One of the fun things about Star Trek fiction is that, over time, it has brushed up against other fictional universes – sometimes very overtly, as in the Star Trek/Green Lantern or Star Trek/Planet of the Apes comics of recent years, and going at least as far back as some peculiar crossovers with the X-Men in the 1990s. Sometimes, though, these cross-dimensional encounters have to be more referential than that, for one reason or other, and that is where New Visions #15 exists. At least, I think so.
Romain Baudy and Martin Trystram’s Pacific left me with the uncanny feeling that there’s something I missed. The graphic novel is a tale of the crew of a U-boat near the end of the Second World War, and one that begins in a mundane enough manner: a new crew member comes aboard, learning the ropes, being hazed by his crewmates as he’s introduced to the tight, unprivate quarters he’ll be restricted to in the coming weeks. One of his crewmates – though each is rendered as a recognizable individual, names are hard to come by – discovers a banned book amongst the newcomer’s belongings. Nazis were serious about their book banning, you know.
I like The Spire a lot. It feels big, dense, and lived-in. I’ve been reading a lot of comics that fit into the same broad techno-fantasy genre (It seems like we’re getting a lot these days.), but relatively few produce a world that seems quite so complex as The Spire. This is the kind of world where, though the story wraps up by the end of the book, there’s a real sense that the world goes on. That it existed before this story began and will continue to exist now that it’s over, even if we don’t get to peek into it anymore.
There are a few questions fans ask about Star Trek repeatedly. “Who’s the best captain?” “Why do some Klingons look like Eurasian stereotypes and others have a ton of ridges on their foreheads?” “Why would you ever build a holodeck that could, in theory, kill someone?” These questions are timeless. “What would Captain Kirk’s Iron Man cosplay look like?” is not one of these questions for most people, but if you are one of the happy few, New Visions has you covered.
My grandparents were always big readers. Their house was, among other things, a paperback lover’s wonderland - bookshelves at every turn, laden with volumes from the most recent bestsellers to old, worn copies of long-forgotten masterpieces. My grandfather, in particular, shaped many of my own tastes. The book I most remember receiving, reading, and loving was Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot. I recommend it. The only thing it shares with the Will Smith movie is a name (and, I guess, that there are robots in it).
Brian Haberlin’s telling a story I’ve been looking for for years: science fiction full of exploration and discovery, grounded in a clear interest in real(ish) science, more about the ship, its crew, and the things they encounter than blowing up bad guys. I mean, there are bad guys, and existential threats, and action…but, like in the best eras of Star Trek, these are there to heighten the drama – obstacles to overcome. They raise the stakes. They aren’t the point. There’s an inherent optimism and exceptionalism to it (again, much like Star Trek, to which Haberlin makes overt references on numerous occasions), and when the majority of science fiction offerings in popular culture have been focused on deadly aliens and laser swords for a number of years, Faster Than Light feels like coming home again.
At a glance, The Battles of Bridget Lee: Invasion of Farfall appears to be another in a long line of post-apocalyptic alien invasion comics, albeit one aimed at younger readers, but to dismiss it as unremarkable wouldn’t be giving it enough credit. There’s something truly charming in Bridget Lee, and arguably something rather important, too, and in that, it manages to surprise. This is a comic I want to see go places.
The latest in John Byrne’s ongoing tales of the voyages of the USS Enterprise is also one of the best to date. “Swarm” – not to be confused with the similarly-named Voyager episode – is in many ways the epitome of the New Visions concept, bringing together classic Star Trek storytelling with effects the show would never have been able to afford. In this case, those effects are the massive swarm of alien vessels that seem to be making stars go supernova – and only the Enterprise stands between them and a disaster that could claim billions of lives.
I was at prime Power Rangers age back in 1993, when the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers started airing. That franchise has come a long way since then, through more than a dozen iterations of concepts and casts, but with a film reboot on the horizon, nostalgia for that first team of technicolor heroes is at an all-time high. The show – a weird kitbash of Japanese tokusatsu and the most saccharine American teenage drama – probably hasn’t aged all that well, considering its low production values and its supreme campiness. And if you’re like me – and since you’re on this site, I’d gamble that we’re not so different, you and I – shows like this, that so informed a chunk of our childhoods, hold this odd place in our minds. We know that it can’t be as good as we recall, but the memory of it is powerful enough to make us wonder if we shouldn’t pull up some episodes on Netflix – but, of course, doing so would risk forever destroying the paragon of Saturday morning entertainment that we knew and loved.
Star Trek turns 50 this year, and though pop culture primarily recognizes Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and the rest of the Enterprise crew as the progenitors of the long-running franchise, that’s not where it all began. Star Trek had a very troubled path to television, frequently relying on special interest from influential people like Lucille Ball to get on (and stay on) the air. Some of this was money, some concern that creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision was too intellectual, and some a result of Roddenberry’s own habits. Star Trek is relatively rare in that NBC gave it not one shot at a pilot, but two; the second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” features Kirk, Spock, and many of the other characters even the most casual Trek viewer would recognize, in addition to many of the series’ tropes. Before that episode, though, there was the first, rejected pilot, “The Cage,” adapted in this issue by John Byrne in the photo-comic style he’s built up over the course of New Visions.