An ongoing discussion of how Star Trek comics provide prequels, sequels, and tie-ins to the episodes and films…
27: DC Comics, 1991–1992
Michael Jan Friedman’s tenure on DC Comics’ Star Trek: The Next Generation series deserves all the acclaim it receives. Not only did Friedman channel the voices and personalities of every main cast member without exception, but the accompanying interior artwork by Carlos Garzon, Peter Krause, Ken Penders, Pablo Marcos, Terry Pallot, Gordon Purcell, Deryl Skelton, and others brought the show’s aesthetic to the printed page with remarkable fidelity. Plus, the covers, especially those from Jerome K. Moore and Jason Palmer, remain among Star Trek‘s best.
Credit for this goes not only to Friedman and his artists, but also to editors Robert Greenberger, Kim Yale, Alan Gold, and Margaret Clark, who guided the teams’ efforts along the way. This week, we’ll examine issues #25–35, as well as annual #2, from the standpoint of how they approached prequels, sequels, and tie-ins to onscreen lore.
The Next Generation‘s second season was plagued with problems stemming from the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike, which resulted in a shortened season, several low-quality episodes, the recycling of a weak Star Trek: Phase II script to open the season (“The Child”), and a cringeworthy clip show to close it out (“Shades of Grey”). Still, despite the hassles caused by the strike, the season still managed to produce several entertaining episodes, among them “The Outrageous Okona,” featuring William O. Campbell as roguish scoundrel Thadiun Okona, now a recurring character on both Star Trek: Lower Decks and Star Trek: Prodigy.
Say what you will about the episode’s silly plot, but Okona added a Han Solo-esque dash of fun to the show that worked well, and his interactions with Worf and Wesley Crusher were amusing. It’s no wonder the current showrunners have brought him back all these years later. Friedman obviously agreed, for he featured Okona as a cast member for a seven-issue visit of his DC saga. It’s amusing to consider that a one-off character from a poorly received episode has been brought back as a recurring character in a comic series and now two different television shows. No one could have predicted that outcome.
In issue #25, the Enterprise finds Okona’s freighter abandoned in space, then tracks him to a distant medieval alien city run by an artificial intelligence. Holographic soldiers battle in the streets, some riding holographic pachyderms and others attacking Okona and the away team, then a holographic warrior queen approaches—and kisses the surprised rogue. The crew realizes the planet is a monument constructed to honor a deceased and beloved monarch, with the AI abducting passersby and giving them a forced guided tour of the man’s greatness. It’s an unexpected twist ending, proving (as Trek often does) that things are not always as they seem, and that not everyone is an enemy.
Okona now sports short hair and a clean face, and he’s openly smitten with Beverly Crusher—until realizing she’s Wesley’s mother (his code prevents him from romancing friends’ relatives). The ponytail soon returns, though, which can be explained by the stardates advancing from season four to season five, indicating a significant passage of time before Picard returns him to the Erstwhile in #31. Okona’s flippantly adversarial onscreen exchanges with Worf continue, and as he departs the Enterprise, he uncharacteristically admits to envying Riker’s lifestyle.
Speaking of Worf, Friedman also revisited the Klingon’s adoptive parents, Helena and Sergey Rozhenko (“Family”), son Alexander (introduced in “Reunion”), and bond-brother Jeremy Aster (“The Bonding”). Jeremy travels to the Soviet Union (which still exists in 24th-century Star Trek despite having been disbanded in 20th-century reality) to meet the Rozhenkos—a story premise that examines Alexander’s relationship with his father’s culture. We learn that Worf considers himself a failure for not raising either child, but that Jeremy knows Worf always has his back, regardless of their geographic distance, showing him to be mature and insightful beyond his years—which fits his depiction on TV. The show’s writers should have brought Jeremy back after Worf adopted him, and as with Okona, it’s gratifying to read Friedman’s take on the youth.
The Rozhenkos warmly welcome Jeremy into their home, and he and Alexander become close. Alexander has rejected his father’s culture and believes Klingons cannot be trusted, so Jeremy—who admires all things Klingon because of his hero, Worf—shares stories from Klingon mythology with his bond-nephew, which helps the younger boy come to grips with the trauma of having watched his mother die and then had his father send him away. Star Trek‘s best moments are often its low-key ones that come between its high-octane action sequences, and the Jeremy-Alexander scenes are no exception. It’s a shame this didn’t happen onscreen, since Jeremy is one of The Next Generation‘s abandoned plot threads.
These issues feature several other episode tie-ins as well. Upon determining that Okona has been abducted by an AI on a lifeless world, Riker recalls the automated weapons salesman on Minos (“The Arsenal of Freedom”) and wonders if Okona’s capture may have a similar purpose. (It doesn’t.) Meanwhile, Data’s former girlfriend Jenna D’Sora (“In Theory”) briefly appears (she, too, becomes a recurring character during Friedman’s run), and its Ensign Tess Allenby (“Final Mission,” “The Loss,” and “Suspicions”) who realizes the planet’s purpose as a monument.
Issue #28 sequelizes “Reunion” by bringing back K’Ehleyr—sort of. As Worf honors his lover on the anniversary of her death, all aboard the Enterprise become frozen in time except for Worf, who receives a spectral visit from his murdered mate. “K’Ehleyr” reveals herself to be an alien able to alter the laws of physics; her people live for a single day, and she has chosen to spend hers experiencing existence as K’Ehleyr. With the starship facing certain destruction, the entity emulates K’Ehleyr’s sense of honor by sacrificing herself to save the crew, giving Worf yet another reason to revere the woman he still loves.
Guest writer Kevin J. Ryan (who would pen some of DC’s most notable Kirk-era tales) stepped in for issue #29, in which Picard’s friend Anson Peters visits him after retiring from Starfleet following his wife’s death; Anson’s son Bryant bonds with Wesley over their mutual loss of a parent, until Shardak vessels demand Bryant’s extradition for a perceived offense. Anson amuses the senior staff with stories of Picard’s youth, including how he almost died fighting three Nausicaans (“Samaritan Snare” and “Tapestry”). Readers glean new details about that well-documented incident, including that Anson had saved Lean-Luc’s life by alerting the base’s medical facility while others panicked.
When Riker vanishes into a wormhole leading to another universe in issues #30–31, an effectively otherworldy tale results. There aren’t many overt connections to onscreen Star Trek, though Jenna D’Sora does take part in a space station evacuation. D’Sora has little to do in this tale (and her surname is misspelled as “D’Soro”), but it’s always a thrill to see the show’s minor characters make return appearances.
This is also true of issue #32, which spotlights Sonya Gomez (“Q Who” and “Samaritan Snare”). Gomez feels humiliated after spilling another drink on Picard’s uniform, as she did in “Q Who,” so La Forge assigns her to a cadet training mission to bolster her self-confidence. The cadets find a Catarr installation hidden inside an asteroid belt, and when an attack leaves La Forge incapacitated, Gomez confidently keeps the cadets on task. She defeats the hostile aliens, earning Picard’s respect—after which a cadet amusingly spills a drink on her uniform for a change.
Then, in a three-part tale presented in issues #33–35, Q spreads more mischief and mayhem. When Picard comments that he wishes he had a hundred officers like Worf, the trickster entity, as Star Trek‘s resident Loki analogue, transforms the entire crew into Klingons, aside from Worf (who is already Klingon), Data (who is artificial), Guinan (who resists Q’s powers)… and, oddly, a random Benzite crewmember shown strolling down a corridor in one panel, un-altered.
This nearly results in widespread bloodshed, since the warrior-enhanced crew begin fighting among themselves like angry Klingons, and because a visiting Ysalanti delegation have an instinctively violent reaction to other warrior species—which, to their credit, they try their damnedest to resist. Overwhelmed by his Klingon psyche, Riker irrationally removes Picard from command and tries to stop the Ysalanti from leaving the Enterprise at gunpoint, after which Worf removes Riker from the captain’s chair. Astoundingly, no one dies.
Alongside the monthly series, DC released its second extra-length annual, “Thin Ice,” in which the Enterprise receives a distress call from Lyrinda Halk, Riker’s risk-taking childhood friend and ex-lover, and now the captain of the USS Marco Polo, after her ship is nearly destroyed by Darzun vessels. Riker saves his friend’s life and starship by leading the robot ships into a series of super-string anomalies, resulting in their destruction.
Friedman showcases his impressive Trek knowledge by weaving in references to starships mentioned in various episodes: the USS Fearless (“Where No One Has Gone Before”), the USS Hood (aboard which Riker and La Forge both served, per “Encounter at Farpoint” and “Pegasus“), the USS Repulse (Katherine Pulaski’s former posting, according to “The Child” and “Unnatural Selection”), and the USS Trieste (Data’s previous assignment, as revealed in “Clues”).
More importantly, the writer mines “The Icarus Factor” by presenting flashbacks to Riker’s younger years in Valdez, Alaska, and thereby holding a mirror up to Will’s personality. When teenagers Will and Lyrinda go skating on thin ice, he hesitates due to a fear of falling into the freezing water. Lyrinda teases that he is too cautious, much like his father—a jibe that resonates with him for many years, since he and his dad remain estranged throughout that span of time.
Like DC’s prior annuals focused on James T. Kirk (“Starfleet Academy”) and Montgomery Scott (“Retrospect”), “Thin Ice” explores a character’s early history based on elements of past episodes, resulting in an emotionally laden tale that packs a punch in the present. Next week, we’ll return to Howard Weinstein’s adventures for Kirk’s crew, and we’ll also discuss a special tale by Steven H. Wilson that has particular relevance for those who enjoy Star Trek comic book prequels, sequels, and tie-ins.
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.