For today’s review I’ll be talking about just one title, John Byrne’s second volume of photo-novel style Star Trek comics.
Writer and Artist – John Byrne
John Byrne has done a lot of great work with IDW and Star Trek lately. He concluded his own cult series Next Men, re-imagined early works with Doomsday.1, and has filled in oft forgotten corners of the Star Trek universe.
Byrne’s Star Trek work to date includes a Romulan saga that begins with a background story behind the classic TOS episode “The Balance of Terror” (one of my personal favorites), and continues into a tale of trust, betrayal, assassination and fragile alliances.
Did you know “Assignment:Earth” (TOS second season finale) was a back-door pilot for a series that never was? John Byrne did, and imagined his own episodes of that never aired television show in a five issue mini-series.
Ever wonder how a woman who bears a remarkable resemblance to Christine Chapel was first officer on Pike’s Enterprise? John Byrne tells her entire back-story in Star Trek: Crew taking us from the Enterprise’s construction to Pike’s early missions.
And were you wondering what McCoy was doing before The Motion Picture? He was flying around the galaxy saving worlds and playing match-maker to a surly Andorian (if Byrne is to be believed).
Now Byrne is filling in another forgotten corner of the Trek universe, the photo-novel. Only 12 were produced (+1 for the movie), each telling a classic Trek episode in comic-bookish form with photos from the original show. At the time they were a great way to see episodes that you couldn’t see on TV, or watch on video. And then VHS came along and kind of killed the whole thing.
Byrne’s new tales take photos from the original series and other sources to tell original stories. The writing here is classic Byrne, an adventure involving the mysterious Number One and a missing crew, a follow-up to “The Doomsday Machine” (another favorite of mine) and a humor-filled Harry Mudd tale.
I really wish John Byrne had illustrated these tales instead of using photos.
The problem is the CG backgrounds. A lot of the new sets and structures seem to be done with mid 90’s CG trying to look like mid 60’s set design. The effect is rather like making paper dolls of Kirk and company and parading them in front of a backdrop. Some of the visuals (particularly the over-sized Alien in the Doomsday tale) come off comically bad with photos, but I bet they would have worked as Byrne illustrated stories.
The best tale is the Mudd one. Byrne makes use of a few sets that look more like the painted backdrops used on planets and a lot of the sets are Enterprise interior shots that can use the original work. An enemy from Kirk’s past tricks Harry Mudd into assuming Kirk’s form so that he can impersonate Kirk and help this enemy toward a rotten aim. The last frame with Mudd’s restored mustache is worth the price of admission. The Doomsday tale is a little disappointing (feels like a rehash of the episode without the personal drama), and the Number One story is a little confusing.
The next issue of this series doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better. Byrne is going to somehow work the Borg into the TOS universe. Maybe it’s time to be moving on.
(3 Stars | I wish this was better, and drawn by Byrne)