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.
90: IDW Publishing, 2009–2010
Many of IDW’s Star Trek comics have been tied to specific television shows and films, whereas other titles stand entirely on their own. Both types of stories have merit, though of course this column focuses on those offering concrete connections to onscreen lore.
It was a delight when DC Comics presented sequels to “Mirror, Mirror,” “Wolf in the Fold,” “The Apple,” and “Whom Gods Destroy”; when the L.A. Times Syndicate published a sequel to “The Slaver Weapon”; when Marvel revisited “A Piece of the Action,” “The Cage,” and “Charlie X”; when WildStorm explored “Arena” and “The Doomsday Machine”; and when even Gold Key followed up on “I, Mudd,” “The City on the Edge of Forever,” and “Metamorphosis.” But there’s something to be said about being able to enjoy a story without having to recall the details of prior tales.
IDW’s Star Trek: The Next Generation—Ghosts, from writing newcomer Zander Cannon, falls into the latter category. Set during the show’s fourth season, Ghosts has the distinction of being the only miniseries from IDW’s first twenty or so titles with no direct connections to televised Star Trek at all, other than the fact that it features Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D—and one of the only IDW titles to date to offer no variant covers. It’s an original storyline non-reliant on established characters, conflicts, and locales, and it features impressive interior illustrations from Javier Aranda, German Torres-Ruiz, and Marc Rueda, as well as stunning cover art by Joe Corroney on all five issues.
The Enterprise crew responds to a distress call from Allios IV. Civil war has delayed that world’s Federation application, and Picard finds himself forced to mediate between the warning nations of Juulet and Dorossh. The Starfleeters rescue researcher Uul Everuud, the sole survivor of a doomed ship in orbit, who claims to be haunted by phantoms, and who is somehow physically fine despite severed limbs and exposed internal organs. It’s a medical mystery that keeps Beverly Crusher, Deanna Troi, and Geordi La Forge busy, and it culminates in a Prime Directive-style conflict.
It’s this aspect that provides the most thought-provoking discussion, for while the Juuletians are enthusiastic about joining the Federation and bend over backwards to remain in Picard’s good graces so he’ll endorse their application, the Dorosshians want nothing to do with offworlders. With the planet societally divided, membership becomes moot, much to the frustration of those who long to be out among the stars. Thus, Juulet has built an orbital weapons platform to harness a mysterious force called zoor energy, with which it can quietly exile its rivals to a pocket dimension. That’s been going on for years, with those lost presumed dead since no one realizes it’s happening.
La Forge realizes Everuud’s body parts are not actually missing, which is why he hasn’t died—they’ve been shifted to the other dimension, with the man stuck between two realities, perceiving those trapped in the void as ghosts. When the Dorosshian ruler is pulled in, his heir arrests Worf for murder, subjecting him to torture and humiliation—a grave dishonor for a Klingon, though getting beaten to a pulp tends to be what Worf does best. This results in one of the comic’s best visuals: a gorgeous depiction of Gre’thor, the Klingon land of dishonored dead, never shown onscreen but first mentioned in “The Devil’s Due” and said to be guarded by Fek’lhr.
Picard ends up in the pocket dimension as well, which is reminiscent of the void to which Q takes him in “Tapestry,” though they’re not the same place. Naturally, the captain succeeds in finding a way out, even though the planet’s greatest minds have been stuck there for years without escaping. By story’s end, the crew learns what the Juuletians have been up to, negating any chance of Allios IV’s membership being approved. The Enterprise beams Picard and the others out of the void, the Dorosshians free Worf since their leader is actually alive, and the two cultures are left to work things out in isolation.
Ghosts features another planet whose government and scientists have something to hide (it’s a bit of a Star Trek cliché), yet it offers a solid story that leaves readers with ethical questions to ponder: The Juuletians have done something horrible, but are they villainous if they never killed anyone and only went to such extreme lengths out of a desperate desire to be part of something bigger? Should a world be denied Federation membership because one of its nations is isolationist? And if that nation refuses to budge, should the rest of the population remain forever separated from the galactic community? Who, exactly, are the bad guys here? Juulet? Dorossh? Both? Or was it Agatha all along?
The miniseries boasts great visuals, particularly regarding the dimensionally shifted Everuud. Its script features authentic interactions between the members of Picard’s crew, offering Troi a chance to perform one of her most important roles on television and in Star Trek: Generations: serving as Picard’s sounding board when the captain is troubled. Nearly every character rings true to their TV characterizations, though Data frequently uses contractions, something his android programming prevents on television.
For the purpose of this column, though—which, after all, is about how comics provide prequels, sequels, and tie-ins—this series poses a bit of a dilemma. Why? Because without any prequels, sequels, or tie-ins other than the brief Gre’thor sequence, there’s not much to talk about here. Granted, I’ve just written more than a thousand words, so I guess there is. Nonetheless, Ghosts is a strong offering from a talented creative team new to the franchise, and while it might throw a wrench into this column’s works, it’s certainly worth giving a read.
Next up, this column welcomes Star Trek: Deep Space Nine back to the comic fold after a decade’s absence. In Fool’s Gold, from writers Scott and David Tipton, Benjamin Sisko’s crew returns for the first time since WildStorm’s N-Vector miniseries and Star Trek Special. Will there be more to discuss on the prequel and sequel front than there was this week? Tune in and find out.
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.