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.
71: WildStorm Comics, 2000–2001
Two years after Marvel Comics’ Star Trek: Voyager spinoff concluded with Splashdown, WildStorm was the next to chart the adventures of Captain Kathryn Janeway and the USS Voyager crew. During WildStorm’s brief tenure, the company presented three one-shots based on Voyager—Nathan Archer’s False Colors, Elite Force by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, and Avalon Rising from Janine Ellen Young and Doselle Young—plus the three-issue miniseries Planet Killer, by Trek novelists Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith. All six were packaged together in the trade paperback Encounters with the Unknown.
WildStorm produced only twenty-nine comics and graphic novels before dropping the license. The fact that a sizable portion were Voyager-based is understandable, as that was the only show offering new episodes at the time. As we conclude our discussion of the WildStorm years, let’s look back at how each story provided sequels and tie-ins to onscreen Star Trek. While the three one-shots were standalone tales with only a few indirect TV connections, Planet Killer sequelized one of the 1960s’ most exciting episodes. It shouldn’t be difficult to figure out which one, given the title.
In False Colors, illustrated by Jeffrey and Philip Moy and W.C. Carani, the Voyager finds a pirate ship utilizing scavenged Borg technology disconnected from the Collective. This enables the pirates to pretend they’re Borg, by wearing Borg armor and threatening to assimilate victims—an innovative use of the cyborgs at a time when Voyager was over-saturating the franchise with their presence. Seven of Nine takes control of the Borg tech and assimilates the pirate ship, creating a local collective with her as its Queen, and her information exchange with the components teaches them about individuality, causing them to think for themselves, just as she did in the episode “Scorpion.”
The Borg return in Elite Force, featuring artwork by Cerani and Jeffrey Moy, when the starship is trapped in a Sargasso Sea of space—a common Trek trope featured in numerous episodes, novels, and comics, going all the way back to the Gold Key line and The Animated Series‘ “The Time Trap.” This one-shot adapts the videogame Star Trek: Voyager—Elite Force, from Raven Software and Activision, and features an abridged, albeit slightly altered, version of the game’s Borg storyline, in which Seven trains a hazard team to disable Borg vessels.
When an unknown ship attacks the Voyager, its destruction tosses the starship into a null-entropy chasm (science-speak for an isolated pocket in the universe) containing derelicts from multiple species, the Borg among them. After a group of drones raid the Voyager, Seven’s commandos—including Chell, a Bolian malcontent and former Maquis member from the episodes “Learning Curve” and “Repression”—retrieve the stolen components. They then confront a hostile being at the Forge, a station more thoroughly explored in the game than on the printed page, where they deactivate a damping field, thereby returning the Voyager to normal space.
The comic utilizes characters who’d originated in the Activision adventure, including Kendrick Biessman, Austin Chang, Lester Foster, Alexander Munro, and Telsia Murphy. If you’re not a gamer, those names are likely unfamiliar to you, but for those who play Star Trek videogames, this was a big event—the first time (and to this day one of the only such times, other than an IDW Kelvin universe tale involving the Gorns and the recent Star Trek: Resurgence mini) that a Trek comic had been based on a game. Players can choose to experience the game as male or female versions of the Munro character, whereas Munro is male in the comic.
Oddly, the species controlling the Forge are called the Vohrsoth in the videogame but the Tarlus in WildStorm’s adaptation. This likely points to a changed premise during the game’s development; in fact, a game file has the Vohrsoth leader’s lines stored in a folder labeled “Tarlus,” which seems to bear this supposition out. In any case, Elite Force and False Colors were repackaged together in a Prestige-format variant with gold-foil cover lettering, titled Elite Force—Special Collector’s Edition.
Avalon Rising, drawn by David Roach, sees the Doctor undertaking a mission on a medieval world of knights and dragons, where he regales the citizens with tales of the Voyager‘s adventures, charmingly retold in Arthurian fashion. While preventing advanced alien weaponry from falling into primitive hands, the Doctor poses as a wizard and befriends a young squire, whom he inspires to become a knight. He recounts the events of “Caretaker,” casting Janeway as a heroic queen, Chakotay and Tom Paris as former malcontents who’d pledged their faithful service, the starship as a sailing vessel, and Starfleet as an analogue to the Knights of the Round Table.
What’s more, the holo-physician’s tales adapt Seven’s arrival in “Scorpion,” with the ex-Borg reimagined as an Ice Maiden whom the Voyager crew freed from enslavement by a “terrible evil that would descend from the sky.” Each tale is engaging and beautifully illustrated, and it’s impressive how smoothly Janeway’s adventures translate to medieval storytelling, without seeming forced like some of Voyager‘s holodeck episodes.
Planet Killer, illustrated by Robert Teranishi and Claude St. Aubin, sees the Voyager facing a world-destroying space-based weapons platform, the same type encountered by James T. Kirk and the Enterprise crew in The Original Series‘ “The Doomsday Machine.” In that episode, Commodore Matthew Decker sacrificed his life in a scenery-chewing effort to destroy the alien device after the machine killed the crew of the USS Constellation. Though Decker’s efforts failed and the officer lost his mind from an obsessed need for vengeance, Kirk finished what the commodore had started.
Since then, other doomsday machines have appeared in the novels Vendetta, by Peter David, and Armageddon’s Arrow, from Dayton Ward; Last Unicorn Games’ All Our Yesterdays: The Time Travel Sourcebook; the Star Trek Online MMORPG; and IDW’s Star Trek: New Visions, by John Byrne, and The Q Conflict, from Scott and David Tipton. In the course of these varied storylines, several intriguing yet contradictory accounts of the weapons’ origins have been put forth.
Planet Killer provides yet another explanation of why these devices were built, as well as against whom they were intended to be wielded. As with Vendetta, the miniseries suggests a Borg connection. The Voyager encounters a new doomsday machine in the Delta Quadrant, and Seven explains that its builders were a now-extinct civilization whom the Borg call Species 4672. The cyborgs once tried to assimilate such a weapon, she says, resulting in the loss of multiple cubes, after which the Collective wisely avoided further engagements.
Harry Kim recognizes the planet-killer from Starfleet records, and the crew tries to recreate Kirk’s solution by detonating a damaged alien spaceship inside the machine—but this time it doesn’t work. Instead, Seven devises a clever means of injecting the weapon with nanoprobes to make it starve to death, requiring the Doctor to beam into the machine and infect it from within. This is on brand for the Voyager television series, which had basically evolved into The Doctor and Seven Show by that point.
Providing a fun coda to the episode, Tuvok reveals that after Kirk and company saved the Rigel System, the Rigellians turned the original doomsday machine into a shrine to its victims—which, though macabre, is not without precedent in fiction. Consider, for example, the irradiated mutants’ worship of the Alpha-Omega Bomb in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Let’s hope the Rigellians don’t follow their example and end up looking like Freddy Krueger’s deranged descendants.
Oddly, Janeway dates Kirk’s encounter with the weapon at two hundred years prior, even though only a single century has passed. Also, the first issue’s cover indicates it to be “#1 of 4,” despite the miniseries comprising three issues. (The next two covers would correct that error.) These are minor quibbles, though, for Planet Killer is WildStorm’s standout Voyager tale by a light-year, with a partial adaptation of “The Doomsday Machine” that deftly captures the episode’s tension and character likenesses, as well as visuals of the weapon and its devastation that are powerfully effective.
That wraps up the WildStorm line, which exited the stage far too quickly but added several memorable stories to the mix during its brief time in the spotlight. It’s hard to believe, but after more than a year’s worth of columns, we’re on the cusp of commencing with current comics publisher IDW. First, though, be here next week as we explore Tokyopop’s Japanese-inspired Star Trek manga editions, including a pair of tales penned by Wil “Wesley Crusher” Wheaton himself. See you then.
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.