When it comes to franchise films, I think that Star Trek III: The Search for Spock had one of the hardest jobs of the 1980s. The first film, while an underrated gem, didn’t have the best reputation after its release–it wasn’t a flop per se but it also wasn’t Superman or Star Wars–and therefore The Wrath of Khan had “room to move” when it came to improving on what had come before. I guess that’s why I was so disappointed in IDW’s adaptation when I read and reviewed it. Anyway, TWOK was such a success that the bar for its follow-up was set incredibly high, and as a film it mostly delivers even if it has room for improvement in some of the characterization and other aspects. I can’t remember if I said this in my recent Trek podcast episode, but if you’d added maybe 15 minutes to the film and put in some of the details that were in the novelization, it would have really worked.
But hey, it’s still a good movie, and this is an adaptation of that movie that’s workman-like at best and I think that’s also due to its needing to fill a comic that’s about the size of an annual. Whereas The Motion Picture had a few issues to get the V’Ger adventure across, DC gives us an extra-sized comic that slides in between issues #8 and 9 (and kudos to Mike W. Barr for putting the detail of “David, your rendezvous with the Grissom is going to be delayed” into issues #7-8). Keeping the regular series’ creative team on this comic proves to be a good idea, too, as there is continutiy between the ongoing series and the movies, something that’s vital to keeping this book going for as long as it will need to if the movie franchise is successful.
That being said, it also suffers from what many movie adaptations of this time suffer from, and that’s a number of the great action beats from the film are rendered as if we’re simply seeing stills from those 1980s storybooks–you know, the ones that have a text summary of the movie with snapshots of the movie’s action (I had all three Star Wars books; I don’t know if the Trek franchise had them). The artwork is good and Tom Sutton does a great job of making sure that the characters are recognizable (and renders Saavik as played by Robin Curtis pretty well), and Howard Chaykin gives us a gorgeous cover, but just as I blew through the other two knowing all the beats from the film, I blew through this one.
I’m not lamenting that I own a physical copy of this, especially since I fished it out of a 50-cent bin a few years ago, but it’s more of a curiosity than anything, or at least a hole to fill in your Trek collection if you’re reading DC series. If you are looking for a great adaptation of the movie, though, I’d stick with the novel.
And before I go out, I guess I’ll say that I don’t mean to be so negative about these movie adaptations; they’re actually very fun to read, but it’s to the point that they’re almost ephemera, so instead of looking at them from a critical lens, I find that it’s more fun to look at them with an eye for the nostalgia of “this is one of the few ways you’ll get to re-experience the movie” as well as a bit of whimsy.