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.
60: Marvel Comics, 1997–1998
The past twenty years have seen the release of only five Deep Space Nine comic miniseries: one from WildStorm and four from IDW. Despite the show’s popularity, as well as this writer’s belief that it’s the most consistently high-quality Star Trek series to date, that branch of the franchise had been sorely neglected in the 21st century until the arrival of IDW’s current ongoing Trek comic starring Benjamin Sisko.
The 1990s, though, were a different story. From 1993 to 1998, Malibu Comics and Marvel Comics kept the wormhole active, with each publisher producing an ongoing series based on Deep Space Nine, and Malibu supplementing its run with a plethora of minis and one-shots. With this week’s batch of Marvel tales (issues #8–15), we’ve reached the beginning of a long, dry comic book spell for Sisko’s crew.
The second half of Marvel’s tenure offered strong storytelling and illustrating—and, for our purposes, a slew of prequels, sequels, and tie-ins to onscreen Star Trek. Writer Mariano Nicieza returned with an exciting adventure for issues #8–9, illustrated by Tom Grindberg and Bob Almond. Jake Sisko accompanies an exploratory mission to a jungle world to expand his author horizons, but the team is captured by Maquis terrorists. Romulan spies for Commander Tomalak (a wonderfully smarmy recurring villain on Star Trek: The Next Generation) pose as human gunrunners to incite tension between the Federation and the Maquis, and among them is Tomalak’s disappointment of a son, Narak (no relation to Star Trek: Picard‘s Narek, side from both being Romulan spies).
Realizing his own son is in trouble, Ben Sisko brings the Defiant through the Badlands to confront Maquis leader Calvin “Cal” Hudson (“The Maquis”), who insists the abduction was carried out by an unsanctioned splinter group. Cal helps his friend rescue the away team, but he largely vanishes from the story beyond this point, which is a shame given actor Bernie Casey’s nuanced performance. That sometimes happens when you only have twenty or so pages in which to tell a story, yet you need to utilize more than a dozen main and recurring cast members.
Tomalak’s surgically altered son is a dichotomy, single-minded in his determination to hunt Jake through the jungle, yet mature enough to reassess his understanding of honor when his quarry saves Narak’s life. The two then help each other return to their respective fathers, in another example of Star Trek riffing on the film Enemy Mine; see also The Next Generation‘s “The Enemy” and “Darmok,” as well as Enterprise‘s “Dawn.”
Lwaxana Troi and her mysterious mute-ish manservant Mr. Homn, return in issues #10–11. With these stories, Andy Mangels and Michael Martin became the regular writers for a span of six issues, until Marvel dropped the Trek license, leaving the duo with multiple unproduced tales involving not only Sisko’s crew but the other Star Trek casts as well. A rotating lineup of artists illustrated these issues, which presented some of the strongest Deep Space Nine comics to date. Thanks to Mangels and Martin, Marvel’s take on the Bajoran station ended on a glorious high note.
Lwaxana appeared in six episodes of The Next Generation, starting with “Haven,” then returned for three installments of Deep Space Nine (“The Forsaken,” “Fascination,” and “The Muse”), during which the daughter of the Fifth House, holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, and heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed formed a charming friendship with Odo that was more engaging than some of her Enterprise adventures. The two even got married so Ms. Troi could divorce her existing husband and gain custody of her unborn child. (Ever wonder what Captain Rixx, from “Conspiracy,” thinks about Betazed’s royal family holding his Sacred Chalice? No? Just me, then?)
“The Muse” was Lwaxana’s final appearance, with Deanna Troi’s baby brother not receiving a name. Here, the newborn is still unnamed, though the novel The Battle of Betazed (Charlotte Douglas and Susan Kearney) and the short story “The Ceremony of Innocence Is Drowned” (Keith R.A. DeCandido) have dubbed him Barin. Lwaxana plans to marry again—her fifth time, following the four TV husbands—and she asks Odo for a divorce, much to his disappointment since he fancies having her as his wife. The new wedding is aborted, though, once the ambassador realizes her Bolian husband-to-be plans to kill her and steal her fortune.
These issues are full of tie-ins and callbacks. When Rom notices a strange goo on a spaceship hull, for example, Quark likens it to something one would find at the bottom of a Denebian slime-ale cask. Apparently, the secretions of Denebian slime-devils (“The Trouble with Tribbles”) are used to produce alcoholic beverages—proof once more that the characters in Star Trek eat and drink some truly disgusting things.
We learn that by the 24th century, Rigel VII has a men’s Parisses squares team. If any Kalars (“The Cage”) serve on that team, it must be unbeatable—unless they’re the Kalars from Strange New Worlds‘ “Among the Lotus Eaters,” who are not quite so formidable. In addition, Garak refers to “the original Cardassian” when asked if he’s read the works of William Shakespeare, a callback to General Chang’s comment in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country regarding Shakespeare being best read in “the original Klingon.” The Bard is so popular, every galactic power claims him as their own. (Of course, you haven’t really experienced Shakespeare unless you’ve read the original Species 8472.)
Issues #12–13 presented the next two chapters of Marvel’s “Telepathy War” crossover, which began in Starfleet Academy #12 and would continue in issues to be discussed in upcoming weeks. “Telepathy War” centered around Cadet Nog and Omega Squad, from Starfleet Academy, including the Ferengi’s friend Matthew Decker, the great-grandson of Matt Decker (“The Doomsday Machine”) and grand-nephew of Willard Decker (Star Trek: The Motion Picture). Oddly, Deep Space Nine #12 calls the commodore Matt’s great-great grandfather, inserting an extra generation into the family tree.
As Gul Dukt leads a Dominion-Cardassian strike at the Federation, General Martok’s Klingon forces defend the space station. These two issues are jam-packed with characters from other Star Trek iterations—not only Martok, Dukat, and Omega Squad, but also Jean-Luc Picard, Will Riker, Deanna Troi, and the USS Enterprise. It’s reunion week at the wormhole, with Nog’s friends pitching in to help while trying to avoid execution for having violated General Order 7.
The starship brings Admiral Dennis Decker, the commodore’s grandson (or possibly great-grandson), to apprehend the fugitive cadets. Even though one cadet is his son, Decker is bizarrely resolute in carrying out the death sentence, earning him the Outstanding Father Award for 2373, sponsored by Darth Vader, Tywin Lannister, and George Bluth. Jem’Hadar soldiers board the station, and the battle goes badly for the Federation until Romulans unexpectedly come to their aid. The admiral takes Omega Squad into custody, setting the stage for the crossover’s remaining chapters.
TV tie-ins abound throughout “Telepathy War.” The story takes place on the Klingon Day of Honor (Voyager‘s “Day of Honor”), and Jadzia Dax claims Klingon warriors must join forces with a hated enemy to defeat a common foe (a tradition not mentioned on TV). When Will Riker arrives, Miles O’Brien recalls how Thomas Riker had posed as his doppelgänger in “Defiant.” And when T’Priell enters a Vulcan healing trance, Julian Bashir instructs Troi to slap her back to consciousness, recalling “A Private Little War,” in which a non-bearded Dr. M’Benga used that same technique to revive Spock.
The two Romulan Commanders in this tale provide an amusing in-joke for those who know their Trek trivia. One is Tomalak, while the other is Tebok, last seen staring down Picard in “The Neutral Zone” alongside Sub-Commander Thei. Tebok had been portrayed by Marc Alaimo before the actor had assumed his regular role of Dukat. Since Tebok’s forces go to war with Dukat’s, that means two Alaimos are facing off on the battlefield. The only missing Alaimo is Gul Macet from “The Wounded.” I’ll stop short of suggesting his other characters—Badar N’D’D, Frederick La Rouque, and Burt Ryan—because that would be ridiculous. (I’d still read it, though, because I’m ridiculous, too.)
Issue #14 was titled “Nobody Knows the Tribbles I’ve Seen,” so readers knew from the outset that it would be a comedy. Following the events of “Trials and Tribble-ations,” in which Sisko’s crew time-traveled to thwart Arne Darvin’s plans in “The Trouble With Tribbles” in Back to the Future Part II fashion, Sisko’s officers relax off-duty in Quark’s bar and speculate about why Klingons hate tribbles so much. The result is a hilarious trio of tall tales of ever-increasing absurdity.
In O’Brien’s account, tribbles once lived among Klingons as their beloved pets until the Romulans, believing the cooing-entranced Klingons to be soft, invaded Qo’noS. This, he claims, led to a bloodbath called the Great Tribble War, after which the tribbles were hunted to near-extinction so that Klingons would never again be weakened by pet-induced tranquility. It’s silly as hell, sure—but it’s also hysterical.
In Bashir’s version, the tribbles caused the Klingons’ post-1960s anatomical changes due to a massive allergic reaction, brought on by Montgomery Scott beaming a shipload of the furballs aboard Koloth’s vessel in “The Trouble With Tribbles.” This retcon has been overwritten by Star Trek: Enterprise‘s Augment arc, though it neatly explains why Koloth, Kor, and Kang sport cranial ridges on Deep Space Nine. Kahless’s ridges in “Rightful Heir,” unfortunately, are not so easy reconciled with this theory.
The third story, from Dax, is sheer laugh-out-loud lunacy, with a trio of inept Klingon functionaries (Kho, L’ray, and Xhemp… say it out loud) smacking each other in Three Stooges-style slapstick. The Klingon-tribble enmity is attributed to a never-mentioned Dax host: fedora-wearing treasure hunter Enjana Dax, an Indiana Jones analogue who stole Molor’s bat’leth while hiding inside a giant “Trojan tribble.” A Klingon geneticist had helped Enjana create the beast, which explodes into tons of smaller tribbles, recalling “More Tribbles, More Troubles” but with a major difference: these tiny tribbles are carnivorous, and they begin eating the Klingons!
The final issue focuses on everyone’s favorite spy-turned-tailor. On Terok Nor, Garak murders Obsidian Order courier Yenla Tosh—who, before dying, telepathically implants a memory engram in his brain, designed to kill him. The engram activates years later, during the “present day,” causing his neural pathways to break down. Tosh’s sister Keytra seeks out Garak so she can save him by neutralizing the engram, sacrificing her own life in the process rather than letting Yenla’s violence taint her. It’s a sad twist to an engaging tale, as Garak mistakenly believes Keytra means to kill him to avenge her kin.
Enabran Tain (“The Wire”) appears in a flashback, as it was Garak’s former mentor who’d ordered him to execute Yenla, during a campaign to eliminate all telepathic operatives for security purposes. Garak’s lover Tora Ziyal (Dukat’s daughter, whom he became dating in “In Purgatory’s Shadow”), remains at his bedside throughout the ordeal, though she (like Cal Hudson above) has little to do, story-wise.
The Tosh sisters are identified as Ullians, but artists Greg Scott and Josef Rubinstein must not have known the species had been featured in The Next Generation‘s “Violations,” for Yenla and Keytra do not match the Ullians’ TV makeup design. The story is nonetheless compelling, and the new design is visually interesting. Plus, with so many redesigns of the Klingons, Romulans, Andorians, Tellarites, Gorns, Tholians, and Trills, who’s to say there aren’t multiple Ullian species, too?
That was the end of the line for the monthly title. Another Marvel Deep Space Nine tale appeared in Star Trek Unlimited #8, released in the same month as Deep Space Nine #15. We’ll revisit that issue next week as we wrap up Unlimited‘s… er, limited run.
Looking for more information about Star Trek comics? Check out these resources:
- My ongoing column for Titan Books’ Star Trek Explorer magazine
- The Complete Star Trek Comics Index, curated 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 (Sequart, 2014)
- Star Trek: A Comics History, by Alan J. Porter (Hermes Press, 2009)
- The Star Trek Comics Weekly page on Facebook
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.