John Byrne is no stranger to Star Trek comics, having done several miniseries as a writer/artist for IDW over the publisher’s custodianship of the property, and, of course, his experience in comics goes back decades and includes the most major characters from both Marvel and DC, besides a slew of creator-owned work. He’s certainly got one of the most comprehensive pedigrees in comics, but sometimes that comes with a certain sense of stagnation. New Visions, however, is anything but.
As he has before, Byrne handles both the words and the visuals, but like last year’s annual, Byrne forgoes comic art in favor of photo collage. Though the word “collage” can easily conjure middle school busywork or psychedelic social commentaries, here, it really just means that the panels are photographs, and some of them are cobbled together from a mix of photos and a few original graphics. The result is a lengthy (forty-odd-page) story that looks, often, like it could be frame by frame stills of an Original Series episode, despite being new material.
The story – “The Mirror, Cracked” – is a sequel to the classic episode “Mirror, Mirror,” more colloquially known as “that one with Spock’s bearded evil twin.” As such, many of the scenes are new text over stills from that episode, though in a new context to justify them. Sometimes, clearly, Byrne has to justify why Kirk is wearing this or that uniform to get the right characters in the same image, but this works out better than you might expect. Often, photos are doctored or collaged to create new shots entirely, and most of the time this works out fine. Occasionally, the rough edges, so to speak, are clearly visible, a hand clutching a phaser appearing obviously painted in or something. For now, this roughness can blend somewhat with the 1960s sets and effects to make them more excusable than if the same tactic were tried with a show with even The Next Generation’s production values.
Byrne’s writing is that of a long-time fan and practiced Trek comic scribe, in that he puts together a story with very Star Trek-like beats while also tying some disparate parts of the Original Series together. The script is a little exposition heavy and could have used one last editorial pass to clean up a few things, and the layouts sometimes defy what a modern reader would expect, but it is, overall, a fun and readable adventure for fans of the Original Series. The photo-novel format will not satisfy everyone, and this story in particular will probably only appeal to Original Series fans, but it is refreshing and adventurous in its own retro way.