‘Star Trek: The Newspaper Comics. The Complete Comics Volume Two: 1981-83’ collects the daily original series ‘Star Trek’ newspaper strips from 1981-83. The title is accurate.
After an interesting general introduction by J.C. Vaughn, we have the strips. ‘Restructuring Is Futile’ is written by Sharman Di Vono and drawn by Ron Harris. A machine intelligence called the Omnimind has turned a Klingon crew into cyborgs to serve it. Much is made in the introduction of how this prefigures the Borg so the given title is a pointer to that. The titles are a way of grouping the stories for this edition. The original strips didn’t have them. The story is okay. It is in the nature of daily strips that the first panel recaps a bit, leaving only two more to progress the tale. This is challenging for the writer and makes for an unavoidably choppy narrative which is disconcerting at first but one gets accustomed to it. That’s not to say one gets to like it. The art isn’t great but it does tell the tale well enough. I understand there is a lot of deadline pressure with a daily strip so an artist can’t always turn out his best work.
The second story is ‘The Wristwatch Plantation‘. The Enterprise has to escort some Bebebeque to one of their colony worlds with which they have lost contact to find out what’s happened there. The Bebebeque are clever insectoid aliens about the size of small dogs and renowned for their skill at miniaturisation. They are very important trading partners for the Federation, so Kirk must do nothing to upset them but they drive his crew crazy whizzing around on their little anti-gravity sleds. Larry Niven had a hand in the story and it features the Kzinti. They’re a race of war-loving meat-eaters invented by Niven for his own ‘Known Space’ stories who also appeared in the ‘Star Trek’ animated series. All in all this was a pretty good yarn and true to the spirit of the original series. The art of Ron Harris seems a bit better here so perhaps he was getting used to the format.
DiVono and Harris also did ‘The Nogura Regatta’ in which several Federation ships compete in a friendly manner but pirates intervene. It was okay. Padraic Shigetani took over both writing and art for a long story entitled ‘A Merchants Loyalty’. Unscrupulous business persons try to lure the Enterprise into a trap. One day someone should do a thesis on why business people are nearly always villains in the work of most creative writers. The story wasn’t great and the art relied too much on head shots but at least it seems to have been done by a grown man.
‘Send In The Clones’ is scripted by Gerry Conway and the art is by Bob Myers who draws like a ten year-old. The strange stumpy figures looks odd but he has a knack for faces sometimes. The contrast when you get to Ernie Colón’s drawing on the next strip is quite startling as Ernie does excellent pen and ink work. So does Alfredo Alcala who takes over half-way through on ‘Goodbye To Spock’, where the vulcan loses his memory and falls in love with a beautiful Princess. Hey-ho! The book winds down with a few shorter tales from Conway with quite decent art by Kulpa for which he should be glad to take the blame. The short stories actually seemed better suited to this format than the long drawn out ‘epics’.
Collecting these rarities is a worthy publishing exercise and I’m glad someone is doing it. As with many ‘classic’ works, it has to be taken in the context of its time and of the limitations of the genre. Writers and artists work under certain constraints with a franchise and these are added to by the straightjacket of a daily three panel strip. I take it for granted that they did the best work they could in the circumstances, even Bob Myers. I’m sure this will be snapped up by those thousands who will buy anything with ‘Trek’ in the title. The more general reader will also find it interesting but don‘t expect to be awed. The price reflects the excellent quality of the production in this book. Hardcovers and good quality paper don’t come cheap nowadays.
(pub: IDW. 232 page graphic novel. Price: $32.98 (US), £37.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-61377-776-3)
check out website: www.idwpublishing.com