrating planet, they just don't want to ride with Jim Kirk.  It would seem that their fears are well-founded.  Captain Kirk has become a lightning rod for the Federation's enemies.  The Klingons are still pissed at him over the events of Star Trek III.  In David's first storyline for this series, the captain managed to incur the wrath of a new, and very nasty, race of yellow-skinned aliens who call themselves the Nasgul.  Further complicating matters for Kirk and the colonists of Tau Gamma II is the fact that Sweeney, a semi-legendary figure widely feared as "the galaxy's most dangerous bounty hunter," has set his sights on the captain.
Sweeney's fleet surrounds the Enterprise in orbit around the planet, forcing the ship to retreat and seek reinforcements, thus stranding Kirk, Spock and Blaise on the surface.  Sweeney, meanwhile, goes in his personal ship down to the planet to capture his quarry personally.
Up until the final page of "Not...Sweeney!" the enigmatic bounty hunter is seen only as a menacing shadow.  Once his true form is revealed, he is most definitely not what the reader expects.  Rather than Lobo, he more closely resembles a young David Niven, complete with neatly trimmed moustache, striped tie, tweed jacket and dialogue suggesting a British accent.
The story continues in the next two issues, as Sweeney announces his plans to sell his captive to the highest bidder.  This leads to a four way confrontation between Sweeney, a fleet of Federation vessels led by Enterprise, and representatives of the Klingons and Nasgul.  Needless to  say,  Kirk escapes and triumphs over Sweeney, as well as the Klingons and the Nasgul.  Nevertheless, the ordeal convinces him that the best thing for all concerned would be for him to turn himself in to face the charges leveled against him by the two alien empires.  This sets up the three part storyline "The Trial of James T. Kirk" in issues #10-12.
Paramount having learned exactly the wrong lessons from the success of Star Trek IV, subsequent films took an ill-advised and poorly executed turn toward interspersing scenes of broad comedy amidst the "serious" moments. (I use quotes because it is impossible for me to take "that film" seriously.)  The comic reflected this trend.  However, with Peter David writing it, its certain that the comics would have taken on a more lighthearted tone even if the films had remained as grim as The Search For Spock.  One of David's trademarks as a writer is his mixing of humor and straightforward action/adventure.  Fortunately, David pulled it off much better than the writers of the last two films with the original cast.
This issue is a good example of that.  Kirk's rocky, to say the least, relationship with R. J. Blaise provides the comedy, while the action springs from Kirk's attempts to  outwit Sweeney and two alien races while racing against time to save the colonists from a planet that could explode at any time.
The art in the early issues of this series, including #7, was provided by James Fry and Arne Starr.  Fry gets the likenesses of the actors down pretty well.  It's on the characters original to this story that his depictions are inconsistent from panel to panel.
This is the last of the Star Trek #7's in my collection, but probably not the end of this series.  I also happen to have copies of the seventh issues DC's Star Trek: The Next Generation, Malibu's Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Marvel's Star Trek Unlimited.  Also, Marvel published its own DS9 series as well as a Voyager series and comics chronicling the adventures of Captain Pike and his Enterprise crew and a series set during the second five year mission following the first movie.  I don't have copies of those seventh issue, but I'm always on the lookout for them.  So expect further posts in the not so distant future.


  1. Those Early Voyages comics were the only Trek-based comics I took a chance on and really enjoyed to any extent, since that particular subject matter (Capt. Pike and the original Enterprise crew) was mostly untapped up to that point. At times it made me wish that the first pilot of Star Trek, with its first cast, had produced a season or two of episodes. The only real quibble I had with the original concept is how the women were kept mostly in the background as far as their assertiveness--a problem the comic was able to push aside, for the most part.

    I'll have to take a look at the DS9 and Voyager comics sometime, which I never got around to sampling.

  2. While I really liked RJ Blaise — she had great on-panel chemistry with Kirk as both a professional and romantic foil — having recently read through those early issues after patching a couple gaps in my collection, I have to say that they shouldn't have tried to extend her past issue 12. There was really no purpose for her once the trial arc ended, and that's painfully evident in issue 13 when she pretty much just ended up filling a job any other member of the crew could do. I would have preferred they ended her appearance with #12 and allowed her a proper send-off than waiting for executive mandate to lead to her sudden disappearance.