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.
With Star Trek Beyond only a month away and news of next year’s television series trickling out every now and then, Star Trek is in the pop culture zeitgeist more than it has been in years. Since 2009’s Star Trek established the alternate timeline versions of Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the Enterprise crew, IDW has been chronicling their ongoing adventures between the films. Manifest Destiny, the latest miniseries featuring this version of the crew, distills everything that’s fun about this take on the seminal sci-fi franchise into a single package full of phasers, Klingons, and Doctor McCoy being cantankerous.
There’s just about every flavor of post-apocalyptic fiction these days. The Walking Dead still pulls readers (and viewers) into its tense, ongoing narrative. Greg Rucka’s Lazarus depicts the aftermath of an economic apocalypse, with the wealthy and powerful resuming feudal roles. The Wake and The Massive both take aim at the aftermath of ecological disasters through its effects on the world’s oceans and coastlines. And, of course, there are other pop culture mainstays, like the car-focused Mad Max franchise or the tongue-in-cheek post-nuclear wastelands of the Fallout games. Wild Blue Yonder – the creation of the team of Mike Raicht (who writes), Zach Howard (who, with colorist Nathan Daniel, provides the art), and Austin Harrison – marks another, and though it may not do anything you haven’t seen in the genre at large, what it does, it does with its own style.
Back to the Future: Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines is not, as you might expect, a new adventure of Doc Brown and Marty McFly careening through time aboard a DeLorean and/or train. Instead, it’s an anthology of stories to fill in some of the cracks left by the movies themselves. The first – and most obviously necessary – story tells how Marty first met Doc Brown, as they are inexplicably close friends by the beginning of the first movie, and the series goes on from there.
I was actually kind of surprised to learn that Airboy is an actual Golden Age character. I’d simply assumed (having never heard of him before) that he was a stand-in, a character that might as well have been a Golden Age character but wasn’t, not really. But, he’s totally real – as real as a comic character can get, anyway.
John Byrne’s eleventh issue of his classic Star Trek photoplay series offers two tales of the voyages of the Starship Enterprise composed of images from the series and whatever Byrne can make from them.