An ongoing discussion of how Star Trek comics provide prequels, sequels, and tie-ins to the episodes and films…
25: DC Comics, 1991–1992
Howard Weinstein debuted on DC Comics’ Star Trek with stories about Klingon deceit and the nature of gods, followed by a highly amusing Harry Mudd three-parter, which proved he’d been the right person to replace Peter David as the series’ regular writer. This week, we’ll examine issues #25–34, as well as DC’s third Star Trek annual and its adaptation of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
Weinstein penned an ambitious and thoughtful tale for issues #25–28 that offered insight into James T. Kirk’s Starfleet Academy days by having the captain attend a reunion of his graduating class. There, Kirk runs into former shipmate Victoria Leigh, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Candice Bergen’s Murphy Brown. Vicky seeks his help in proving that her husband, Tred Kegin, was murdered. Kegin’s will leaves all his possessions to Kirk—which, by Pilkor 3 law, makes Victoria Jim’s wife.
Kirk returns with Victoria to Pilkor 3, unaware she is being manipulated by the Pilkoran government to lure him into a trap. Meanwhile, the Enterprise receives a distress call from a Pilkoran colony that has fallen under attack. Spock and McCoy discover a bioelectric shunt in a survivor’s brain, which overrode her memories with implanted ones to make her think the Romulans responsible. The Pilkoran government had actually carried out the attacks—and had kidnapped Tred, who’s alive—in order to spark a Federation-Romulan war so it could steal territory from both sides.
This is one of Weinstein’s better Trek tales, with beautiful interior artwork by Gordon Purcell and Arne Starr and some truly outstanding cover art by Jerome K. Moore. The writer not only brings Saavik back into the fold by having her assigned once again to Kirk’s command, but also introduces Chekov’s cousin, Nina Popov, who joins the Enterprise crew and develops a crush on Sulu, continuing DC’s tendency to portray the helmsman as quite the ladies’ man, following affairs with fellow officers M’Ress, Maria Morelli, M’yra, Kathy Li.
Sulu also has an encounter with an old Academy classmate, Marcus Bee, which leaves him pondering when Starfleet will give him his own starship. This sets the stage for The Undiscovered Country, in which Sulu commands the USS Excelsior—a vessel he’d been slated to captain before the Genesis incident stalled his career, according to Vonda McIntyre’s novelizations of prior films.
Weinstein weaves numerous tie-ins to onscreen Star Trek into these four issues. Victoria and Tred are said to have served with Kirk aboard the USS Farragut under Captain Garrovick, providing a connection to the episode “Obsession.” Jim’s attraction to Carol Marcus (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) at the time—whom Vicky describes as a “skinny blonde computer whiz,” recalling dialogue from “Where No Man Has Gone Before”—kept them from becoming more than friends back in the day. In one poignant scene, she comments that she was sad to hear of David Marcus’s death, unaware David was Kirk’s son, thus unwittingly reopening another of the captain’s “old wounds.”
Also at the reunion is Captain Styles (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock), who holds a grudge regarding the Excelsior‘s sabotage. Peter David’s run had revealed Styles and Kirk had once been friends; since we now learn the two attended the Academy together, David’s assumption makes sense. Incidentally, a plaque in the Star Trek: Picard episode “The Star Gazer” recently gave the character a canonical full name: Lawrence H. Styles. That name had originated in FASA’s Star Trek III Sourcebook Update supplement, then had been used in the novel Forged in Fire. Other sources have called him Edward (DC’s Who’s Who in Star Trek #1), James (Star Trek: Starship Creator), and Robert (Decipher’s Starships supplement).
Saavik returns to the Enterprise following what is said to have been a study leave on Vulcan. This explains her absence during most of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, in which she remained on Vulcan with Sarek and Amanda when her shipmates returned to Earth. That development led to fan speculation that Saavik may have been pregnant with Spock’s child, following their pon farr coupling in Star Trek III. DC avoided going that route, and thus no mention is made of Saavik being a new mother—though she does seem a bit embarrassed at the memory of her sexual encounter with her mentor.
Additional tie-ins include a rare onscreen appearance by Admiral Nogura (Star Trek: The Motion Picture), who not so subtly reminds Kirk to stop angering non-aligned governments. The story offers a fun shout-out to “Encounter at Farpoint” as well, though it’s easy to miss if you’re not watching for it. In an effort to mislead the Pilkoran government and uncover its covert plans, McCoy dons an admiral’s uniform and poses as a high-ranking Starfleet officer. He later admits he’d enjoyed being an admiral, to which Kirk replies, “You should live so long.” In Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s pilot, Bones appeared as a 137-year-old admiral.
For Star Trek #30–33, Weinstein penned a four-parter focused on Uhura and Sulu. While enjoying shore leave together, the two friends witness the murders of agents guarding a terrorist, then are taken into protective custody so they can testify about what they saw. The perpetrator attempts to have Sulu and Uhura murdered, but they escape to a snow-covered moon, where they befriend the supposed terrorists—who, in true Trek fashion, are not terrorists at all but are merely defending their home.
This cerebral yet action-filled story has few direct connections to televised or filmed lore, though two examples stand out—one an amusing side reference, the other more significant. Sulu teases Uhura about her unusual shopping habits, joking that ever since she came back to the Enterprise with a tribble (“The Trouble With Tribbles”), he and Chekov have had standing orders from the captain to keep an eye on her during shopping excursions. Later, as Sulu recovers in Sickbay from a stabbing, Kirk reveals that Hikaru has finally received his captaincy—of the Excelsior, no less—though it would be several issues before Sulu would transfer to that starship to begin his new path.
Issue #29’s fill-in tale, from Timothy De Haas, James W. Fry, Bud LaRosa, lacked callbacks to onscreen Star Trek, but another fill-in in #34, from David DeVries, Jan Duresema, and Pablo Marcos, provided some emotionally resonant connections. While investigating an unexplored world, the Enterprise crew finds that spoken words become reality and dreams come true—and the resultant manifestations are real, not illusions. Kirk’s mind creates an alternate reality in which David Marcus is alive and a member of the Enterprise crew, and he chooses to stay there—much like he would in Star Trek: Generations after the Nexus gave him back his lover Antonia. Only by forcing his friend to accept his son’s death is Spock able to bring him back to his true reality.
Spock and Kirk liken the planet’s ability to turn thoughts into fantasies to the shore-leave planet, featured in “Shore Leave” and “Once Upon a Planet”—and, sure enough, just as in “Shore Leave,” a Samurai warrior attacks the landing party. Spock also compares this world’s strange nature to the Melkotians’ recreation of Tombstone, Arizona, in “Spectre of the Gun,” in which the Enterprise crew, cast in the historical roles of the Clanton gang, were forced to fight the Earps near the O.K. Corral.
Supplementing its monthly title, DC released an adaptation of The Undiscovered Country by Peter David, with art from Gordon Purcell and Arne Starr. The comic was offered with two gorgeous covers, courtesy of Jerome Moore and Jason Palmer. These days, most Trek comics are released with an array of cover variants, but during DC’s time at the helm, this was quite atypical. DC’s Star Trek VI comic was branded as “DC Movie Special #1,” the same label it had used when adapting Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. It might have made more sense to call this one “Movie Special #2,” but to quote Jim Kirk, “As we say on Earth, c’est la vie.”
Finally, DC released its third Star Trek annual during this period. Written by Weinstein, with art by Norm Dwyer and Arne Starr, the annual spotlighted Ambassador Sarek, who attends a ceremony to admit New Ketira to the Federation. His long-time friend, planetary ruler Lar’tok, is dying, but her successor Shiel’kia renounces the job. A sect called the Sancti claims eminence over Ketiran society; kidnaps Lar’tok, Sarek, and McCoy; and sets out to find mythical beings known as the Peacegivers—who, this being Star Trek, turn out not at all to be what the characters (and readers) expect.
“Homeworld,” as this tale is called, has a clear connection to “Journey to Babel,” as Sarek recalls Lar’tok having convinced him that marrying Amanda would be “the logical thing to do,” calling back to dialogue between Sarek and Spock. At the time of their courting, Sarek explains, he’d been concerned about shattering Vulcan traditions by choosing his own wife—a human one, at that—instead of accepting an arranged marriage. This offers insight into Sarek’s mindset, particularly in light of the character’s depiction on Star Trek: Discovery, in which his having a human family creates problems for him.
That’s all for now. In two weeks, we’ll revisit Chris Claremont’s groundbreaking graphic novel Star Trek: Debt of Honor (which didn’t fit in this week’s column). See you then.
Looking for more information about Star Trek comics? Check out these resources:
- The Complete Star Trek Comics Index, by yours truly
- The Star Trek Comics Checklist, by Mark Martinez
- The Wixiban Star Trek Collectables Portal, by Colin Merry
- New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics, by Joseph F. Berenato
- Star Trek: A Comics History, by Alan J. Porter
Rich Handley has written books about Planet of the Apes, Back to the Future, and Watchmen, as well as licensed Star Wars and Planet of the Apes fiction, and he edited 70 volumes of Eaglemoss’s Star Trek Graphic Novel Collection. Rich co-edited Titan’s Scribe Award-nominated Planet of the Apes: Tales from the Forbidden Zone; nine Sequart anthologies discussing Planet of the Apes, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Hellblazer, Stargate, and classic monsters; and four Crazy 8 Press anthologies about Batman and (now) the Joker. He has contributed essays to DC’s Hellblazer: 30th Anniversary Celebration; IDW’s Star Trek and Star Wars comic-strip reprint books; BOOM! Studios’ Planet of the Apes Archive hardcovers; Sequart anthologies about Star Trek and Blade Runner; ATB Publishing’s Outside In line exploring Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, The X-Files, Twin Peaks, and Babylon 5; and a Becky Books anthology covering Dark Shadows.