Perfect 10: Star Trek by Brandon Masters

Perfect 10 is a series of essential recommendations that fully encapsulate a comic character – 10 desert island picks of runs, single issues, arcs, etc – curated by Comfort Food Comics.

Star Trek has been a multi-media empire since the 1967 when it first premiered, thanks to the comic publisher Gold Key snagging the rights for Star Trek from CBS and Desilu Studios to publish Star Trek comics.

Most of them were genuinely terrible. After the space craze of the late 1970s, though, Star Trek became one of the mainstays of the licensed comic pantheon, right alongside Star Wars. In this Perfect 10, we’re going to take a peek at some of the cream of the crop, many of which haven’t seen print in decades. Luckily, crazy fans have archived nearly every comic published with the franchise name, and IDW has been pretty good with making reprints of some of the best material out there.

Please note that DC’s Debt of Honor graphic novel and Vicious Circle from the first DC volume of Star Trek are not included, as they both have their own articles singing their praises.

1) The Worst of Both Worlds (DC’s Star Trek: The Next Generation Volume 2, issues 47-50): By Michael Jan Friedman, Peter Krause, Pablo Marcos, Romeo Tanghal, Bob Pinaha, Richard Starkings, and Julianna Ferriter. This story acts as a sequel to the The Next Generation two-part episode The Best of Both Worlds. With the USS Enterprise-D sucked into an alternate universe, they are forced to confront what could have happened if they had lost the battle with the Borg. Starfleet is in pieces, and the engineering section of this timeline’s Enterprise-D is all that remains, with most of the main crew dead and gone. This four part story was also helped out with a double-sized issue 50, and has multiple twists and turns that television at the time likely couldn’t have pulled off. The alternate universe’s crew are also an interesting mirror on the TV show cast, allowing for the rare character development that could happen in these licensed books. They’re also extremely 90s, with Commander Riker having switched to a goatee and eyepatch, and even Geordi la Forge’s visual aid VISOR having a piece of metal slapped across part of it… but that does add to the charm of the comic overall. Luckily, IDW saw that this was a book worth keeping around, and recently collected it in the collection Star Trek Archives Volume 2: The Best of the Borg.

2. You’re Dead, Jim (DC’s Star Trek Volume 1, issue 53): By Peter David, Gordon Purcell, Richard Villagran, Tim Harkins, and Michelle Wolfman. Captain Kirk has been stabbed by one of his crew and left for dead in his own quarters. While Doctor McCoy struggles to save his life on the operating table, Kirk begins experiencing near-death visions of friends and family long gone, as well as torments of hell that could await him. Alongside that, a second plot thread has a lot of the other cast remembering key moments with Kirk, and what he means to them. In Scotty’s case, that’s remembering a drunken night on the town set back in the TV show era, where they could barely even talk. It’s a lovely bit of levity thrown into the middle of a literal life and death drama, which actually feels just right for the book. Peter David, as he would go on to do in countless comics and novels, also draws on little known bits of Star Trek trivia, having Kirk visited by his late brother George, as well as the stereotype of his late son David. In all, it’s a great examination of who Kirk is, and what he means to the crew without getting maudlin or faking his death. Luckily, this issue was also collected for trade publication. Titan Books, a UK publisher, would put together the last issues from the first volume of Star Trek, under the collection name of Who Killed Captain Kirk? back in 1993. It can be found on the secondary market on the cheap.

3. The Last Generation (IDW mini-series): By Andrew Steven Harris, Gordon Purcell, Bob Almond, Mario Boon, and Robbie Robbins. Marketed as some bizarre take on the classic X-Men tale Days of Future Past, the 5-issue mini-series The Last Generation is actually… pretty much exactly that. The future is a hellscape of a war-torn Earth, conquered by the Klingons. The lone Federation ship remaining is the USS Excelsior, captained by an ancient Hikaru Sulu. Jean-Luc Picard leads the resistance on Earth, thwarting the plans of Commandant Worf at every turn. However, it turns out that the reason for this splinter universe’s existence is meddling from the 29th century, and it’s up to the surviving Original Series characters and distorted Next Generation cast to unite to stop him. While not a deep introspective look on what makes these characters who they are, it’s a rare action romp that doesn’t lose sight of the wonder of Star Trek. The ending is a little corny, but it seems to fit with the loose X-Men adaptation we’re running with.

4. The Mirror Universe Saga (DC’s Star Trek Volume 1, issues 9-16): By Mike W. Barr, Tom Sutton, Ricardo Villagren, John Costanza, and Michelle Wolfman. The Mirror Universe has entranced Star Trek fans since 1967 with the second series episode Mirror Mirror. Evil Sulu! Spock with a beard! Sexy Uhura! A world where the Federation is cruel and inhuman! This story stands as the first time anyone officially decided to take a look back into that other world. As Mike W. Barr’s farewell story to this volume of Star Trek, he pulled out a lot of the stops. Set just after the events of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Kirk and crew are wanted fugitives for the theft and subsequent destruction of the USS Enterprise. But why is another Enterprise flying around and wiping out starbases? With the USS Excelsior on the case, Starfleet’s most powerful vessel is now in the crosshairs of the Terran Empire. This comic is easily one of the bigger “thrill rides” that feel like it could have been a larger adventure than just a random comic. Being seven issues long as well, Barr and the rest of the crew take their time to expand on what happened with Star Trek III. This includes restoring Spock to full health after his resurrection (which would amusingly be undone some 40 issues later to fit with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home), setting Kirk and crew up with a new ship for new adventures, and even trying to give Kirk some closure with his just-murdered son David in the mirror universe. The only true flaw of this story is that the “evil” counterparts look almost identical to their “good” ones, with only a darker maroon used for their uniforms rather than anything looking truly different. This was also the one time DC would put out a collection of their Original Series run, under the self-explanatory name of The Mirror Universe Saga back in the early 90s, and Titan Books would also make a version of their own.

5. The Star Lost (DC’s Star Trek: The Next Generation Volume 2, issues 20-24): By Michael Jan Friedman, Peter Krause, Pablo Marcos, Bob Pinaha, and Julianna Ferriter. When a deadly plague threatens two planets in the same solar system, Captain Picard sends a shuttle of specialists and trusted main characters to save the smaller population of the second planet. However, that shuttle is sucked into a space vortex and is lost, with all hands presumed dead. While life tries to continue without Commander Riker, Lieutenant Worf, and Ensign Crusher, the crew of the Enterprise D also has to unravel the mystery of Lanatos, an aquatic world with ancient races threatened by a rogue comet. Meanwhile, the shuttle wasn’t lost, and instead winds up working as a prototype of later show Star Trek: Voyager, hurled across the galaxy and finding other aliens who have also been stranded there. Oh, and Commander Riker is unconscious with a potentially deadly head injury. Can Worf wrangle these people into working together, or will they be lost forever? Well… I mean, it’s not like this was based on a TV show or anything. The Star Lost was also collected as a rare graphic novel from DC Comics.

6. Connection, Parts 1 and 2 (IDW’s Star Trek, Issues 59 and 60): By Mike Johnson, Tony Shasteen, Davide Mastrolonardo, and Andworld Design. The ongoing series from IDW would base itself on the then-recent JJ Abrams Star Trek films (often called the Kevlin Timeline), and many of the early issues would pay tribute to the Original Series with their own spins on classic episodes. There would even be crossovers with alternate universes, including a gender-swapped universe and their own mirror universe. However, the connections with the original series would be the strongest here, with an errant space-time warp crossing over the Original Series with the Kelvin Timeline crews. Beginning with Captains Kirk being transposed into one another’s bodies, the story plays out as a massive passing of the torch from one crew to the other. Further, the art is wonderful, with most instances of actor swapping being believable, rather than just taking the book’s word on who is supposed to be whom. While not quite as in-depth as Vicious Circle’s own crossover story between eras of Star Trek, there’s still something magical with both incarnations of Scotty encountering their alternate ships and slowly freaking out. 

7. The Q Gambit (IDW’s Star Trek, issues 35-40): By Mike Johnson, Tony Shasteen, Davide Malstrolonardo, and Neil Uyetake. Speaking of crossovers and alternate universes, this is another one of those interesting takes. The recurring antagonist Q takes an interest in the Kelvin Timeline’s crew, dragging them forward into the 24th century to resolve a dilemma in their future. As it turns out, the Federation has collapsed, with the Klingons ruling over most of the quadrant… until the Dominion shows up, and a new variation on the Deep Space 9 ongoing plot begins. With all of reality in peril from the Dominion’s meddling with local affairs, it’s up to a time-displaced Enterprise crew and a distorted cast from Deep Space 9 to save the day. And maybe Q can help out as well. Much like the rest of IDW’s Kelvin Timeline series, this book pulls from a lot of deep canon for Deep Space 9, and the adventure genuinely has a lot of fascinating twists and turns before it ends.

8. An Infinite Jest (Marvel’s Star Trek Unlimited issue 7): By Dan Abnett, Ian Edgington, Ron Randall, Tom Morgan, Art Nichols, Scott Hanna, Kevin Tinsley, Kevin Somers, and Phil Felix. During Marvel’s incredibly brief tenure on the Star Trek franchise, they pumped out no less than 10 different series of comics to try and capitalize on the late-90s popularity of the franchise. One of them, Star Trek Unlimited, was an anthology book with two stories that were split between the Original Series and the Next Generation. However, this issue was a little… different. Starting as a bizarre game between godlike tricksters Treylane and Q, it turns out both are playing a proxy game across the ages, pitting their champions against one another to see who is truly the best captain: Kirk or Picard? Likely spawned from the eternal debate in fanzines and early message boards of the 80s, this book actually has the two captains swapped in roles, using the resources of the other to save their respective days. With most of Marvel’s Star Trek output being restricted by Paramount’s snakelike grasp on the license during the second heyday of Star Trek, it was rare to see such an original and unique take on the Kirk vs Picard debate become so personal.

9. The Maze (DC’s Star Trek: The Next Generation Volume 2, issue 46): By Kevin Ryan, Michael Jan Friedman, Carlos Garzon, Pablo Marcos, Bob Pinaha, and Julianna Ferriter. Most of these stories are grand epics, with explorations of the characters involved or testing the limits of the franchise’s bounds. This story has Captain Picard being forced to watch as Commander Riker, Lieutenant-Commander Data, and Lieutenant-Commander la Forge are forced to run through a lethal obstacle course by a mad ruler of a world who wishes to test Federation resolve. He asks Picard to kill him, or watch his people die as his dangerous game takes down the crew one at a time. The one-and-one nature of the issue keeps the story moving at a breakneck pace, even when the book focuses solely on the madman and Picard, or when Picard lectures about the morality of humanity. Combine this with action that feels like it belongs in the TV series, and you have a real fun romp that may not explore what kind of man Picard is, but it certainly would feel right at home in syndication alongside the seven seasons of television.

10. Star Trek / Legion of Super Heroes (IDW and DC Mini-Series): By Chris Roberson, Jeffrey Moy, Philip Moy, Romulo Fajarado Jr, and Robbie Robbins. When it comes to pop-culture crossovers, Star Trek has had quite a few. However, we limited it to just one crossover outside the franchise for this article. While it might not be the most well-known, it is easily the best. When both the Legion of Superheroes and the traditional Original Series landing party get stuck in a time warp and ion storm, universes converge and cross to strand them in a demented Terran Empire, dominated by the one and only immortal caveman, Vandal Savage. Using the Silver-Age incarnation of the Legion is a stroke of genius, making the small squad of Legionnaires available a great match for the likes of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov. In fact, nearly every character involved gets a wonderful moment in this book, complete with a “fight” between Brainiac 5 and Spock turning into a debate almost instantly. The crossover is clever as well, with the crews of both universes mixing up their parties in order to maximize character drama and development… not to mention a splash page of pop-culture time machines that even the biggest science fiction fans might have trouble identifying. This book is everything a fan of Star Trek, or the Legion of Super-Heroes, or just comics could want. If you’re going to read just one comic from this list, make it this one.

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