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.
88: IDW Publishing, 2009
Given the positive reaction to IDW’s first Star Trek: Alien Spotlight miniseries, it’s little wonder the publisher continued the run with a second mini soon thereafter. Whereas the first six issues had focused on the Gorn, Vulcans, Andorians, Orions, Borg, and Romulans, the second set of five spotlighted the tribbles, Klingons, Q Continuum, Cardassians, and, well, Romulans again. It may seem an odd choice to revisit the Empire instead of exploring one of Star Trek’s countless other species, but since the first J.J. Abrams film, released that same year, featured the Romulans as antagonists, it actually made good marketing sense at the time.
This week, we’ll examine how the second Alien Spotlight miniseries, from writers Stuart Moore, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Ian Edginton, Scott and David Tipton, and Arne and Andy Schmidt, provided tie-ins to the Star Trek theatrical films and television episodes. Interior art for these issues was contributed by Mike Hawthorne, J.K. Woodward, Wagner Reis, Elena Casagrande, and Agustin Padilla, with covers by Hawthorne, Padilla, David A. Williams, and Joe Corroney.
In Moore’s Tribbles one-shot, Klingons steal a dilithium cargo ship from a human crew who have discovered an abandoned colony infested by the lovable fluffballs from The Original Series’ “The Trouble with Tribbles,” The Animated Series’ “More Tribbles, More Troubles,” Deep Space Nine’s “Trials and Tribble-ations,” and Short Treks’ “The Trouble with Edward.” The humans (or “warmhands,” as the tribbles consider them) befriend the adorable creatures, who protect them by swarming the Klingons (whom the tribbles think of as “rufflefurs”), then breed extremely fast to force the warriors to retreat. The story is told, in part, from the viewpoint of the tribbles, and it’s just as adorable as it sounds.
These tribbles are surprisingly sophisticated despite all evidence to the contrary on TV, as they can communicate with each other telepathically and can understand English, even though the humans never realize it. What’s more, they can consciously choose as a group when to reproduce in large numbers, and they can use that ability as a weapon. Their aggressive swarming of the Klingon invaders, in fact, is consistent with their onscreen behavior in “The Trouble with Edward,” which is impressive since the issue hit stands a decade before that episode’s airing. If only the Klingons had a glommer handy.
It’s fitting that a story which ends with Klingon warriors running in terror from tribbles would be followed by an issue about Klingons running bravely. DeCandido’s Klingons sees Commander Kang recalling three incidents that proved a running man can slit four thousand throats in a single night, a Klingon proverb that Kang cited in “Day of the Dove.” These incidents involve a quelled rebel uprising, a lone Klingon regaining his lost honor, and the defeat of a faction opposed to Kahless the Unforgettable.
The story’s title is “Four Thousand Throats,” which the author revealed at his blog in 2008, though it does not appear in the comic. The issue begins right after the Organians force a treaty upon the Federation and the Empire in “Errand of Mercy,” offering insight into how Klingons other than Kor reacted to that moment. When Kang informs his crew of this new development, they express outrage at having glory yanked from them, but of course they’re unable to do anything about it. Kang here commands the I.K.S. Voh’Tahk, with his wife Mara (also from “Day of the Dove”) at his side. Crewmembers Fron’chak and Jurva, from IDW’s Klingons: Blood Will Tell, have cameos as well.
Readers learn that Mara resigned from the Klingon Defense Force—and grew head bumps like her husband—after the Albino murdered their son (“Blood Oath”). Kang, meanwhile, has spent all his time obsessively hunting for his adversary, straining their marriage, which is heartbreaking since their mutual love was quite evident onscreen. He eventually finds the Albino’s dying ex-wife Ylda—who appears to be a Klingon-Romulan hybrid, though this is not specified—and he cares for her on her deathbed. After Ylda’s passing, a messenger brings Kang her amulet, which reveals the location of the Albino’s fortress, setting up the episode’s events and, sadly, Kang’s looming demise.
The issues also features appearances by Star Trek: Generations’ Captain John Harrimon of the USS Enterprise-B, along with Demora Sulu, who is now his first officer. Their role in this story is small but significant: following the destruction of Praxis in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the starship delivers food and medical supplies to a Klingon world left destitute by the disaster. The proud Klingons reject the offer, however, after which one of them slays all the others, whom he views as having lost their honor.
Edginton’s Romulans takes place shortly before the episode “Balance of Terror” and the prior Alien Spotlight: Romulans one-shot from John Byrne, with the Praetor’s new “ghost ship” not yet in widespread use. Commander Acastus, a Romulan military officer passed over for promotions due to his association with a known seditionist, campaigns for a Senate seat and gains popularity among the populace. This puts him on the Praetor’s radar, which is of course not a good thing since, as shown in Byrne’s Romulan saga, the unstable ruler is self-serving, manipulative, and very likely insane.
To keep him from becoming a political rival, the scheming Praetor sets Acastus up to die in a battle with the ghost ship. The Praetor is drawn far more muscularly here than the sickly, pathetic physique he sported in Byrne’s Romulan tales. However, this can be chalked up simply to artistic license, as all the Romulans in this issue are overtly well-muscled, a reminder that this is, after all, not just a Star Trek story—it’s also a comic book, a medium most known for impossibly chiseled superhero bodies. Anyone who has read DC’s debut Star Trek: The Next Generation miniseries knows this all too well.
The Continuum are spotlighted in the Tiptons’ Q one-shot, a follow-up to The Next Generation’s “The Best of Both Worlds” and “All Good Things…,” as well as Star Trek: First Contact. As the Enterprise crew works to prevent an impending war between the Pentaget and the G’ell, Q commandeers Jean-Luc Picard’s body so he can experience humanity first-hand as a mortal instead of as an omniscient outsider—a twist on his usual “obnoxious judge” modus operandi. The crew realizes something is amiss, though, when their captain acts wildly out of character and displays poor leadership. Q’s ineffective attempts to pose as Picard are quite amusing, eliciting alarmed reactions from his officers who wonder if their captain has lost his mind during a crisis.
This issue occurs a month after the Enterprise is repaired following the starship’s encounter with the Borg in First Contact, and that experience has brought to the surface Picard’s buried memories of having been Locutus in “The Best of Both Worlds.” Once again, Q demonstrates (as he did in “Tapestry,” DC Comics’ annual “The Gift,” and Star Trek: Picard’s second season), that despite his disdain for humanity, he’s also capable of compassion, for he offers to remove those troubling memories as a favor to his old frenemy. Picard declines, however, saying they are a part of him now. It’s a wonderful moment, and one can hear Patrick Stewart’s and John de Lancie’s voices in every line.
Finally, in the Schmidt brothers’ Cardassians, a violent fundamentalist group called the Rom Knights infiltrates Federation prison Ananke Alpha to execute the Dominion leader who’d ordered the bombing of Cardassia Prime in Deep Space Nine’s “What You Leave Behind,” resulting in eight million deaths. (Garak stops them, knowing their actions might spark another war with the Changelings.) Despite the commando group’s name, there is no apparent connection to Ferengi bartender Rom—which is a good thing, as that would be rather silly. More likely, the name was inspired by Rom the Spaceknight, a Hasbro toy licensed out for a series of adventures from Marvel Comics.
Ananke Alpha was first established as the prison at which the Changeling leader was incarcerated in Pocket Books’ The Dominion: Olympus Descending, by David R. George III. IDW’s comics have contained several sly connections to Pocket’s novels, providing continuity between the two publishers. It’s a shame it doesn’t happen more often, but for those well-versed in the novels and the comics, it can be fun to spot the references. In any case, a different incarceration history for the imprisoned Founders was established in Star Trek: Picard’s third season.
Additional issues of Alien Spotlight vol. 2 were announced starring the Tholians, Ferengi, and Betazoids, which would have been written by Mike W. Barr, James Patrick, and Andrew Steven Harris. No such editions were released, however, and Cardassians proved to be the end of the line, though the three-issue series Star Trek: Aliens (2022) would essentially serve as Alien Spotlight vol. 3. With so many fascinating species that could have been included, perhaps IDW will someday opt for a fourth such miniseries. If so, they know where to find me. I’ve got a great Pakled story all set to (make us) go.
Next up, we’ll return to the Kelvin timeline for a discussion of two more IDW tie-ins to the 2009 theatrical film: the publisher’s movie adaptation and the prequel miniseries Star Trek: Nero, from writers Mike Johnson and Tim Jones. See you then, Cupcake.
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.