Rich Handley Author and Editor

Star Trek Comics Weekly #116

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.

116: IDW Publishing, 2016

Writer Mike Johnson should be a household name for Star Trek comic readers, as he penned nearly all of IDW’s titles based on J.J. Abrams’ films, in what has come to be known as the Kelvin timeline. This week’s column examines another miniseries set in that reality: the four-issue Manifest Destiny, which Johnson scripted with collaborator Ryan Parrott. Illustrated by Angel Hernández, the miniseries sported beautiful covers from not only Hernández, but also Jen Bartel, Francesco Francavilla, Stephen Mooney, Tony Shasteen, Rachael Stott, and James Kenneth Woodward.

Manifest Destiny is one of Johnson’s more engaging and tightly plotted tales, and the artwork brings it vividly to life. From the standpoint of this column, though, there’s not a lot to discuss since it doesn’t contain much in the way of prequels, sequels, or tie-ins to films or movies, aside from the obvious—the 2009 film and its first sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness (when the miniseries launched, Star Trek Beyond was still months away). The story revolves around a renegade Klingon, General Sho’Tokh of the IKS Chonnaq.

Sho’Tokh’s crew are disgusted when he orders them to slaughter a defenseless alien species, including children, but they fear their commander too much to refuse. Many desire new leadership, so Sho’Tokh’s second-in-command Divash captures Nyota Uhura, Hikaru Sulu, and Leonard McCoy, promising to free them if they help her kill the general and restore the Chonnaq’s lost honor. The first issue was published in both English and Klingonese, following in the footsteps of Marvel’s Starfleet Academy #18 and IDW’s Klingons: Blood Will Tell #1, which also sported Klingon-language variants.

Sho’Tokh lures in the Enterprise with a fake distress call so his warriors can commandeer the starship, enabling the general—a disgraced albino with no House or name—to forge an empire of his own. As James Kirk’s space-suited crew battles Klingons on the Enterprise’s outer hull, Sho’Tokh’s troops blast their way inside and take the bridge. They almost get away with it, too (insert Scooby-Doo “meddling kids” joke here), until Divash stages a coup, aided by her Starfleet hostages. After Kirk bests Sho’Tokh in combat, Divash delivers the rogue albino to Qo’noS for trial.

Sho’Tokh is shunned by his people for his appearance, driving his need to chart a new destiny separate from the Empire. Klingon disdain for the unpigmented was established in the Deep Space Nine episode “Blood Oath,” then was reinforced in Discovery’s “The Vulcan Hello,” which introduced Voq, the Torchbearer to T’Kuvma. Sho’Tokh’s outcast status mirrors that of fellow albino Voq, though the latter, like Divash, would prove to be far more honorable.

“Blood Oath” centered around a Klingon criminal known as the Albino, who’d raided Klingon colonies and dishonorably murdered the firstborn sons of Kor (“Errand of Mercy”), Koloth (“The Trouble with Tribbles”), and Kang (“Day of the Dove”). The character, unnamed on TV, was christened Qagh in the novel Star Trek: Excelsior—Forged in Fire, by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels. Given Sho’Tokh’s lack of honor, it’s possible Johnson had intended the general to be the Kelvin timeline’s analogue to the Albino, despite the different name.

The miniseries offers closure to a plot thread from the 2009 film, as Kirk apologizes to Kai, an Orion security guard in his crew, for taking advantage of his sister Gaila during the movie’s Kobayashi Maru test. Kirk notes that Gaila has forgiven him, though that reconciliation wasn’t depicted onscreen, and she and Kirk are soon reunited in a storyline to be discussed in the coming weeks. Kai debuted in Johnson’s ongoing Star Trek monthly comic, and his arc ends here when he gives his life to protect the ship.

A few months after Manifest Destiny’s completion, IDW published its Star Trek: 50th Anniversary Cover Celebration. Featuring an introduction by Mike Johnson, the one-shot collected numerous Star Trek covers, unencumbered by pesky logos and text, enabling fans to revel in the gorgeous artwork. Tony Shasteen and J.K. Woodward provided the extraordinary exterior covers, with interior pages showcasing not only their work, but also the talents of Tim Bradstreet, David Messina, Rachel Stott, Joe Corroney, Jae Lee, Lisa Jackson, Len O’Grady, Drew Struzan, and more—as well as Gold Key’s Alberto Giolitti and George Wilson, from back in the 1960s.

Meanwhile, Titan Books featured a Star Trek strip in Star Trek: 50 Artists 50 Years, a hardcover coffee-table book also celebrating the golden anniversary. CBS commissioned 53 art pieces highlighting storylines, characters, episodes, and moments from the classic show. These included illustrations, paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other types of artwork, primarily focused on The Original Series but incorporating the films and later shows as well. Why 53 instead of an even 50, or 52 for “one a week?” I honestly don’t know; you’d have to ask CBS and Titan.

Nicholas Meyer provided the foreword, while the contributors included Leonard Nimoy, The Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik, and a long list of gifted artists, Corroney and Woodward among them. The book also spotlighted products from toy company Mattel, such as a Hot Wheels-branded Borg cube, along with a Star Trek commemorative stamp set from the U.S. Postal Service.

Mick Cassidy, a character designer for Family Guy, provided the full-page strip, titled “Risk Is Our Business!”—recalling an iconic Kirk speech from “Return to Tomorrow”—and featuring scenes from 15 episodes across 16 panels, with one adaptation spanning two panels. The comic was also sold as a separate 12” by 12” print from Lightspeed Fine Art, enabling collectors not interested in the book to add the strip to their collection. As it happens, the full volume can be purchased at a lower cost than that of just the print, so why not buy the book and enjoy the entire thing?

“Risk Is Our Business!” features whimsical takes on several episodes. These include drawings of a Klingon D-7 battlecruiser (“Elaan of Troyius”), Spock mind-melding with the Horta (“The Devil in the Dark”), the Preserver obelisk (“The Paradise Syndrome”), a Gorn (“Arena”), a Talosian (“The Menagerie”), McCoy battling a Roman gladiator (“Bread and Circuses”), Kirk nullifying the Omicron Ceti III spores (“This Side of Paradise”), and the Guardian of Forever (“The City on the Edge of Forever”).

Other illustrations include the Planet Killer (“The Doomsday Machine”), Vaal and his followers (“The Apple”), Shahna the green-haired drill thrall (“The Gamesters of Triskelion”), a charging Mugato (“A Private Little War”), Spock looking into the Medusan ambassador’s containment box (“Is There in Truth No Beauty?”), the Romulan commander seducing Spock (“The Enterprise Incident”), and the salt vampire posing as Nancy Crater (“The Man Trap”).

50 Artists 50 Years is a nostalgic, beautifully produced art book, one that fans of The Original Series should have on their shelves—especially comics completists, since Cassidy’s full-page strip technically falls under the “comics” umbrella. IDW’s Star Trek: New Visions was conceived with nostalgia in mind as well, and next week’s column will return to the prime timeline, taking a break from the Abramsverse to delve into more of John Byrne’s New Visions photocomics. The stories are bursting with sequels to classic episodes—this column’s bread and butter—so don’t miss it.

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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