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.
128: IDW Publishing, 2017–2018
When writer Mike Johnson wrapped up his IDW comic series Star Trek: Boldly Go after eighteen issues, he chose a storyline befitting the series’ connections to J.J. Abrams’ 2009 film. The movie had featured two realities—the prime timeline in flashbacks, and the Kelvin timeline in the main story—and Johnson had spent a decade charting the adventures of the temporally altered USS Enterprise crew, starting with Star Trek: Countdown.
So, with Boldly Go representing IDW’s goodbye to the Abramsverse, it made sense for Johnson to embrace the multiverse by scripting the six-part saga “I.D.I.C.” for Boldly Go #13–18. The storyline brought back characters from not only Manifest Destiny (albino Klingon renegade Sho’Tokh), but also Johnson’s reimagining of “Where No Man Has Gone Before” in Star Trek #1–2 (the Kelvin iteration of Gary Mitchell) and issues #29–30 (Captain Jane Tiberia Kirk, Jim Kirk’s gender-swapped doppelgänger).
The story’s title has its roots in the episode “Is There In Truth No Beauty?”, in which viewers first learned about “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations,” a tenet of Vulcan philosophy. Leonard Nimoy, in his autobiography I Am Spock, recalled having viewed the I.D.I.C. symbol as blatant merchandising, which he’d protested. Be that as it may, the concept has since become a cornerstone of Star Trek, with episodes of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, Discovery, and most recently Picard referencing it.
Indeed, infinite combinations are at the core of this arc, which was illustrated by Angel Hernández, Josh Hood, Megan Levens, and Marcus To. Gary Mitchell’s Kelvin analogue returns from the dead, providing a bookend to Johnson’s tales set in that reality, since the officer-turned-god had been there to launch IDW’s ongoing Kelvin comic. Here, Gary seeks revenge on his old friend and captain, James T. (or would that be R.?) Kirk, by creating a confluence of infinite realities to mess with him on a multiversal scale.
This causes Enterprises from endless realms—including those in which the crew are plant-based, gaseous, gender-swapped, and even artificial intelligences—to meet up within the same dimension. One cover depicts Scotty as a Cheron, the black-and-white folks from “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” (basically walking, talking, bigoted bakery cookies), along with Leonard McCoy as an Andorian and Hikaru Sulu as a Vulcan. That version of the crew, however, does not appear in the actual story—which seems like a missed opportunity, really.
In each reality, god-Gary subjects a version of Kirk to a no-win scenario (which, as we know from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Jim does not accept), then brings the Kelvin timeline’s captain to dimensions in which Earth was defeated by Romulans, Klingons, Borg, and other enemies. It’s all part of an elaborate game to flaunt his supernatural superiority over his puny human ex-captain in each of the infinite combinations—but also (and perhaps most intriguingly) over all other Gary Mitchells.
You see, Gary claims to have destroyed all his alternates in every reality, proclaiming himself to be the only one to have ever achieved actual godhood. That is a fascinating revelation if he’s telling the truth, for the vanquished Mitchells would seemingly have to include the prime version from TV, portrayed by Gary Lockwood. They must also include versions of Gary who’d returned from the dead in other titles, such as Marvel’s Star Trek/X-Men and IDW’s Star Trek: New Visions Annual and the Star Trek 400th Issue (to be discussed in an upcoming installment).
That’s not even including the various DC tales that featured flashbacks to the days of Gary’s Enterprise tour of duty, along with any novels, short stories, RPG sourcebooks, or videogames that have ever involved the character. What’s more, none of those Mitchells, according to this one, were truly divine—they, along with the Gary from “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” were all false gods, much like Stargate’s Goa’uld… and god-Gary claims to have killed every last one of them. Brutal.
The other realities introduced in this arc are parallel to the Kelvin timeline, including one in which Nero destroyed Earth instead of Vulcan during the 2009 film. In another yet dimension, Kirk was captured by the Klingon Empire as a baby and grew up to become a deadly Klingon operative called the Orphan. An eyepatch bolted to his face recalls Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country’s General Chang, and this Jim is just as dangerous.
Spock lives on Earth in the Orphan’s reality. He has bobbed his ears to look human and calls himself Simon Grayson, having taken his mother Amanda’s name and rejected Sarek’s Vulcan culture. McCoy and Spock are best friends in this universe, complete with the requisite “Bones gets a friend drunk to ease his troubles” motif, and Simon’s wife—Nyota Uhura, naturally—was murdered by the Orphan, making the two men mortal enemies instead of the best friends they are in so many other realities.
The events of Star Trek Into Darkness’s Nibiru scenes still play out relatively the same in this reality, but with Christopher Pike commanding the Enterprise instead of Kirk. This time, the volcano fully erupts, destroying the planet’s civilization, and round-eared Spock lands in a heap of trouble for disobeying Pike’s orders during the mission. It’s a trend common to comics set in other realities: when altered events separate our favorite characters, they inevitably end up miserable, angry, and at each other’s throats.
Another of Gary’s infinite universes ties in with the episode “Space Seed,” as well as with Star Trek: Enterprise’s Augment arc. In this reality, Khan Noonien Singh’s genetic supermen won the Eugenics Wars, and Earth is thus ruled in the 23rd century by Empress Khan, the all-powerful leader of the House of Khan and a direct descendant of actor Ricardo Montalbán’s famous tyrant.
The Empress’s palace is the Taj Mahal, befitting prime Khan’s origin as a Sikh Indian before Into Darkness recast the character as a white-skinned Englishman, and she is every bit as arrogant and formidable as her infamous namesake. Strange New Worlds features another Khan descendant, Enterprise crewmember La’an Noonien Singh, and while that show hadn’t yet aired at the time of the comic’s release, it’s easy to imagine, given the chronological setting, that the Empress is La’an in the Kelvin reality.
In addition to introducing floral, gas-based, and AI versions of the crew, as well as bringing back Jane Kirk’s gender-swapped officers, “I.D.I.C.” has some meta-level fun with readers. For instance, Gary Mitchell cites “an Enterprise powered by mushrooms,” slyly describing the prime timeline, specifically Discovery’s spore drive. This supports the notion that Kelvin-reality Gary slew the prime version. Gary also taunts Kirk with mention of “the [universes] where all of us are just fictional characters.” That comment is especially amusing, as it seems to cite the L.A. Times newspaper strips.
In the strips’ silly, fourth-wall-dropping final arc, the Enterprise crew entered a universe in which they were characters portrayed by actors on a 20th-century television series known as Star Trek. A young boy even sported a “Star Trek lives!” T-shirt, and he and his buddy, in Galaxy Quest fashion, ended up saving the day. If this Gary is aware of Star Trek, does he also know about Galaxy Quest? The Orville? Babylon 5? How about Ömer the Tourist in Star Trek? How about the long-running Sex Trek porn parody series? The mind boggles.
It’s unknown whether Johnson was referring to the L.A. Times strips, or even if he’s read them. He could also have been referencing “Visit to a Weird Planet,” by Jean Lorrah and Willard F. Hunt, published in Spockanalia #3, as well as its sequels, including Ruth Berman’s “Visit to a Weird Planet Revisited,” published in Bantam Books’ Star Trek: The New Voyages. In those stories, the 1960s cast and their fictional counterparts hilariously switched places. Gary refers to “the ones” where they’re fictional, so he might well mean all of them. It’s fun to think so, isn’t it?
Thus ends our discussion of the Kelvin timeline. For now, at least. If Paramount ever gets around to making the long-delayed fourth film with that cast, then it’s a given IDW will return to the Nero-inspired reality. In the next couple installments, we’ll conclude New Visions and Waypoint as well, and then we’ll explore stories based on Discovery. If any show has embraced the infinite diversity of Trek’s infinite combinations, it would be Discovery, which should provide infinite motivation to stay tuned.
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.