Friday, May 29, 2009

Star Trek Omnibus Volume 1

For a change, IDW is reprinting material that hasn't been published in book form before. (Well, three issues were.) This omnibus reprints issues 4 through 18 of Marvel's 1980-81 run of Star Trek comics. (The first three issues were a reprint of the magazine-sized special movie adaptation, and they'll be in a future IDW collection of comic adaptations of Trek movies.)

In 1979, Marvel getting the licence seemed like good news. Gold Key was still publishing its comic but it had long been an uneven series, aimed too much at kids and, in its early years, produced by people who knew nothing about the TV series. Marvel, which produced a lot of the best comics of the 1970s, and which had tie-in experience aplenty (2001: A Space Odyssey, Logan's Run, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica) had to do a better job. Hell, it would probably be amazing.

Then the comics started coming out, and all that optimism faded quickly. The movie adaptation was a sloppy-looking rush job. And then the first three issues of the comic, as I mentioned above, just reprinted that adaptation, giving us stuff we already had and didn't like that much the first time. The first original story was about a haunted house in space, a two-parter that was begun by Marv Wolfman but finished by Mike W. Barr, who (IIRC) wasn't told how Wolfman had planned to end the story. Not a good sign. There were a lot of changes in creative staff over the fifteen issues of original stories. Writers included Wolfman, Barr, Martin Pasko, Tom DeFalco, Michael Fleisher, Alan Brennert, and J.M. DeMatteis. There was a similar number of artists. With that kind of turnover in that short a time, there was no way the comic could maintain any kind of consistency, much less develop any kind of vision or story arc, and on rereading this collection, I found, ironically, that some of the better stories read and felt a lot like the better Gold Key comics. And the worst didn't have the so-bad-it's-good appeal of the worst Gold Key comics.

So, it's not great reading, though Barr, at least, went on to write much better material for later Star Trek comics. So, how does the book look? Is it at least a pleasure to look at? No, not really. The art wasn't always all that great to begin with, but it's badly reproduced here. Colours are often faded, sometimes missing, sometimes the wrong colour (I checked against the scans on the Star Trek comic DVD released last year; those look a hell of a lot better). Even the black inked lines and dialogue are sometimes thin and faded.

I'd love to be able to recommend this as a flawed but intriguing look at an early phase in the history of Trek comics, or as some of the first post-TMP tie-in fiction, but it simply isn't very good. I do recommend buying the comic DVD, which includes all these comics and hundreds more for about twice the price of this book. You can read these stories there in the comfort of knowing there's a lot of much better material to be read on the DVD.


At 12:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There were 2001 tie-in comics?? Now that's something I'd like to have a gander at...

At 8:37 AM, Blogger Steve said...

Jack Kirby wrote and illustrated a large-size movie adaptation, then did a ten-issue series of original stories inspired by the movie. Some good info here:

At 3:53 AM, Blogger zriza said...

ITA about the crude art and faded colors & lettering. IDW couldn't have more with the colors and lettering as they do in the Doctor Who classics series. I also dislike the smaller omnibus format. Using the larger archives format would have been better.

But I disagree about the stories. Already read half of them and enjoyed them. They are much better then the swiss cheese Tichman (sp) stories that IDW used at the beginning of their Satr Trek run.

At 7:06 PM, Blogger Doug said...

I was so excited about getting this omnibus -- sure, the stories were cheesy, but fun. But the reproduction is embarrassingly bad. WTF, IDW?


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