Rich Handley Author and Editor

Star Trek Comics Weekly #48

An ongoing discussion of how the comics provide prequels, sequels, and tie-ins to the Star Trek episodes and films, soon to be a book from BearManor Media. Click here to view an archive of this article series.

48: DC Comics, 1995–1996

When DC entered the Star Trek playing field in 1984, the result was nothing less than a sea change for Trek comic books. Although Marvel Comics, the L.A. Times Syndicate, and even Gold Key had offered memorable stories during their respective tenures, it was DC that provided the first truly authentic four-color continuation of Gene Roddenberry’s television and film classic.

Other than a one-year blip when the comic went on temporary hiatus in 1988, DC continued to helm Star Trek until early 1996. The company published nearly a dozen years’ worth of high-quality material that brought the crews of both James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard to strange new worlds and new civilizations, while also boldly returning fans to where the franchise had gone before. This week, we wrap up our DC discussion with the publisher’s Ill Wind miniseries, as well as the two-part “Convergence” storyline, published in the sixth Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation annuals.

Supplementing its monthly Trek titles, DC served up multiple one-shots and miniseries, among them Star Trek: The Next Generation: Ill Wind, featuring one of the franchise’s most literate novelists, Diane Duane. The writer and nurse is best known for having expanded Vulcan and Romulan cultures in her novels, as well as for the knowledgeable approach to science that Duane brought to those books, and to the varied comics she penned for DC (issues #24, 25, and 28 of its first Kirk-era Trek series, issue #52 of the second, and “Spot’s Day” in The Next Generation Special #1) and Tokyopop (in the manga digests Kakan ni Shinkou and Boukenshin).

Ill Wind, illustrated by Deryl Skelton and future Marvel Star Trek writer-editor Timothy Tuohy, featured gorgeous covers by Hugh Fleming. The four-issue miniseries explored an aspect of Trek that few stories have tackled: the world of high-speed racing events. Similar tales have appeared in the L.A. Times strips (“The Nogura Regatta”), as well as the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Drive” and Diane Carey’s novel The Great Starship Race, but otherwise, racing competitions have rarely received the Trek spotlight.

The Enterprise provides security for a Federation-sponsored solar-sailing competition. Picard—who, it seems, has long held a passion for the sport but had to put it aside for the sake of his Starfleet career—worries about the safety of one particular participant, the Mestral of Eldelis, and about other contestants plotting to injure or kill each other. His concerns turn out to be valid, as several assassination attempts on the Mestral’s life take place during the competition.

Beautifully illustrated and intelligently written, with dialogue that rings true for the major characters while reinforcing the science aspect of science fiction—including detailed descriptions of solar flares and other spatial phenomena—Ill Wind is a standalone tale with no overt connections to particular films or episodes. A subplot about Deanna Troi and a noncorporeal space dragon gets sadly little page time, which is regrettable since the setup of the counselor being unable to sleep due to telepathic interference shows great promise, especially in the hands of a writer of Duane’s caliber.

The sixth annuals, on the other hand, are built around multiple episodes and films. The two covers of “Convergence,” adeptly illustrated by Jason Palmer, form a diptych—a single painting presented in two pieces. The story revisits concepts from The Original Series and The Next Generation, as both crews, with help from the Aegis (Gary Seven’s employers), attempt to repair history after the Devidians alter the timeline in an effort to erase the Federation’s existence.

In The Original Series‘ “Assignment: Earth,” Kirk’s crew encountered time traveler Gary Seven, who, along with feline shapeshifter Isis, strove to repair mistakes in human history. Earth secretary Roberta Lincoln joined Gary’s team, and the trio’s adventures, originally intended as a possible spinoff TV show, have since continued in the novels and comics. Star Trek: Picard has revisited this concept by adding Wesley Crusher, the Traveler, Tallinn, and Kore Soong to their team (which will become a bit problematic when we get to IDW’s Year Five series—stay tuned for that discussion).

Meanwhile, the two-part Next Generation temporal-twister “Time’s Arrow” introduced the Devidians, out-of-phase shapeshifters who feed off the neural energy they acquire from draining human victims. Disguised as humans, the aliens traveled back to 19th-century San Francisco, where they feasted with impunity using a cholera epidemic to hide their murders. Picard’s crew thwarted their plot, encountering authors Mark Twain and Jack London in the process, as well as a younger Guinan.

Penned by Trek stalwarts Michael Jan Friedman and Howard Weinstein, “Convergence” features artwork by Ken Save and Sam de la Rosa, and it serves as a sequel to DC’s Star Trek issues #49-50, which had featured Seven and had introduced the Aegis. The Kirk-era portions take place between Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, while the Picard-era sections occur in The Next Generation‘s sixth or seventh season.

A Devidian kills Seven and abducts Spock, trapping him in a spacetime pocket with General Tellius (a Romulan who would eventually negotiate the Treaty of Algeron), Captain John Harriman of the Enterprise-B (from Star Trek: Generations), and Data. Seven’s fellow agent—and lover (sorry, Roberta)—Exana tells Kirk that the Devidians plan to eliminate the Federation by displacing key historical figures. A century later, aboard the Enterprise-D, Guinan senses that history has changed, just as she did in “Yesterday’s Enterprise” when the Enterprise-C jumped decades into the future.

Picard’s and Kirk’s crews each travel to the same world a century apart, then jump through the same time portal to where the aliens have confined Spock, Data, Harriman, Tellius, and Klingon Chancellor Gowron. Exana erases the abductees’ memories and returns them to their own eras, then the Aegis restore Seven’s life—leaving him available for more licensed tales yet to come—and send the Starfleet crews home again. Cleverly, the writers have the crews simultaneously battling the aliens but never meeting due to their being out of phase. This preserves history by bypassing any temporal contamination that would have resulted had Kirk’s crew learned about Picard’s future era.

The story is a solid hit, though not without a continuity issue involving John Harriman. In the years since Generations, Harriman has grown more confident and competent than he was onscreen. In fact, he’s said to play a vital role in Federation history due to his actions during the Tomed incident. According to “The Pegasus,” which had aired two years before the annuals hit stands, that incident occurred in 2311 and led to the signing of the Treaty of Algeron. The treaty’s mention in the comic is thus problematic, for Spock knows of it in the 2290s despite that event not yet having happened. He cites the treaty as having been established a century prior, but the signing would actually occur in the 24th century, around 160 years after the Earth-Romulan War. Oops.

The Devidians’ attempt to alter history has an amusing outcome that ties together Star Trek V and The Next Generation‘s two-part “Unification.” In this new timeline, Spock’s brother Sybok becomes a respected ambassador instead of a religious zealot. It is thus Sybok, not Spock, who becomes the architect of Vulcan and Romulan reunification and helps to defeat Tasha Yar’s half-Romulan daughter Sela. It’s interesting to observe how Sybok, unlike Spock, forms a close friendship with Picard and Data thanks to his embracing emotions rather than suppressing them like his brother. Although Sybok has been ignored onscreen other than a cameo on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, the laughing Vulcan gets the last laugh in DC continuity.

The storyline contains nods to other films as well. Following Seven’s murder, Saavik and Exana bond over their shared experience of losing a valued mentor. Saavik recalls Kirk’s eulogy at Spock’s funeral in Star Trek II, observing that bereavement and logic are not incompatible. At the time, The Wrath of Khan had been the only Trek film not adapted as a comic book (IDW would rectify this oversight), lending the comic’s funeral adaptation special historical significance—especially since it features not Kirstie Alley’s Saavik, but Robin Curtis’s depiction. What’s more, McCoy can sense Spock is still alive due to their unique experience in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, when McCoy’s mind hosted his friend’s disembodied katra.

In the new reality created by the abductions, Will Riker and Deanna Troi have resumed their romantic relationship, and she wonders if they might no longer be a couple once they restore history. She needn’t worry, for two years later, Star Trek: Insurrection would see them rekindle their affair, leading to Troi and her Imzadi marrying in Star Trek: Nemesis and surviving painful marital problems in Star Trek: Picard.

Not long after the annuals’ publication, DC concluded its involvement with Star Trek, ending what remains one of the greatest chapters in the franchise’s comic book history. Next week, we’ll reach the end of Malibu’s concurrent Deep Space Nine spinoff, after which both publishers will depart the final frontier, enabling Marvel to once again explore strange new worlds—and others not so new.

Looking for more information about Star Trek comics? Check out these resources:

Rich Handley has written, co-written, co-edited, or contributed to dozens of books, both fiction and non-fiction, about Planet of the Apes, Watchmen, Back to the Future, Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Hellblazer, Swamp Thing, Stargate, Dark Shadows, The X-Files, Twin Peaks, Red Dwarf, Blade Runner, Doctor Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Batman, the Joker, classic monsters, and more. He has also been a magazine writer and editor for nearly three decades. Rich edited Eaglemoss’s Star Trek Graphic Novel Collection, and he currently writes articles for Titan’s Star Trek Explorer magazine, as well as books for an as-yet-unannounced role-playing game. Learn more about Rich and his work at richhandley.com.

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