Rich Handley Author and Editor

Star Trek Comics Weekly #103

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.

103: IDW Publishing, 2013

In 2013, Paramount released the second Star Trek film set in J.J. Abrams’ so-called Kelvin timeline. Star Trek Into Darkness reimagined Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and recast genetic superman Khan Noonien Singh, previously portrayed by Ricardo Montalbán, with Benedict Cumberbatch now in the role. The casting proved divisive since a Mexican actor had been replaced by a white Englishman, but since Khan was supposed to be a Sikh Indian anyway, perhaps the issue was not so clear-cut.

Either way, IDW tailored its narrative to take into account Into Darkness’s plot developments, much like DC Comics had done back in the 1980s. Readers were treated to the four-chapter miniseries Countdown to Darkness, as well as After Darkness, a three-part arc in issues #21–23 of IDW’s Kelvin-centric ongoing comic. Serving as movie bookends, these tales were written by Mike Johnson in conjunction with screenwriter Roberto Orci, and both were illustrated by David Messina and Marina Castelvetro, with Messina, Stephen Molnar, and Erfan Fajar providing covers.

For those who enjoy Star Trek Into Darkness, there is much to appreciate about both Countdown to Darkness and After Darkness. Not long before the Enterprise’s mission to Nibiru in the movie, the starship visits Phadeus IV, a ringed world containing a civilization recently on par with Earth’s Roman Empire. This pre-warp planet has progressed more quickly than predicted, and a civil war has erupted, with Commander Kor (the Kelvin counterpart of the would-be Klingon dictator from The Original Series’ “Errand of Mercy”) arming one side of the conflict.

The other side has been assisted by Starfleet officer Robert April (the prime Enterprise’s first captain, per The Animated Series’ “The Counter-Clock Incident” and now a recurring character on Strange New Worlds), in an open-shut case of a Prime Directive violation. April had limited appearances in DC Comics’ Star Trek Annual #1, Marvel Comics’ Star Trek: Early Voyages, and IDW’s Star Trek: Crew, but Countdown to Darkness was the first time the character—albeit, an alternate version—was a primary player in the comics, and certainly the first time he was been the villain.

In the cartoon, April and his wife Sarah had traveled with Jim Kirk’s crew on a journey to Babel. En route, the starship had entered a negative universe of reverse time, causing everyone to de-age. Under Johnson’s pen, the alternate April’s fate is decidedly different: he’s now a war criminal, which is amusing when you remember that Michael and Denise Okuda’s Star Trek Chronology had represented April with an old photo of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry wearing a Starfleet uniform. As it happens, the comic’s April looks nothing like his animated counterpart or Roddenberry in costume or (understandably) Strange New Worlds’ Adrian Holmes.

This version, having faked his death years earlier, is a Section 31 operative under Admiral Alexander Marcus (Star Trek Into Darkness), his best friend and former first officer. In the prime timeline, that position had been filled by George Kirk, per the novels. The two have been secretly arming Phaedus IV’s natives with Starfleet tech to keep the planet from falling under Klingon rule, similar to Kirk’s disastrous actions in “A Private Little War.” Starfleet Academy should really bring in better-qualified history instructors and stop hiring guys like John Gill. Maybe then its graduates wouldn’t violate the Prime Directive every other week.

Johnson reveals that April’s doppelgänger had captained a different starship Enterprise than the one commanded by Chris Pike and now Kirk, as his had been decommissioned prior to the Narada incident. This explains the discrepancy in ship ages between timelines, for while the prime Enterprise was launched in 2245, its alternate would not take its maiden voyage for another thirteen years. April is likely unmarried in this reality, or else he abandoned Sarah to take on his Phaedus crusade.

In an effective twist, April is aided in his scheme by Harry Mudd’s daughter. The roguish scoundrel, portrayed first by Roger C. Carmel and then by The Office’s Rainn Wilson, has been featured in six episodes across four shows, ranging from The Original Series’ “Mudd’s Women” to Short Treks’ “The Escape Artist.” Mudd himself does not appear in the comic, but his offspring does—and she’s a half-Bajoran smuggler who’s been supplying April with weapons.

She just calls herself Mudd, though the video game Fleet Command cites her first name as Ro, suggesting a relationship to Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Ro Laren, which is rather hilarious in its randomness. The comic reveals the story behind the “Mudd incident” mentioned onscreen, when the crew used a confiscated vessel to pose as traders and infiltrate Qo’noS to arrest John Harrison (Khan’s movie alias). After Ro’s incarceration in the comic, Kirk keeps Mudd’s ship for future use.

The miniseries presages Spock’s reckless, near-suicidal behavior caused by the loss of his mother and homeworld. The science officer suffers recurring nightmares in which he saves Amanda from dying during Nero’s attack, only for the Enterprise to be destroyed with her aboard. Spock’s helpless frustration at repeatedly experiencing her murder sets the groundwork for his troubled mindset in Into Darkness. By story’s end, the starship is assigned to Nibiru, while Harrison is shown entering a Starfleet data archive in London. Both occur without context, inspiring readers to watch the film.

Just as Countdown to Darkness concludes with Into Darkness lead-ins, After Darkness picks up where that movie left off. Due to Kirk’s unauthorized Qo’noS visit, the Klingons declare war on the Federation. Kor stokes the flames of nationalism and leads an assault on Starfleet using ships incorporating the Narada’s Romulan-Borg hybrid technology. Meanwhile, the Enterprise embarks on its five-year mission (the first twenty issues must have been Kirk’s shakedown cruise), and Section 31 sets out to ignite animosity between the Romulans and Klingons, which will play out in later issues.

The Klingons’ hostility is merely a side story in After Darkness, though. Primarily, the comic reimagines the episode “Amok Time,” in which Spock suffered from pon farr and had to return home to his betrothed, T’Pring, to mate like a neurochemically unbalanced space-salmon. His Kelvin counterpart undergoes this malady eight years earlier than prime Spock had, and so do many citizens of New Vulcan. It seems the loss of their homeworld has prematurely triggered an epidemic of plak tow, the irrational state of “blood fever” during which Vulcans become violently instinct-driven. The entire Vulcan population suddenly needs sex right now, and it’s best not to get in their way.

Alt-T’Pring prepares to ease alt-Spock’s suffering, which alt-Uhura is none too pleased about, but Spock’s illness makes him attack his friends and join the Sasaud, a band of Vulcans regressed to pre-Surak savagery. The comic posits that quenching pon farr requires a physical return to Vulcan, but since it no longer exists, the afflicted remain in perpetual plak tow. This contradicts T’Pol’s experience in Enterprise’s “Bounty,” Tuvok’s in Voyager’s “Body and Soul,” and Vorik’s in Voyager’s “Blood Fever,” but it’s another universe so maybe the rules differ. In any case, T’Pring’s lover Stonn is absent, so either he died in the Narada attack or they’re not a couple in this reality, or both.

The Kelvin analogues of Chekov and Carol Marcus devise an ingenious cure using transporters to recreate Vulcan’s conditions and trick the afflicted bodies into thinking they’ve gone home. Carol also meets with New Vulcan scientists to discuss the Helios device, which in Digital Extremes’ Star Trek video game provided an unlimited energy source for terraforming the new homeworld. More powerful than the prime timeline’s Genesis device, it also made for a potential weapon of mass destruction since it could rip open the fabric of reality. Given Carol’s status as a weapons expert, Kirk might want to keep a closer eye on her.

April returns in After Darkness, locked in a cell now that the late Alex Marcus can’t protect him from prosecution for violating General Order One, by doing exactly what Kirk did in “A Private Little War” and—oh, what’s the use? Kirk interrogates the ex-captain about the admiral’s plan to start a war with the Klingons, and April openly admits his guilt, declaring war inevitable. The story introduces Orion security guard Kai, a recurring character in the comics who (spoiler!) will later be revealed as Gaila’s brother.

We’ll get to that story, and Gaila’s return, soon. In the meantime, we’ll remain in the Kelvin reality for another week to examine five more issues of the ongoing comic, in which the Klingon situation comes to a head and Mike Johnson reimagines a species from the 1960s show. I hope none of you have an instinctive revulsion to reptiles.

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.

2 thoughts on “Star Trek Comics Weekly #103

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© Copyright 2024 Rich Handley