S.H.I.E.L.D volume 1: Perfect Bullets


By Mark Waid, Carlo Pacheco, Humberto Ramos, Alan Davis, Chris Sprouse, Mike Choi, Chris Renaud & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-9362-3

Just as the 1960s espionage fad was taking off, inspired by the James Bond films and TV shows like Danger Man, war hero Nick Fury “re-debuted” in Fantastic Four #21 as a spy.

That was December 1963 – between issues #4 and 5 of his own blistering battle mag – and the perpetually grizzled warrior was re-imagined as a cunning CIA Colonel lurking at the periphery of big adventures, craftily manipulating the First Family of Marvel superheroes into taking on a racist demagogue with a world-shattering secret…

Fury was already the star of the little company’s only war comic: Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, an improbable and decidedly over-the-top, wild WWII-set series similar in tone to later movies such as The Magnificent Seven, Wild Bunch and The Dirty Dozen.

When spy stories went global in the wake of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., the veteran’s elder iteration was given a second series (from Strange Tales #135, August 1965), set in the then-present. Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. combined Cold War tensions and sinister schemes of World Conquest by hidden, subversive all-encompassing enemy organisation Hydra – all gift-wrapped with captivating Kirby-designed super-science gadgets and explosive high energy. It was set firmly in the heart of the slowly burgeoning Marvel Universe…

Once iconic imagineer Jim Steranko took charge, layering in a sleek, ultra-sophisticated edge of trend-setting drama, the series became one of the best and most visually innovative strips in America, if not the world.

When the writer/artist left and the spy-fad faded, the whole concept simply withdrew into the background architecture of the Marvel Universe, occasionally resurfacing in new series but growing increasingly uncomfortable to read as the role of spooks “on our side” became ever more debased in a world where covert agencies were continually exposed as manipulative, out-of-control tools of subversion and oppression.

In 1989 a six issue prestige format miniseries reinvigorated the concept. As a company targeting the youth-oriented markets, Marvel had experienced problems with their in-house clandestine organisation. In almost all of their other titles, US agents and “the Feds” were usually the bad guys. Author Bob Harras used this theme as well as the oddly quirky self-referential fact that nobody aged in comic continuity to play games with the readers…

Fury had discovered that everybody in his organisation had been “turned” and was now an actual threat to freedom and democracy. With his core beliefs and principles about leading “the Good Guys” betrayed and destroyed, he went on the run, hunted by the world’s most powerful covert agency with all the resources he’d devised and utilised now turned against him.

As part of the resolution SHIELD was reinvented for the 1990s: a leaner, cleaner, organisation, nominally acting under UN mandate, and proactive throughout the Marvel Universe. The taste of betrayal and seeds of doubt and mistrust never went away though…

Following numerous global crises – including a superhero Civil War – Fury was replaced as SHIELD director. His successor Tony Stark proved to be a huge mistake and after an alien invasion by Skrulls, the organisation was mothballed: replaced by the manically dynamic Norman Osborn and his fanatically loyal H.A.M.M.E.R. project. As America’s top Fed, he was specifically tasked with curbing the unchecked power and threat of the burgeoning metahuman community.

Osborn’s ascent was an even bigger error. As America’s Director of National Security the former Green Goblin and not-really-recovering psychopath instituted a draconian “Dark Reign” of oppressive, aggressive policies which turned the nation into a paranoid tinderbox.

This spectacularly poor choice was, however, also directing a cabal of the world’s greatest criminals and conquerors intent on divvying up the planet between them. The repercussions of Osborn’s rise and fall were felt throughout and featured in many series and collections throughout the entire fictive continuity. His brief rule also drastically shook up the entrenched secret powers of the planet and his ultimate defeat destabilised many previously unassailable empires…

Fury, a man driven by duty, fuelled by suspicion and powered by a serum which kept him vital far beyond his years, didn’t go away. He just went deep undercover and continued doing what he’d always done: saving the world, one battle at a time. Even after Osborn was gone, Fury stayed buried, preferring to fight battles his way and with assets and resources he’d personally acquired and built…

Since the concept became an integral part of Marvel’s cinematic and TV universe, the comics division has laboured to find a way to rationalise their two wildly dissimilar iterations of SHIELD. In 2015 scripter Mark Waid and a rotating squad of illustrators finally settled on a way to square that circle…

S.H.I.E.L.D. – now standing for the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement Logistics Division – is still a major player in defending humanity from the unimaginable, but movie icon Phil Coulson, his core TV team of Melinda May, Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons, plus hybrid versions of print-turned-screen stars such as Bobbi (Mockingbird) Morse have been deftly hived off into their own niche of comicbook continuity with Coulson in charge of an official sub-agency where – supplemented by SHIELD resources – his own geekishly vast and deep knowledge of metahuman trivia and contacts with the entire super-heroic community combine to tackle unnatural crises on a case-by-case basis…

The result – written by the master planner Mark Waid and illustrated by a rotating roster of star artists – is a fresh and supremely appetising blend of spies, sinister secret villains and super folk that is a joy to behold…

Collecting issues #1-6 of the breakthrough series (technically S.H.I.E.L.D. volume 3, spanning February to July 2015, if you’re keeping count) this volume commences with the eponymous ‘Perfect Bullets’ (illustrated by Carlos Pacheco, Mariano Taibo & Jason Paz, with Dono Sanchez Almara providing the colours) as SHIELD Special Ops Supreme Commander Coulson is forced to rally his barely wet-behind-the-ears unit to tackle a middle-eastern terrorist who has somehow latched onto a magic sword allowing him to summon all the monsters of mythology to batter the Earth.

As all the planet’s heroes wage a losing war against the invasion of gargantuan terrors, Coulson’s team rapidly identify the true owner of the blade and deploy the two ideal superheroes able to counter its threat…

Sadly, however, when the sword is restored to its rightful wielder, a hidden extra-dimensional presence is unleashed, forcing Coulson to improvise a final solution…

Then, adding funny to the fast and furious, a brace of comedic shorts follows. Crafted by Joe Quesada and starring boy-genius Fitz and his digital avatar H.E.N.R.Y., these strips were originally concocted to amuse the cast and crew of the TV show…

The all-comics action resumes with ‘The Animator’ (art by Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazabo & Edgar Delgado) as Xenobiology specialist Simmons is sent undercover to a High School in Jersey City to crack a smuggling ring. Of course, being a SHIELD Special Ops mission, the contraband being sought is not drugs of guns or something equally mundane, but rather weapons and tech stolen from super-villains.

Things instantly go bad when a Wizard power-glove stashed in a locker spontaneously activates, causing a riot. Thankfully fresh new Ms. Marvel Kamala Khan is a student at the beleaguered institution and steps up, impressing Coulson in the process…

Sadly it’s not the only crisis on campus as bio-plasm from genetic meddler Arnim Zola infects the cafeteria food, turning hungry kids into ravenous monsters…

With that catastrophe stomach-churningly averted, Fitz and H.E.N.R.Y. make another mirthful appearance before Alan Davis, Mark Farmer and colourist Matthew Wilson make the pictures for ‘Home Invasion’ as Coulson, Spider-Man and mystic parolee Mr. Rasputin break into the bewitched citadel of Doctor Strange to battle mystic mercenaries hired to raid the storehouse of magical wonders.

The thieves think they had it covered but their meddling unleashes forces that imperil the entire Earth. Moreover, in the aftermath Coulson sees something which sets him thinking that one hand might be behind the many threats his team has recently tackled…

After another delightful Fitz and H.E.N.R.Y. escapade, Chris Sprouse, Carl Story & Almara illustrate a deeply disturbing tale as Invisible Woman Susan Richards is seconded to the Special Ops unit to save a reluctant Hydra informant from a radioactive prison five miles underground. Sadly as ‘Fuel’ unfolds she discovers the truly vicious duplicity of her opponents and endures cruel whims of fate as the Mole Man attacks everybody and Coulson is forced to intervene before atomic Armageddon ensues…

The fifth instalment starts drawing disparate plot points together as the world’s mystics and supernatural champions are systematically gunned down by an assassin firing purpose-built ‘Magic Bullets’ (with art by Mike Choi and colourist Rachelle Rosenberg)…

With his resources reduced to the Scarlet Witch and professional sceptics Fitz and Simmons, Coulson uncovers a connection to Asgard and a mystery magical mastermind, only to have his team supernaturally suborned as the hidden manipulator makes his long-anticipated move…

This immensely entertaining epic concludes as Earth is afflicted with an arcane plague transforming humanity into mindless monsters compelling Coulson to assemble a squad of intellect-deficient atrocities – zombie Simon Garth, the Living Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster and Man-Thing – into an all-new unit of Howling Commandos to invade the ‘Dark Dimensions’ (illustrated by Paul Renaud & Romulo Farjado, Jr.) and stop the contagion and its creator at the source.

And because he’s the sneaky bastard he is, Coulson also takes along a secret weapon: the last villain anyone might expect to save the universe…

Fast-paced, action-packed, imaginative, thrilling, funny and superbly illuminated throughout, Perfect Bullets offers fantastic enjoyment for any Fights ‘n’ Tights fan with a smattering of Marvel history in their heads, but will particularly reward any TV aficionado willing to peek into the convoluted comicbook universe the SHIELD show sprang from.
© 2015 Marvel Characters. All rights reserved.

Star Trek: Year Four


By David Tischman, Leonard O’Grady, Steve Conley, Gordon Purcell, Joe & Rob Sharp & various (IDW)
ISBN: 978-1-62302-515-1

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: A Cosmic Christmas Cracker… 8/10

Star Trek debuted on American televisions on September 8th 1966 and pursued its declared “five-year mission” for three seasons comprising 79 episodes and running until June 3rd 1969.

Although a moderate success, the series only truly became a phenomenon after going into syndication, running constantly in American local TV regions throughout the 1970s. It was also sold all over the world, popping up seemingly everywhere and developing a remarkably devoted fanbase.

The stellar brand is probably one of the biggest franchise engines on Earth, permeating every merchandisable sector imaginable and becoming part of global popular culture and idiom. You can find daily live-action or animated screen appearances constantly screening somewhere on the planet, toys, games, conventions, merchandise, various comics iterations generated in a host of nations and languages and a reboot of the movie division proceeding apace even as I type this. There’s even a new rebooted TV series beginning in 2017…

Many companies have published comicbook adventures based on the exploits of Gene Roddenberry’s greatest brainchild. Currently IDW have the treasured funnybook license and have combined choice selections of older exploits from other publishers with great new tales.

In 2012 the company began adapting, updating and retelling classic episodes of the original Five Year Mission in the context and with the likenesses of actors from the 2008 rebooted film franchise (as re-imagined by J. J. Abrams, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman). To supplement that graphic reconfiguration IDW also initiated another strand: exploring the most fundamental aspect of the mythology by crafting new tales from the never-filmed Fourth Year of the original mission…

To be strictly accurate, the 1973-1974 animated series from Filmation/Norway Productions is considered by most fans to cover that year and indeed a few of the characters from that era have made it into this book…

This full-colour collection – also available as an eBook – gathers tales from July-December 2007, comprising the first six issues of Star Trek: Year Four plus material from Focus on… Star Trek. It begins with a scene-setting recap from series scripter David Tischman & visiting illustrator Leonard O’Grady who reintroduce the cast via the ‘Captain’s Personal Log’

Tischman & Steve Conley then get boldly going as the Enterprise encounters a bizarre syzygy of planets, moons and asteroids forming a double helix. Beaming down to The Strand, Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr.McCoy meet flamboyant geneticist Dr. Othello Beck who has appropriated the millennia-old abandoned medical facility and its wealth of data.

Seemingly benign and welcoming, Beck is happy to show them his recent successes such as subservient, recreated alien lifeforms, both alluring and ferociously aggressive. However, when a security officer is butchered and McCoy’s technical questions start to hit home, a dreadful secret is uncovered and Beck’s actual motives are revealed. It’s not long until the shooting starts…

Conley then illuminates a tale of civil strife as the Enterprise stops at ice world Aarak 3 to replenish her stores of Dilithium Crystals and finds the kingdom riven by rebellion and terrorism. Whilst King Marak welcomes the technological advancement trading crystals brings, many of his subjects still worship the mineral and consider bartering it to offworlders as blasphemy and sacrilege…

Of course, once Kirk and his crew begin to investigate and both sides try to kill them a different picture begins to emerge…

Veteran Trek artist Gordon Purcell illustrates the next mission as a stopover on colony world Phi-11 reveals that the entire population died suddenly of brain trauma. When the crew start acting oddly, it becomes clear that a lethal virus has invaded the sterile corridors of the USS Enterprise. Unfortunately for Nurse Christine Chapel, the truth is far stranger and soon she is battling her mind-controlled comrades to return a lost sentience to its place of origin…

Social commentary was a key part of the original TV series and here manifests as the Federation ship begins a cultural exchange mission on Viden – a world where the entertainment industry is the planetary government.

Tempers fray and Kirk’s landing party are arrested when an extra is killed on the set of a popular show, and soon the “spacemen” visitors are involved in a ratings war. If rival networks cannot outbid each other to own the Federation sensation they are ready and willing to eradicate them in a wry romp by Tischman and artists Joe & Rob Sharp.

In issue #5 Conley returned to depict the horrific results of a deep space experiment. Gemini was intended to prove the existence of Quark Gluon plasma, and went ahead despite the warnings of Enterprise helmsman Arex who predicted the unleashed energies could create an uncontrollable gravitational anomaly that would cause incalculable harm.

Of course the doomsayer is correct and the resulting phenomenon sucks in the Gemini Station, all its scientists and visiting supervisor Spock…

With the Quark Gluon cloud rapidly becoming a black hole, the entire region is endangered and to make matters worse a communication is received demonstrating that somewhere inside the anomaly the Vulcan is still alive…

Happily, both the time-dilated Spock and his shipboard replacement Temporary Science Officer Chekov have simultaneously and separately concocted a desperate last-ditch survival plan…

Wrapping up this volume of untold voyages, Tischman & Purcell reunite to detail a doomed rescue mission with the Enterprise systematically scanning the third planet of the Gobi system for signs of lost hospital ship USS Pasteur.

What they find instead is an automated horror-factory where an ancient robotic nursery system strip-mines visiting life for DNA and other elements to create a new generation of trans-species babies for sterile clients who have long since died out…

With a full covers-&-variants gallery by Kelsey Shannon, Conley & Joe Corroney, this is another fabulously enticing, expansive and engrossingly epic compendium of thrills, offering wonderfully engaging stories to delight young and old, fan or casual reader alike, and well worthy of your eager attentions.
STAR TREK ® and © 2008 CBS Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Star Trek and related marks are trademarks of CBS Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Star Trek: Gold Key Archives volume 5


By Arnold Drake, John David Warner, George Kashdan, Allan Moniz, Alfredo Giolitti & various (IDW)
ISBN: 978-1-63140-598-3

Star Trek launched in the USA on September 8th 1966, running until June 3rd 1969: three seasons comprising 79 episodes. A moderate success, the show only really achieved its stellar popularity after going into syndication; appearing in all American local TV regions perpetually throughout the 1970s and beyond.

It was also sold all over the world, popping up seemingly everywhere and developing a fanatically devoted fanbase.

Comicbook franchising specialist Gold Key produced a series which ran for almost a decade beyond the show’s cancellation. Initially these were controversially quite dissimilar from the screen iteration, but by the time of the tales in this sturdy full-colour hardback collection (reprinting issues #25-28 and #30-31 from July 1974 to July 1975), quibbling fans had little to moan about and a great deal to cheer as the series was the only source of new adventures starring the beloved crew of the Starship Enterprise.

Following an Introduction – ‘Discovering New Tales’ by Trek writer expert Bjo Trimble – the exploratory escapades resume with a fast-paced thriller written by Arnold Drake and illustrated as always by Alberto Giolitti.

Here the USS Enterprise arrives at a planet which seems recently deserted, only to discover aberrant solar radiation is causing planetary matter and objects to shrink into non-existence. With the landing party captured by the diminishing natives, Chief Engineer Scott investigates the sun itself and gets a major overdose of the radiation. In a desperate race against time, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy must pull out all the stops to save the incredible shrinking man and the ‘Dwarf Planet’

John David Warner scripted and Angelo Todaro assisted Giolitti in crafting ‘The Perfect Dream’ for the next issue as the Enterprise crew face a Starfleet board of inquiry after their last mission ends with the obliteration of a planet.

As the testimony unfolds the bemused officials hear the incredible story of an unstable world-sized ship, a utopian culture chillingly reminiscent of Earth’s feudal Shogunate of Japan, a deranged geneticist using clones to build an impossibly idealised and stratified society and a mad scheme to repeat the experiment with Vulcans grown from Spock’s stolen DNA…

In ‘Ice Journey’ (Warner & Giolitti) the Enterprise is conducting a highly suspect population survey on sub-arctic world Floe I which soon drops Captain Kirk, Spock and evolutionary specialist Dr. Krisp into the middle of a eugenics-fuelled race war…

‘The Mimicking Menace’ – written by George Kashdan – pits the veteran starmen against deadly duplicates of themselves on a bleak volcanic asteroid before they discover the attacks and bizarre energy drains are the result of First Contact with a radically new form of life…

Star Trek #29 was a reprint of the very first issue so we skip here to #30 and ‘Death of a Star’ (scripted by Allan Moniz) with the Enterprise on site to observe a star going nova and catapulted into calamity as sensors pick up a planet full of life-readings where none should be. Moving swiftly to evacuate the endangered beings they are astonished to discover only one creature: an old woman who claims to be the dying sun…

Warner then concludes the entertainment with ‘The Final Truth’ with the Starfleet vessel officiating as new planet Quodar officially joins the Federation. The mission goes dreadfully awry after Captain Kirk’s shuttle – full of crewmembers and a Starfleet Admiral – crashes on pariah world Tristas where the survivors are captured by sadistic scientists obsessed with discovering the secrets of life. As Spock organises a rescue mission the embattled Kirk uncovers a staggering cosmic secret the Ministers of Science have been carefully concealing for eons…

Rounding out this compelling compendium are cast photos, a gallery of painted covers and a picture-packed historical feature highlighting ‘George Wilson: Gold Key Reprints’. Stunning sci fi thrills and dashing derring-do abound in this thrilling collection of comics classics which will delight not just TV devotees and funnybook fans but also any reader in search of a pictorially powerful grand adventure.
® and © 2016 CBS Studios, Inc. Star Trek and related marks are trademarks of CBS Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Star Trek Gold Key Archive volume 4


By Arnold Drake, John David Warner, Gerry Boudreau, Alfredo Giolitti & various (IDW)
ISBN: 978-1-63140-449-8

Star Trek launched in the USA on September 8th 1966, running until June 3rd 1969: three seasons comprising 79 episodes. A moderate success, the show only really achieved its stellar popularity after going into syndication; running constantly in American local TV regions throughout the 1970s.

It was also sold all over the world, popping up seemingly everywhere and developing a fanatically devoted fanbase.

There was very little merchandising but an inevitable comicbook – from franchising specialist Gold Key – which ran for almost a decade beyond the show’s cancellation. The initial comics tales were controversially quite dissimilar from the screen episodes in many details, but by the time of the tales in this sturdy full-colour hardback collection (reprinting Star Trek #19-24 from July 1973 to May 1974), most inconsistencies had been ironed out and Italian superstar illustrator Alberto Giolitti had hit a peak of creativity.

Following Introduction ‘Where No Star Trek Comic Had Gone Before’ from Trek merchandising expert Paula M. Block, the trans-galactic trips resume with ‘The Haunted Asteroid’ – written by Arnold Drake and offering a rare Stateside inking job by Sal Trapani over Giolitti’s pencils – as the Starship Enterprise is despatched to investigate uncanny events at the universe’s most romantic tourist spot: a glittering space tomb built by an ancient ruler as a tribute to his lost love.

Before long the crew too are experiencing bizarre visions and seemingly supernatural visitations, leading Captain Kirk and his team to uncover an even more amazing solution and proof that true love is eternal…

Drake & Giolitti then detail how the odious task of escorting spoiled brat Crown Prince Raviki home to take up the reins of government becomes a deadly affair after planet Nukolee becomes ‘A World Gone Mad’. Moreover, whatever poisoned the minds of the boy’s subjects soon starts affecting the crew of the Enterprise…

John David Warner scripted ‘The Mummies of Heitius VII’ as Kirk and Company are ordered to escort an archaeological find to a research facility. When the body in question comes to life and shanghais the ship, the Captain, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy are drawn into a terrifying struggle against ancient automatons programmed to turn organic beings into slave cyborgs…

‘Siege in Superspace’ – written by Gerry Boudreau – sees the Enterprise drawn through a black hole into a higher realm and sucked into a war between humanoid refugees and ghastly war-machines grown by a marauding artificial intelligence from the flora and geology of their homeworld…

‘Child’s Play’ (also by Boudreau) follows a desperate SOS to a planet wracked by plague and devoid of adults. Infected by a disease which kills in days, the starship crew’s search for a cure is hampered by bellicose kids indulging in full-contact war games and well used to seeing everybody die before their thirteenth birthday…

This cosmic compendium concludes with another Drake & Giolitti collaboration as ‘The Trial of Captain Kirk’ finds the bold hero back on Earth to answer charges of bribery, corruption and collusion with pirates.

Subject of a most assiduous frame-up, Kirk happily acts as a stalking horse while Spock, McCoy and Engineer Scott ferret out the real traitor: a trail which leads into the highest echelons of Star Fleet…

Rounding out this compelling collection is a gallery of painted covers and a remarkably scanty biographical feature ‘George Wilson: About the Artist’; a man of immense imagination, prodigious talent and prolific output, but one about whom precious little is known.

Straightforward sci fi thrills and dashing derring-do pack this thrilling and astoundingly compelling collection of comics classics which will delight not just TV fans and comics collectors but also any reader in search of a graphically superior good time.
® and © 2015 CBS Studios, Inc. Star Trek and related marks are trademarks of CBS Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Star Trek Gold Key Archives volume 3


By Len Wein, Arnold Drake, Alfredo Giolitti, Giovanni Ticci & various (IDW)
ISBN: 978-1-63140-231-9

Star Trek debuted on American televisions on September 8th 1966, running until June 3rd 1969: three seasons comprising 79 episodes. A moderate success, the series only really became super-popular after going into syndication; running constantly in American local TV regions throughout the 1970s. It was also sold all over the world, popping up seemingly everywhere and developing a fanatically devoted fanbase.

There was some merchandising, and an inevitable comicbook – from Gold Key – which ran for almost a decade beyond the show’s cancellation. However, at the start neither authenticity nor immediacy were paramount. Only six issues were released during the show’s entire 3-season original run. Published between July 1967 and December 1968, those quirkily enticing yarns were all gathered in the first Star Trek: Gold Key archive collection.

The reason for the inaccuracies between screen and page was simple and a clear indication of the attitude both studio and publisher held about science fiction material. Initial scripter Dick Wood had seen no episodes when commissioned to write the comic, and with Italian artists Nevio Zaccara and Alberto Giolitti, received only the briefest of outlines and scant reference materials from the show’s producers. The comics craftsmen were working almost utterly in a vacuum…

Nevertheless, by the time of these interstellar exploits – reprinting Star Trek #13-18 from February 1972 to May 1973 – most of the well-intentioned contradictions of established Trek lore were long gone, thanks to better reference materials and familiarity with the actual show. These printed Enterprise incidents and missions are far closer to canonical parity with the TV phenomenon.

Following entertaining Introduction ‘Let’s See what She’s Got’ from educator and Trek scholar Joseph F. Berenato, the extra-solar explorations resume with ‘Dark Traveller’ (by Len Wein & Giolitti) which sees the Enterprise taken over by a shadowy being of incredible power who boosts its capabilities to send the crew hurtling across the universe.

Nomad shares his story of a world that grew too perfect and fell into cultural stagnation, and how he abandoned it for more primitive, questing races, before concluding that now his energies are fading his time to return home has come…

However, when he and his unwilling travelling companions reach Utopia, they find no paradise but a ruined world wracked by bloodshed, with mechanical killers everywhere, intent on eradicating the organic population.

Stranded far from home, the Federation crew have no choice but to join Nomad’s brutal war against an old friend driven to madness and mass-murder if they are to have any chance of seeing familiar stars again…

Star Trek #14 from May 1972 reveals how a diplomatic mission goes lethally awry after James Kirk is injured during a landing party excursion. Subsequently tasked with feting an unaligned dignitary whose civilisation and political allegiance is also being courted by Klingon emissaries, the Captain seemingly goes crazy and provokes ‘The Enterprise Mutiny’.

However, canny Mr. Spock deduces there is another explanation for his comrade’s sadistic and erratic behaviour…

August found Enterprise propelled beyond reality by a cosmic maelstrom and latterly becalmed in a region where physical laws don’t work properly. Invited to visit the ‘Museum at the End of Time’ by its uncanny Curator, Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy meet explorers from many worlds and eras who have long ago lapsed into immortal indolence. Typically the newcomers cannot reconcile themselves to the fact that there is no escape from the timeless limbo that holds them…

The situation escalates into bloody warfare when Klingons from a battle-cruiser also caught in the cosmic storm invade the museum. As chaos erupts, the time-lost denizens of limbo finally regain their old verve and fight back, just as Spock discovers the timeless realm is dying. The imminent end, however, does present one perilously slim chance of returning to their original plane of existence…

In November an Enterprise shuttlecraft suffered a catastrophic accident and crashed on a primitive, feudal world where the Federation crew had to hide their alien natures from a superstitious, theocratic cult tyrannising the primitive populace. To stand any chance of rescue Kirk, Spock, McCoy and their subordinates had to ally themselves with a resistance movement to escape torture and death on the ‘Day of the Inquisitors’

With #17 (February 1973), Arnold Drake replaced Wein as scripter and Giolitti split his illustrative duties with studio-mate Giovanni Ticci to solve the riddle of ‘The Cosmic Cavemen’.

On a distant world shared by dinosaurs and stone-age humans, Kirk, McCoy and Chief Engineer Scott are captured and paraded before telepathic priestess Lok. Their shock and disbelief go off the scale when they are taken to an idol which is the spitting image of Spock…

The immediate crisis seems over after the Vulcan beams in to rescue his crewmates, but wily Lok has a plan to place her tribe beyond the reach of all rivals and subtly steals the death dealing weapons of the starmen to further her aims…

The cosmic comic cavalcade then concludes with an interstellar crime caper from Drake, Giolitti & Ticci as planet Styra – threatened with imminent destruction – digitises and records its entire population on bio-magnetic tape, entrusting the Enterprise to transport and restore them to life on a new world.

Sadly, comely castaway Allura has already inserted herself aboard ship and begins vamping Spock whilst her partner – deranged showman and magician Anzar – purloins the tape and holds ‘The Hijacked Planet’ hostage.

The crazed genius believes he has every avenue covered but has never faced anyone as clever as the Vulcan or as foolhardy as James Kirk…

Rounding out this compelling collection is a gallery of painted covers by elusive but brilliant George Wilson and an in-depth, fact-packed biography and assessment of the phenomenal strip illustrator in ‘Alberto Giolitti: About the Artist’.

Fun, thrilling and astoundingly compelling, these are comics classics not just for devoted TV fans but a prime example of graphic storytelling at its most engaging.
® and © 2015 CBS Studios, Inc. Star Trek and related marks are trademarks of CBS Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Serenity: Firefly Class 03-K64 volume 3 – The Shepherd’s Tale


By Joss Whedon, Zack Whedon, Chris Samnee & various (Dark Horse Books)
ISBN: 978-1-59582-561-2

For those far too few people who actually saw it, Firefly remains one of the best science fiction TV shows ever created.

It was cancelled after one season. Buy the box set or seek it out from an on-demand/streaming media outlet as soon as you possibly can.

The select dejected fanbase were eventually delighted by the superb Serenity – one of the best science fiction movies ever released.

Rent it, buy it, watch it however you can.

Once you’ve done those things you’ll be properly primed to enjoy this superb and lavish full-colour hardback which offers long-awaited details into the troubled life of enigmatic preacher Book who joined reluctant freedom fighter Malcolm Reynolds and his oddball crew of reprobates aboard an independent trader starship of the Firefly class, under the most peculiar of circumstances…

If you aren’t au fait with “the ’Verse” yet – and did I mention the live action iterations are readily available and extremely entertaining? – here’s a little background.

After they used up Earth, humanity migrated to the stars and settled another star-system packed with hundreds of more or less hospitable planets and satellites. Now it’s the 26th century and mankind is living through the aftermath of a recent punishing internecine conflict known – by the victors – as the Unification War.

This still-sore and rankling clash saw the outer Colonies crushed after attempting to secede from the authoritarian Alliance of first-settled inner planets. Reynolds fought valiantly on the losing side and now spends his days eking out a living on the fringes of an increasingly repressive and dangerous universe: taking cargo and people from world to world – and hopefully avoiding the ever-expanding Alliance representatives – as a free agent skippering a small Firefly class cargo transport called Serenity.

It’s hard, risky work: often illegal and frequently dangerous – especially as the outer regions are where the insane cannibal berserker savages dubbed Reavers restlessly prowl.

Life changed forever after Serenity gave passage to Alliance doctor Simon Tam who was on the run after stealing his seemingly-psychic sister River from a top secret research project.

The Government spared no effort or expense to get her back and hounded the fugitives from pillar to post until Reynolds and his crew finally decided to push back.

At the cost of too many friends, the reluctant rebels uncovered the horrific secrets the Alliance were so desperate to keep hidden and broadcast them to the entire ’Verse …

During their TV voyages the Firefly crew was supplemented by a wise and gentle cleric of the Shepherd religion on a pilgrimage to who knew where. He offered moral guidance (mostly ignored), philosophical debate and emotional support as required, but every so often something Derrial Book said or did gave hints of lethal capabilities and a dangerous past the holy man always deftly avoided discussing…

Written by (series creator) Joss Whedon and Zack Whedon, illustrated by super-star in the making Chris Samnee (Daredevil, Thor: The Mighty Avenger, The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom) and sporting colours from Dave Stewart and letters by Steve Morris, this compelling book of revelations finally exposes the secrets and tells the life story of the show’s most intriguing character…

The episodic saga is told in flashes and snippets from end to beginning; starting with his eventual glorious passing and working backwards in dramatic instalments to the way and why it all began…

Along the road we see his turbulent time aboard Serenity, before moving into unexplored territory at placid Southdown Abbey where after much soul-searching he elected to rejoin the dangerous, tempting outer world…

From then it’s a jump back a full decade to when a drunken derelict near death received one more well-deserved beating and awoke to a moment of holy clarity in a bowl of soup…

From then a time-cut slashes back to the moment when Alliance high-flyer Officer Book personally oversaw the military’s greatest defeat and was cashiered out of the service with extreme prejudice…

Years prior to that another scene shows how far ambitious cadet Derrial would go to further his career before a further flashback reveals that the man we’ve been reading about was never Derrial Book at all, but instead a murderous sleeper agent planted within the Alliance.

And even further back we travel, learning what makes a boy into the kind of man who would endure mutilation and worse; contemplate constantly betraying everything he cares for in a dark yet redemptive tale exploring the most basic and abiding aspects of human nature…

With narrative tones reminiscent of Christopher Nolan’s Memento, this powerful testament to the force of personality, the bondage of upbringing and man’s infinite capacity for change is accompanied by an incisive and heartfelt Afterword – ‘The Journey is the Worthier Part…’ from scripter Zack Whedon, detailing the inspirations which fuelled many of the story’s most memorable scenes.

Poignant, compelling and explosively engaging, this is a tale no devotee should miss and a comic experience well able to stand apart from its live action roots.
Serenity © 2010 Universal Studios. Firefly™ and Serenity: Firefly Class 03-K64™ and © 2014 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

Star Trek Archives volume 5: Best of Captain Kirk


By Peter David, James Fry, Gordon Purcell, Arne Starr & various (IDW)
ISBN: 978-1-60010-571-5

The stellar Star Trek brand is one of probably the biggest franchise engines on Earth, permeating every merchandisable sector imaginable. You can find daily live-action and animated screen appearances constantly screening somewhere on the planet, toys, games, conventions, merchandise, various comics iterations generated in a host of nations and languages and a reboot of the movie division proceeding apace even as I type this. There’s even a new rebooted TV series beginning in 2017…

Many companies have published comicbook adventures based on the exploits of Gene Roddenberry’s immortal brainchild. Currently IDW have the treasured funnybook license and are combining great new tales with a choice selection of older examples from other publishers.

A particularly fine extended exploit can be found in this epic sequence taken from a splendid run produced under the DC badge during the 1980s and early 1990s. Never flashy or sensational, those tales assiduously and scrupulously referenced the TV and movie canon whilst embracing the same storytelling values and concentrating on stories simultaneously character-led and plot-driven.

Here Federation history blends seamlessly with suspenseful drama and spectacular action, subtle character interplay, boisterous humour and good old fashioned thrills as scripter Peter David and his artistic allies concoct a tense, politically-tinged saga first seen in issues #7-12 of DC’s monthly Star Trek comicbook (spanning April to September 1990).

Previously: a number of hostile alien races – the Klingons – just prior to their grand rapprochement with the Federation – and a now-uncomfortably un-PC fundamentalist species called Nasguls (based on then-contemporary bugbear Iran under the Ayatollahs) have recently fallen foul of James T. Kirk’s unconventional problem-solving methods.

Having had enough of the human’s impious interference, the holy Salla of the Nasguls placed a planet-sized bounty on the Enterprise’s Captain.

Kirk doesn’t care: he has bigger problems. Finally fed up with his interstellar shenanigans, Starfleet has appointed civilian protocol officer R. J. Blaise to the Enterprise to make sure Kirk behaves properly, but somehow this beautiful woman is completely immune to our hero’s amatory charms…

The astral action opens on Earth where Starfleet Vice-Admiral Tomlinson and the Federation President are enduring a fractious and tiresome meeting with the Klingon ambassador and the august Salla himself.

The tyrannical aliens have temporarily suspended their disdain for each other and are now (relatively) united in pursuing quasi-legal avenues; seeking to have Kirk cashiered from the service, tried in a Federation court and then – naturally – executed…

Events take a most unwelcome turn in ‘Not… Sweeney!’ (by David, James W. Fry & Arne Starr) as news comes that the most dreaded bounty hunter in the universe has decided to collect the price on Kirk’s head.

Caring little for the death-sentence dogging him, the starship captain is utterly incensed when it adversely affects his job. Despatched to Tau Gamma II to rescue a human colony before the geologically unstable planet shakes itself to bits, Kirk is flabbergasted to find the survivors demanding another ship or to be left to the world’s erratic mercies, rather than endure certain doom when Sweeney comes for the Enterprise’s captain…

Their anxiety proves well-founded when hours later the infallible stalker arrives with a fleet of ships and attacks…

After a tremendous struggle in ‘Going, Going…’, Kirk – with Spock and Blaise as collateral captives – is confined aboard the disturbingly effete bounty hunter’s flagship and made the star of an impromptu auction.

Kirk has made many enemies in his career and a ferocious bidding war begins, but Sweeney’s attentions are soon diverted by Spock. The scrupulously polite and terrifyingly brilliant manhunter has never met a captive like the Vulcan, and his distracting new fascination eventually leads to Sweeney’s first defeat as Kirk and Blaise break out of the Brig just as competing Klingon and Nasgul forces warp in to claim the prize lot in Sweeney’s auction…

Things come to a head when the situation deteriorates into a petulant shooting war in ‘…Gone!’, leaving Kirk to pull off yet another hairsbreadth escape and even save the colonists on Tau Gamma II…

However, no longer willing to tolerate the political machinations, he then forces the issue to a head by surrendering himself to Federation authorities on Earth and demanding his day in court to clear his name once and for all…

Given the chance for a show trial, the Salla and his Klingons antagonists revel in the chance to destroy the greatest hindrance to their plans as ‘The Trial of James T. Kirk’ opens with ‘The First Thing We Do…’

This story-within-a-story is stuffed with hilarious cameos and vignettes from many old TV episodes (but in an easily accessible manner for newcomers unfamiliar with lore) and sees Kirk’s attorneys Samuel T. Cogsley and Areel Shaw (look them up if you need to) deftly manoeuvre to remove most of the charges whilst rolling out many fan-favourites from old episodes to act as “character witnesses”…

Despite making some telling points, an Enterprise crewman turning to the Dark Side and the frank sworn testimony of R. J. Blaise, the is case is clearly going against the Klingons and Nasgul. Thus they individually and clandestinely resort to their respective “Plan Bs” in ‘…Lets Kill All the Lawyers!’

The bellicose warrior race fly in their Emperor to give personal testimony and demand Kirk’s destruction whilst the fundamentalist tyrant of the Nasgul opts for a far more hands-on and devastatingly final solution…

Pencilled by Gordon Purcell, the saga explosively concludes in ‘Trial and Error!’ as deft work by Spock and the Bridge Crew uncover a plot to eradicate the courtroom and everyone in it, leading to a cessation of hostilities between the Federation and the Klingons and Kirk’s full exoneration.

Sadly, those efforts completely failed to expose the treacherous mole high in Star Fleet Command who was crucial to instigating the entire affair…

This tale is pure classic Trek. The fans loved it then and you will now. It’s also a very good example of how to do a licensed property in comic form, and readers and wannabe creators should buy and take note. Balancing the action and drama are captivating moments of interpersonal byplay filling out the roles of beloved characters such as Uhura and Sulu and – as you’d expect from Peter David – the story is packed with outrageously hilarious quotable moments…

These yarns are magical romps of fun and thrills that fully embrace and enhance the canonical Star Trek for the dedicated fan, provide memorable comicbook adventure for followers of our art-form and, most importantly, provide an important bridge between the insular world of fans and the wider mainstream. Stories like these about such famous characters can only bring more people into comics and isn’t that what we all want?
Star Trek ® and © 2009 CBS Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Star Trek and related marks are trademarks of CBS Studios, Inc.

Star Trek Gold Key Archives volume 2


By Dick Wood, Len Wein, Alfredo Giolitti & various (IDW)
ISBN: 978-1-63140-108-4

Star Trek debuted on American televisions on September 8th 1966, running until June 3rd 1969: three seasons comprising 79 episodes. A moderate success, the series only really became popular after going into syndication, running constantly in American local TV regions throughout the 1970s. It was also sold all over the world, popping up seemingly everywhere and developing quite a devoted fanbase.

There was some merchandising, and an inevitable comicbook – from Gold Key – which ran for almost a decade beyond the show’s cancellation. However, at the start neither authenticity nor immediacy were paramount. Only six issues were released during the show’s entire 3-season run: published between July 1967 and December 1968, those quirkily enticing yarns are all gathered in the first Star Trek: Gold Key archive collection.

The reason for the inaccuracies between screen and page was simple and probably a clear indicator of the attitude both studio and publisher held about science fiction material. Scripter Dick Wood (a veteran comics writer with credits ranging from on hundreds of series from Batman to Crime Does Not Pay to Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom) had never seen any episodes when commissioned to write the comic, with he and Italian artists Nevio Zaccara – and later Alberto Giolitti – receiving only the briefest of outlines and scant reference materials from the show’s producers. The comics craftsmen were working almost utterly in a vacuum…

Nevertheless, by the time of these interstellar exploits – reprinting Star Trek #7-12 from March 1970 to November 1971 – the well-intentioned contradictions to now-firmly established Trek lore were slowly fading as better reference and familiarity with the actual show steered the printed Enterprise incidents towards canonical parity with the TV phenomenon.

Following a revelatory Introduction ‘The Adventure Continues…’ from licensed-character specialists/authors Scott and David Tipton, another stunning photo-collage cover – a rarity at the time outside Gold Key titles – leads into an eerie cosmic quest as Kirk and his crew discovers ‘The Voodoo Planet’ (Wood & Giolitti, #7).

In an unexplored region of space, Enterprise discovers an uninhabited doppelganger of Earth, complete with monuments and landmarks. When a hidden mastermind then causes the Eiffel Tower to crumble, word comes that the original back home has also come tumbling down…

As the seemingly magical destruction continues, Enterprise tracks a transmission and travels to a planet almost obscured by debris and space junk and finds there a primitive race practising voodoo…

Shock follows shock as a landing party finds escaped Earth war-criminal Count Dressler has subjugated the natives and adapted their abilities to launch devastating attacks on the world that exiled him…

The villain’s arrogance soon proves his undoing as Dressler underestimates the ingenuity of Mr. Spock and sheer bloody-mindedness of James T. Kirk

‘The Youth Trap’ was released with a September 1970 cover-date and sees assorted members of the crew transformed into children by a manic alien explorer who has turned a fantastic survival technology into an irresistible weapon.

Whilst Kooba’s appalled comrades only want to get home, the madman believes his chronal ray will win him a universe. Once again the combination of Spock’s brains and Kirk’s brawn win the day…

From the February 1971 ninth issue, Wood was replaced by dedicated Trek viewer Len Wein (Swamp Thing, Batman, Spider-Man, Hulk) who joined the astounding Alberto Giolitti to explore ‘The Legacy of Lazarus’ wherein the ever outward-bound Enterprise fetched up to a remote planet and found it populated with all the great figures of humanity’s past.

When Spock vanishes his trail leads to a hidden cavern where Earth’s greatest historian Alexander Lazarus has combined robotics and recovered alien technology to gather in the actual brainwaves of history’s giants to create the most astounding resource for knowledge ever conceived.

Sadly, the great feat has only whetted the savant’s appetite and Lazarus wants to perform the same feat with the great and good of Vulcan’s past. To get started, he needs the brain of a native and Spock is the nearest and therefore only logical candidate…

Luckily for the beleaguered Science Officer, Kirk and his comrades can call on the wisdom and courage of Earth’s greatest heroes to aid in their rescue attempt…

With Star Trek #10 (May 1971) stills from Paramount were no longer forthcoming and George Wilson began his series of captivating painted covers. Meanwhile, on the pages inside, mystery and imagination hold sway as the starship is plucked out of the void by a cosmic genie whilst Kirk, Spock, Dr. Leonard McCoy and Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott are dumped at the feet of a storybook tyrant who demands they steal for him the awesome ‘Sceptre of the Sun’

All too soon however the doughty space-farers unravel the lies underpinning the seeming omnipotence of Chang the Sorcerer to find his true origins stem from a long-lost expedition from Earth in ages past…

From August 1971, ‘The Brain Shockers’ details how neophyte Yeoman Pandora Trask is tricked by a marauding alien into opening a hatch she wasn’t meant to; unleashing a wave of malignant emotions hidden aboard the Enterprise.

The deadly feelings were originally extracted and bottled at the time Vulcans first sought to abandon passion for logic and were being transported to a secret destination, but now their rampage through the ship and the assailant’s world will wreak havoc unless Spock can outthink both them and immortal, seemingly suicidal Malok

Closing this bombastic treasure-trove is ‘The Flight of the Buccaneer’ (#12, November 1971) with Kirk, McCoy, Scott and Spock ordered undercover to infiltrate a nest of interstellar pirates and recover Star Fleet’s stolen store of Dilithium crystals in a fast-paced, all-guns-blazing romp homaging Treasure Island

Packed with photo-covers, promotional photos and a complete Cover Gallery this is another fabulously enticing, expansive and epic compendium of thrills: truly engaging stories to delight young and old alike and well worthy of your rapt attentions.
® and © 2014 CBS Studios, Inc. Star Trek and related marks are trademarks of CBS Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Star Trek volume 1


By Mike Johnson, Stephen Molnar, Joe Phillips & various (IDW Publishing)
ISBN: 978-1-61377-150-1

The stellar Star Trek brand is one of probably the biggest franchise engines on Earth, permeating every merchandisable sector imaginable. You can find daily live-action and animated screen appearances constantly screening somewhere on the planet, toys, games, conventions, merchandise, various comics iterations generated in a host of nations and languages and a reboot of the movie division proceeding apace even as I type this. There’s even a new rebooted TV series beginning in 2017…

Many companies have published comicbook adventures based on the exploits of Gene Roddenberry’s awesome brainchild. Currently IDW have the treasured funnybook license and have combined great new tales with a choice selection of older examples from other publishers. In 2012 the company also began a long-term project adapting, updating and retelling classic episodes of the original “Five Year Mission” in the context of the 2008 rebooted film franchise as re-imagined by J. J. Abrams, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman.

Thus a series of very familiar yarns for older fans starring the visual likenesses of the new Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scott, Uhura et al, all working under the influence of very different social mores and far more complicated personal relationships, presented in lean, terse, stripped down comics that work with potently understated effectiveness…

Written by Mike Johnson and illustrated by Stephen Molnar & Joe Phillips, proceedings open with ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’ as Chief Engineer Scott pushes his team to complete the million-&-one tasks necessary to keep a starship running. It’s the earliest days of a projected five-year voyage of exploration and rookie captain James Kirk is spending as much time playing chess with his beloved friend and academy comrade Gary Mitchell as his schedule will allow.

The quiet time ends when Science Officer Spock informs him of a distress beacon. It is being emitted by an artefact from legendary lost ship SS Valiant, vanished two centuries past. That vessel was attempting the same task as the Enterprise: finding the edge of the galaxy and seeing what was beyond…

The garbled records-data is unclear but indicates a terrible calamity, crewmen changing, something about extra-sensory perception and then nothing…

Apprehensive but undaunted, Kirk orders the ship onward and soon they are facing an energy phenomenon at the galactic terminus point: an energy-wall preventing further progress which explosively disrupts hundreds of ship-systems and has an agonising effect on many of the crew, especially Mitchell…

Soon the extent of a bizarre metamorphosis is apparent. Gary is no longer human. However, the problem is not the incredible array of psychokinetic abilities Mitchell is increasingly displaying but that he now clearly believes himself above and beyond humanity. When Uhura discovers that the crew of the long-vanished Valiant destroyed their own ship, Spock realises what must be done but finds it almost impossible to convince his wilful, emotionally-encumbered superior of the need to destroy his best friend before it’s too late…

‘The Galileo Seven’ is the next classic revamp as the Enterprise is diverted to deliver crucial medical supplies to a plague-wracked colony world. En route, the ship passes a rare cosmic phenomenon and, over-ruling the doctrinaire career-politician aboard, Captain Kirk allows his science staff time to briefly examine the cosmological treasure-trove before resuming the mercy-dash to Makus III.

Tragically the volatile quasar they’re focused on unleashes all its fury and the shuttlecraft Galileo 7 – carrying Spock, Dr. McCoy, Engineer Scott, Yeoman Rand and crewmen Latimer, Gaetano and Boma – is disabled in a wave of energy and only just manages to crash down on a nearby planet. Although breathable the atmosphere prevents their communications equipment from functioning…

Moreover, Taurus II is not uninhabited and the proto-sentient primitives evolving there don’t like strangers…

As the stranded crew struggle to repair the cracked and crushed shuttle, the first death comes, but even after miracles are wrought and the Galileo is prepped for one last take-off, the sums are done and it’s clear that not all of the survivors are going to be able to ride on the compromised, fuel-deprived final flight.

The closely-circling natives agree…

With a clock ticking and thousands of lives at stake Kirk – after exhausting every avenue left to him – regretfully gives the order to abandon the search for his lost crewmen, but Uhura refuses to leave her lover Spock behind and instigates a mutinous, last-ditch attempt to rescue them…

Also featuring a copious ‘Art Gallery’ which includes covers and variants by David Messina & Giovanni Niro, Tim Bradstreet & Grant Goleash and Joe Corroney plus photos  and pin-ups of the new crew, this book is a simple, no-nonsense, old-yet-new space opera romp to please fans of the franchise and lovers of straightforward science fiction worlds of wonder.
® and © 2012 CBS Studios, Inc. Star Trek and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios, Inc. © 2012 Paramount Pictures Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Star Trek: Gold Key Archives volume 1


By Dick Wood, Nevio Zaccara, Alfredo Giolitti & various (IDW)
ISBN: 978-1-61377-922-4

Star Trek debuted on American televisions on September 8th 1966 and ran until June 3rd 1969: three seasons comprising 79 episodes. A moderate success, it only really became popular after going into syndication, running constantly throughout the 1970s. It was also sold all over the world, popping up seemingly everywhere and developing quite a devoted fanbase.

Being a third world country, Britain didn’t see the show until July 12th 1969 when BBC One screened “Where No Man Has Gone Before” in black-&-white and then proceeded to broadcast the rest of the series in the wrong order.

“Arena” was the first episode screened in colour (November 15th 1969), but viewers didn’t care. We were all hooked anyway and many of the show’s catchphrases – some entirely erroneous or even fictitious – quickly entered the popular lexicon of the nation.

It even spawned a British-originated comic strip which ran in Joe 90, TV21 and TV21 and Valiant from the late 1960s and into the 1970s. Those have also been collected by IDW and I’ll get to them in the fullness of time and space.

In the USA, although there was some merchandising, things were a little less enthusiastically embraced. Even though there was a comicbook – from Gold Key, running for almost a decade after the show’s cancellation – authenticity wasn’t really a watchword and immediacy or urgency not an issue. In fact, only six issues were released during the show’s entire run of three seasons. Published between July 1967 and December 1968, they are all gathered in this first archive Star Trek.

Printing giant Whitman Publishing had been producing their own books and comics for decades through their Dell and Gold Key imprints, rivalling and often surpassing DC and Timely/Marvel at the height of their powers. Famously they never capitulated to the wave of anti-comics hysteria which resulted in the crippling self-censorship of the 1950s and Dell Comics never displayed a Comics Code Authority symbol on their covers.

They never needed to: their canny blend of media and entertainment licensed titles were always produced with a family market in mind and the creative staff took their editorial stance from the mores of the filmic Hayes Code and the burgeoning television industry.

Just like the big and little screen, the product enticed but never shocked and kept contentious social issues implicit instead of tacit. It was a case of “violence and murder are fine but never titillate.”

Moreover, most of their adventure comics covers were high quality photos or paintings – adding a stunning degree of veracity and verisimilitude to even the most outlandish of concepts for us wide-eyed waifs in need of awesome entertainment.

The company seemed the only logical choice for a licensed comicbook, and to be honest, these stories are cracking little space opera yarns, but they occupy an odd position in the hearts of older fans. In the UK, distribution of American comicbooks was haphazard at best, but the Trek yarns were reprinted in hardback Christmas annuals. However, the earliest ones bore little resemblance to the TV version.

Our little minds were perplexed and we did wonder, but as the adventures offered plenty of action and big sci fi concepts we just enjoyed them anyway.

Original British Star Trek yarns came in serialised comic-strip form, superbly illustrated and bearing a close resemblance to the source material. It only appeared as 2 or 3-page instalments in weekly anthologies, but was at least instantly familiar to TV viewers.

I discovered the answer to the discrepancy years later: scripter Dick Wood (a veteran writer who had worked on hundreds of series from Batman and the original Daredevil to Crime Does Not Pay and Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom) had not seen the show when commissioned to write the comicbook iteration, and both he and Italian artists Nevio Zaccara – and later Alberto Giolitti – received only the briefest of outlines and scant reference materials from the show’s producers. They were working almost in the dark…

When you read these tales, you’ll see some strange sights and apparent contradictions to Trek canon lore, but they were all derived from sensible assumptions by creators doing the very best with what meagre information they had.

If you’re likely to have your nostalgic fun spoiled by wrong-coloured shirts or “Lasers” rather than “Phasers”, think alternate universe or read something else. Ultimately, you are the only one missing out…

That’s enough unnecessary apologising. These splendidly conceived all-ages tales don’t deserve or need it, and even the TV version was a constantly developing work-in-progress, as fan and occasional Trek scripter Tony Isabella reveals in his Introduction ‘These Are the Voyages…’

Accompanied by the stunning photo-collage covers and endpapers – a rarity at the time outside Gold Key titles – the quirky collation of cosmic questing commences with ‘The Planet of No Return’ (Wood & Zaccaria, #1, July 1967) as the Enterprise enters a region of space oddly devoid of life and encounters predatory spores from the planet designated Kelly-Green.

It’s a world of horror where vegetative life contaminates and transforms flesh and mindlessly seeks to constantly consume and conquer. After the survivors of the landing party escape deadly doom and return to the safety of space, there is only one course of action Captain Kirk can take…

‘The Devil’s Isle of Space’ was released with a March 1968 cover-date and found the ever-advancing Enterprise trapped in a space-wide electronic net. The technology was part of a system used by an alien race to pen death-row criminals on asteroids, where they would be (eventually) executed in a truly barbarous manner.

Sadly, it’s hard not to interfere in a sovereign culture’s private affairs when the doomed criminals hold Federation citizens hostage and want Kirk to hand his ship over to them…

Bombastic and spectacular, ‘Invasion of the City Builders’ (#3 December 1968) saw the legendary Alberto Giolitti take the artistic reigns. Prolific, gifted and truly international, his work and the studio he created produced a wealth of material for three continents; everything from Le Avventure di Italo Nurago, Tarzan, The Phantom, Mandrake, Flash Gordon, Zorro, Cisco Kid, Turok, Gunsmoke, King Kong, Cinque anni dopo, Tex Willer and dozens more. In England the Giolitti effect enhanced many magazines and age ranges; everything from Flame of the Forest in Lion to Enchanted Isle in Tammy.

His gritty line-work added a visual terseness and tension to the mix, as seen in his first outing as the Enterprise crew land on a planet where automated machines programmed to build new homes and roads have been out of control for a century. Forcing the organic population to the edge of extinction, the mechs build cities no one can live in over the soil they need to grow food. The machines seem indestructible but Mr. Spock has an idea…

Social commentary gave way to action and suspense when ‘The Peril of Planet Quick Change’ (June 1969) finds the crew investigating a world of chimerical geological instability, only to see Spock possessed by beings made of light. The creatures use him to finally stabilise their unruly world, but once the crisis is averted, one of the luminous spirits refuses to leave the Vulcan and plans to make the body its own…

‘The Ghost Planet’ (September 1969) was fast approaching parity with the TV incarnation as Enterprise encounters a world ravaged by radiation rings. The twin rulers are eager for the star men’s help in removing the rings but don’t want them hanging around to help rebuild the devastated civilisation. A little investigation reveals that most of the carnage is due to eternal warfare which the devious despots plan to resume as soon as the Federation ship destroys the radiation rings and leaves…

Wrapping up this first hardback treasure-trove is ‘When Planets Collide’ (December 1969): a classic conundrum involving two runaway worlds inexorably drawn to each other and mutual destruction. What might have been a simple observable astronomical event becomes fraught with peril when the Enterprise crew discover civilisations within each world which would rather die than evacuate their ancient homes…

With time running out and lives at stake there’s only one incredible chance to save both worlds, but it will take all Spock’s brains and Kirk’s piloting skill to avert cosmic catastrophe…

Bold, expansive and epic, these are great stories to delight young and old alike and well worth making time and space for.
® and © 2014 CBS Studios, Inc. Star Trek and related marks are trademarks of CBS Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.