Rich Handley Author and Editor

Star Trek Comics Weekly #87

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.

87: IDW Publishing, 2009

J.J. Abrams’ inaugural Star Trek film spawned several ambitious IDW tie-in comics, and among them was Spock: Reflections, by Scott and David Tipton. This nostalgic four-part miniseries, illustrated by David Messina, Elena Casagrande, Federica Manfredi, and Arianna Florean, sported covers from Messina and David A. Williams. With the Tiptons at the helm, prequels, sequels, and tie-ins to onscreen Trek were par for the course.

Though touted as a prequel, Spock: Reflections actually has little connection to the film story-wise, as its “present-day” scenes occur shortly after Star Trek: Generations, and there’s a sixteen-year span between the two movies. Rather, its relevance to Abrams’ saga is simply that it celebrates the return of Leonard Nimoy as an elderly Ambassador Spock. The premise: Spock learns of James T. Kirk’s death on Veridian III, then books passage on several vessels to bring his friend’s body home to Iowa for a proper burial.

During his funereal journey, Spock visits the Enterprise-B and meets Captain John Harriman, who shows him a plaque adorning the spot at which Kirk’s death occurred. Wrought with guilt over letting a Starfleet legend die on his watch, Harrimon questions his own competence… and that’s not unjustified, given his deer-in-headlights indecision in Generations. Spock rather generously notes that the inexperienced captain saved dozens of refugees on that mission and should not feel ashamed. Anyone whom Spock endorses automatically earns a boost in fan approval, so this exchange goes far toward redeeming Ferris Bueller’s Starfleet pal.

The miniseries mines The Next Generation’s “Unification,” with Spock pausing his teachings on Romulus to retrieve Kirk’s body for inhumation. A flashback sees a bullied young Spock taking refuge in the mountains near his family’s home on Vulcan, as Sarek had described in “Unification,” and incorporates Spock’s kahs-wan ordeal from The Animated Series’ “Yesteryear.” Spock repeatedly sneaks out after being chastised, and each time his father brings him home. Sarek and Amanda share moments tender and tense, and they’re drawn with aspects not only of Mark Lenard and Jane Wyatt from “Journey to Babel,” but also of Ben Cross and Winona Ryder from the 2009 movie.

On the early legs of his voyage, Spock is accompanied by a talkative Saurian drawn consistent with the species’ depiction in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, a decade before Star Trek: Discovery would update the design for Linus. This inquisitive, likable, and not entirely law-abiding Saurian pesters Spock to discuss his life so they can pass the time during the voyage. Spock recalls multiple incidents from his past, including a sequence that bridges the gap between The Motion Picture and the classic episode “Amok Time,” offering a nostalgic trip through televised and cinematic Star Trek history.

In said flashback, Spock resigns from Starfleet and returns home to study Kolinahr, where he encounters T’Pring (“Amok Time”). His former betrothed deems his spiritual calling “an admiral goal” but predicts—accurately so—that he will eventually leave Vulcan, as he did in the past. In DC Comics’ second run, T’Pring had abandoned Stonn and their young daughter so she could pursue the discipline herself. Since that would have occurred sometime after their meeting in Reflections, the two accounts jibe well, which is unusual when it comes to comics from different publishers. It could be that Spock’s pursual of Kolinahr is what inspires her to do the same.

Spock remembers a mission from his service under Christopher Pike (“The Cage”), when the starship visited a research team creating a wormhole-based transporter. These scenes show the new-to-the-crew Vulcan (setting it shortly after Short Treks’ “Q&A”) not fitting in aboard the Enterprise and maintaining a distance from his shipmates, something established in other IDW tales and in DC’s Star Trek Annual #4. Spock politely declines José Tyler’s invitation to join social activities, for instance, an effort on Tyler’s part to extend an olive branch following their animosity in IDW’s Alien Spotlight: The Vulcans.

Spock’s refusal reaffirms Tyler’s view of the Vulcan as aloof and uninterested in knowing his coworkers, but Pike urges the navigator to give the science officer time to adapt. IDW’s depictions of Pike have a fascinating thing in common: they tend to portray him as more compassionate and patient than he seems in “The Cage.” While this might not be wholly consistent with Jeffrey Hunter’s version of the character, it’s fully in synch with Bruce Greenwood’s approach in the 2009 film, and especially with Anson Mount’s on Discovery and Strange New Worlds.

José Mendez has a cameo, and he’s surprisingly already a commodore. Given his apparent age in “The Menagerie”—actor Malachi Throne was thirty-eight at the time—Mendez must have been unusually young when he attained that high rank, since “The Cage” and “The Menagerie” are separated by a thirteen-year span. That would mean he was a commodore at around age twenty-five. By comparison, Kirk being promoted to captain at that age in the Kelvin timeline doesn’t seem so implausible.

The fourth issue draws inspiration from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. A flashback to Spock’s tenure as a teacher between the first two movies shows Saavik training for the Kobayashi Maru test, spotlighting her inability to comprehend a fellow cadet’s illogical anger at her having ejected the warp core too quickly. Her interactions with her mentor as he counsels her in dealing with humans reflect their charming scenes together onscreen.

Spock also recalls an incident when Peter Preston, Scotty’s ill-fated nephew from Star Trek II, risked his life to save another cadet when an engineering mishap interrupted a training exercise. This sequence reinforces something fans know well—that heroism runs deep in the Scott clan’s bloodline—but it’s a poignant moment for readers since it presages the youth’s tragic death under similar circumstances.

It wasn’t just IDW that offered comic tie-ins to the 2009 film. Issue #17.05 of Wired magazine presented a six-page licensed comic featuring the elderly Spock. This edition of Wired, dubbed “The Mystery Issue” since it was filled with puzzles, games, and code-cracking clues, was guest-edited by puzzle-loving Lost creator Abrams. The Star Trek comic was penned by the movie’s screenwriters, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, under the pseudonym “K/O,” with Paul Pope providing the art.

Trapped on Delta Vega (the one from the 2009 film, not the one from “Where No Man Has Gone Before”), Spock muses about how he’d learned to play the harp and perform a neck pinch as a child, how his human heritage had made him an outcast (shown in the movie and in “Yesteryear”), how he’d survived the Rite of Tal’oth and later mastered 3D chess, and how he and Kirk had outsmarted Khan Noonien Singh in The Wrath of Khan. In the final panels, Spock notices something in the sky as the Enterprise ejects a pod containing the Chris Pine reboot of his friend Jim Kirk, exiled to the icy wasteland by Zachary Quinto’s emotionally compromised Spock. Cue the movie!

The Rite of Tal’oth, mentioned by Tuvok in Star Trek: Voyager’s “Displaced,” is a maturity test that sounds similar to the kahs-wan. For a logical species, the Vulcans sure seem to embrace a lot of illogical rituals that can harm children. As shown in the comic, this one involves forcing a youth to journey to Vulcan’s Forge alone, then face a vicious feline beast and quiet the animal with only a neck pinch. It’s said to symbolize an adolescent’s growth to adulthood, but given the cat’s size and savage ferocity, the test’s deadly nature borders on child abuse.

The story flashes back to “Charlie X,” in which Nyota Uhura performed a song for her friends in the Enterprise’s rec room, accompanied by Spock on his Vulcan harp. Uhura is drawn like Zoe Saldaña rather than Nichelle Nichols, to ease the transition from one cast to the next. At that time, a decade before Discovery and Strange New Worlds, viewers were not yet accustomed to seeing anyone in the roles but the original actors. Though it’s a bit jarring to see Saldaña in a scene from The Original Series, this was a smart move from a film-promoting standpoint.

Illustrator Ward Sutton, a contributor to now-defunct alternative newspaper The Village Voice, honored the film with an unlicensed comic featuring the Enterprise officers and the actors who’d given them life. In the fourth-wall-dropping “The Shatner Menagerie,” printed in vol. LIV issue #19, the Talosians (“The Menagerie”) lure Kirk to Talos IV so Leonard Nimoy can convince William Shatner to accept Abrams’ film and its younger, more dazzling cast. This zany strip is presented in-universe, using the characters’ actual names instead of satirical analogues, which sets it apart from most Star Trek comic parodies, such as those in MAD, Cracked, Extremely Silly Comics, ElfTrek, and more.

Kirk morphs into Shatner and finds actor Chris Pine has replaced him, and the Talosians invite the older thespian to live on Talos IV. Bill declines, though Kirk stays with the telepaths to remain eternally young via TV reruns. It’s a clever moment that urges both the original cast and The Village Voice’s readers to have an open mind about the reboot, reminding them that the classic episodes and movies will always be there to enjoy. At last accepting another actor portraying his most famous role, Shatner returns to 2009 with Nimoy via the Guardian of Forever (“The City on the Edge of Forever”… or should I call him Carl?), letting the new cast continue their legacy thereafter.

“The Shatner Menagerie” calls back to other episodes as well. The Talosians create an illusion of a Klingon invasion led by Kor (“Errand of Mercy”). Kirk wonders, upon meeting his Pine counterpart, if Harry Mudd might be replacing his crew with sexier android duplicates (“I, Mudd”). And when he sees elderly Spock, he assumes his friend has rapid-aged, like what happened to Jim on Gamma Hydra IV (“The Deadly Years”). It’s all very amusing, and it’s reverential to both iterations.

Next week, we’ll revisit IDW’s second Alien Spotlight miniseries, featuring the Klingons, Romulans, and Cardassians, as well as the Q Continuum and even the tribbles. These issues offer many connections to onscreen lore, with nary a lens flare in sight.

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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