I’m pretty sure I’ve said this more than once, but if there is a bar set for how to work an expanded universe/comics adaptation between two sequels in a movie series, it’s the Marvel Comics Star Wars series between Empire and Jedi. Following a close second, however, has been this first DC Star Trek series, which did a great job of creating its own continuity between the second, third, and fourth movies of this particular series. On the one hand, that might be easier for Trek because it began as a television series that was episodic in its storytelling so there wasn’t much in the way of tight continuity; on the other hand, that is pretty tough considering that each of those movies bleed into one another as a trilogy.
When I last covered these books, we were bearing down on the adaptation of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and the crew of the Enterprise was commanding the Excelsior in a series of adventures that had been pretty solid. As we got closer and closer to the fourth movie, the writers and editors had found themselves in that position of trying to get things back where they were supposed to be when the fourth movie opened.
So my source for these is the combination of print comics I’d grabbed over the years combined with the digital versions on the DVD I’d received a few months ago. They’ve certainly helped speed up my read-through of the series. I’ll actually start at the end here, which is the adaptation of the fourth movie. It’s serviceable and doesn’t add much to the film, which I guess is as much as you can ask for from a movie that hasn’t aged as well as I would have hoped, with a novelization that fleshes it out a little better. So in the very least it’s a necessary comic to own if you’re reading the show all the way through and is kind of the annual for the year (as there won’t be an annual until 1988, which is toward the end of the run).
As for the individual issues themselves, there are a couple of gems in here with a great “20th Anniversary Special” for issue #33 where the crew from the original series winds up in the present day of the comic book and it’s about to tear the universe apart. This was actually a re-read because I’d talked about it years ago on my podcast when I covered it for my “80 Years of DC Comics” miniseries. But even though I knew I was going to like the issue, I found it to be even more fun when I came in this second time. Len Wein, who wrote several issues of the book, gets these characters very well and also is able to distinguish the younger characters with their older selves. Plus, Tom Sutton and Ricardo Villagran are seasoned Trek comic veterans at this point and it all feels very comfortable and lived-in. I don’t know what the circulation or sales on the series were at this point, but with the banner of “Special” and the story, I can imagine that this could have been a way in for a number of new readers.
Thankfully, it’s followed up with a three-part storyline where the crew of the Surak, Spock’s science vessel, is killed by a mysterious plague, and though he also contracts the plague, Spock’s physiology means that’s he’s slowly dying instead of quickly doing so. Furthermore, the psyche of the Mirror Universe Spock, whom he had absorbed in the post-TSFS storyline, which had fully restored him. Ultimately, what this leads to is the restoration of Spock to where he is just finished recovering from being brought back at the beginning of Star Trek IV. They also lose their command of the Excelsior as well, so they’re once again flying the Klingon Bird of Prey, which had been sitting in the ship’s hangar.
For a series that had to get the crew back to Vulcan because according to the film, they were in exile on the planet for several months following the destruction of the Enterprise, the creative team does a really good job of making this plausible. It wasn’t the only Trek out there at the time–there were a ton of the Pocket Books paperbacks as well–but Paramount let DC more or less tell their own stories as long as they brought the status quo back to where it needed to be and I can see the care put into that.
Of course, then we have the post-Star Trek IV world of the Enterprise 1701-A and a possibility of a fifth movie whose story was not a foregone conclusion in the way that the last two films had been. Would the series pull that off as well? I guess we’ll see.
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?
Keep the digital books. Sell/Donate the physical copies.