Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Review: 'Star Trek: The Classic UK Comics-The Complete Series Volume One: 1969-1970'

In the classic “Mirror, Mirror” episode of “Star Trek”, Captain Kirk, Uhura, Scotty, and Bones get zapped onto a parallel-universe Enterprise where Spock is a sadistic monster with a Van Dyke beard, Chekov attempts to assassinate Kirk, and Sulu is a horny creep with a weird scar and comb-over. OK, the characters who appeared in the “Star Trek” comic strip that ran in UK magazines from 1969-1973 weren’t as far-removed from their better-known counterparts as the “Mirror, Mirror” villains were, but they definitely weren’t TV’s Kirk, Spock, Sulu, etc. Spock was a much more bellicose dude than the logical and peaceful chap on CBS’s series. Kirk was sometimes called “Kurt.” In early strips, Uhura and Sulu tend to get sidelined in favor of a Red Shirt named Bailey who’d only appeared in one episode of the TV series. That series had its share of nutty episodes, but they didn’t suck nitrous oxide the way stories in the UK comics did. A typical tale finds Kirk getting imprisoned in a zoo by a giant mantis before playing soccer on The Planet of the Apes.

The UK “Star Trek” strips were kind of like Marvel’s Star Wars comics, which rocketed away from the canon in similar fashion, and like those crazy Star Wars books, the “Star Trek” strips are fun because they are so goofy, so wrong. They are also painted beautifully with the characters regularly resembling their screen incarnations very closely, which was rarely true of Marvel’s Star Wars.

IDW gathers nearly 90 strips in Star Trek: The Classic UK Comics-The Complete Series Volume One: 1969-1970. IDW’s great strength has always been its fidelity to the original comics it reprints, and I’ve often praised the publisher’s grainy, comic-like paper stock and refusal to recolor. However, fidelity is the undoing of half of The Classic UK Comics Volume One. These comics were originally published as two-page spreads in various magazines, and a magazine is much easier to spread out than a hardcover book. Because IDW copies that magazine format so closely, a lot of image and text gets lost in the crease. This problem evaporates half way through the book when a variation in the original layout appears. Unfortunately, this is also when original artist Harry F. Lindfield disappears, and with it goes the flawless likenesses of the characters. Fortunately, the parallel-universe shenanigans are still goofy fun to read, which will hopefully continue to be the case when IDW publishes volume two.
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