Saturday, November 20, 2010

Everything But The Motion Picture, Star Trek Omnibus 1 Anthologizes Marvel's Late-70s Comics.

The Good: Moments of character, Price
The Bad: Generally mediocre artwork, Poor coloring, Often ridiculous stories, Plot-heavy, Campy dialogue
The Basics: Even fans of the Star Trek franchise are likely to be disappointed by the way Star Trek Omnibus 1 fills in the gaps after Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Despite being quite the avid fan of the Star Trek franchise, I am too happy to admit there are some points in the franchise where the gaps are just fine by me. Following the rebirth of the franchise with Star Trek: The Motion Picture (click here for my review of that! ), Star Trek exploded with fan fiction and ideas which poorly bridged both the gap between the original television series and the gap between the first and second films. The gap between Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan seems to be a point where fans are determined to figure out just what was going on with the heroes of the starship Enterprise. That time period has been the subject of numerous novel series’ (The Lost Years) as well as comic book adventures and fanfic up the proverbial wazoo.

During that portion of Star Trek history, Marvel comics owned the license to the Star Trek comic books and in their attempts to tell stories that followed up on Star Trek: The Motion Picture they went wildly into the science fiction realm. Unlike the original television series, Star Trek, though, they did so with very limited social commentary. Instead, they were plot-heavy stories which tend to remake the worst episodes of Star Trek or show a complete obsession with the new appearance of Klingons, without understanding anything about Klingon culture. In other words, these were poor to fair attempts to keep Star Trek growing in some “official” capacity while the novels, new movies and spin-offs were produced. However, most fans would be just as happy to let this period in the franchise be forgotten as it is just abysmal. Unfortunately, though, we are not allowed to forget because IDW has now released the comics as Star Trek Omnibus 1.

When Marvel produced the Star Trek comic books, they had the license for about a year and a half, producing eighteen issues which were about seventeen pages long. The stories began with the Marvel recreation of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (there’s a weird title: Star Trek: The Motion Picture: The Comic Book) and IDW eliminates that from Star Trek Omnibus 1. Instead, this is the fifteen original comic books shrunk down (in physical size) to the size of a Manga novel and anthologized as a single book. All fifteen issues are presented without their annoying breaks for advertisements of the time, which is nice. The stories, however, are less-than-thrilling.

These start with the two-part story where the Enterprise returns a prisoner to the planet Thallus and as a result, begins to see ghosts, werewolves and the like aboard the Enterprise. Unfortunately, while the Enterprise is so incapacitated, Klingons board it and things look dire for the Enterprise crew. All of the rest of the stories are one-shot stories where a single issue tells the complete story. These range from a murder mystery of an alien ambassador being solved on the Enterprise to an adventure to a planet where Kirk, Spock and McCoy’s coming has been foretold for 24,000 years. Spock is captured by a race of giant insects in another and in still another, the Enterprise becomes a plaything for vengeful aliens who use mind control to torment the crew.

As well, Spock finds himself stranded on a primitive planet where he must fight for survival until the Enterprise crew may rescue him and when a heretofore unknown love of Scotty’s returned, her anger puts him in a coma where he is tormented with nightmarish visions. Then comes a mission where Rand, McCoy and Spock are trying to rescue a starship whose inhabitants have been killed and the alien responsible is still there . . . driving them mad. McCoy runs into his daughter, Joanna, who is engaged, but tragedy strikes when Klingons take the compound she is working at. This is followed by Kirk falling under the influence of a computer which makes him into a Pharoah before the Enterprise is visited by the devil. This low point is only usurped by a story where the Enterprise is invaded by gnomes. After a Federation probe accidentally begins poisoning a planet, Kirk, Spock and McCoy – disguised as Goranians – are captured by the Goranians and ultimately Kirk and Spock mind meld.

There is very little character construction in these stories. However, “…Like A Woman Scorned” with its use of psychological torment for Scotty from Dr. Wentworth, at least makes a passing effort at it. As Scotty lays in a coma being tormented, Kirk and Spock must figure out what is going on and the way the Enterprise is put in danger makes sense for Scotty, given that the ship is arguably his one true love. As well, the story with McCoy’s daughter tries to fill in one of the long-insinuated elements of “Star Trek” lore, which was that McCoy had a daughter. His character work in that issue when he must wrestle with seeing his daughter again and who she is engaged to is interesting at the very least.

As well as particularly lame stories – so many of them seem to have to do with mind control, which might be a reflection on the late-70s the way technology taking over was a recurring theme in Star TrekStar Trek Omnibus 1 is limited by the source material for the look and feel of the book. While the original comics were newsprint, IDW reprints the issues on decent paperstock. However, they are unable to create better artwork and the coloring is absolutely terrible. The artwork is erratic, so Kirk, Chekov, Sulu and McCoy often look alike and interchangeable. However, to give some credit to the Marvel artists, they do use the medium fairly well, creating monsters, space battles and the like which would be cost prohibitive on a television show or movie budget.

But anyone who is serious about comic books or stories will be woefully disappointed in the look and feel of Star Trek Omnibus 1. IDW did a pure printing, so the colors look faded and do not have the rich saturation of contemporary comic books (this is like putting an old film on DVD without cleaning it up first). It is old and it looks old. And if the stories were remotely interesting, it would be worth it. However, they are not. There is, however, a cover gallery in this so readers are losing nothing by getting this as opposed to the original comic books. In fact, this volume is likely to hold up and one is not damaging a potentially valuable comic book by reading the stories in Star Trek Omnibus 1 instead of painstakingly going through the entire actual comic books these were culled from.

Even so, it’s not enough for anyone – even the die-hard fans – to go out of their way to pick this book up. It is likely to just disappoint readers. I know it disappointed me.

For other Star Trek comic book anthologies, please visit my reviews of:
Star Trek: Countdown
Star Trek: Mirror Images
Star Trek Archives Volume 3 - The Best Of Gary Seven


For other book reviews, please be sure to visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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