Helmed by Trek experts Scott and David Tipton, and featuring special commentary and creator interviews, volume 1 starts at the beginning to reveal the motives, machinations and decisions that shaped the intrepid crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise. For new and old fans alike, there’s never been a Star Trek collection like this!
Includes Star Trek: Crew issues #1–5, Star Trek Alien Spotlight: Vulcans, and Star Trek: Early Voyages #1–6
Star Trek: Stardate Collection, vol. 1, by various authors and artists 8.0
In 2013, IDW Publishing, the new home of Star Trek comics, came up with an interesting concept: Going back through nearly 50 years of Star Trek comics and publishing every Enterprise story chronologically, by stardate.
Granted, it’s an ambitious project – and not just because of the sheer number of comics throughout the years, but because they were published by different companies – which inevitably means all sorts of legal matters.
But they pulled it off, and it’s a truly great way to revisit the Star Trek comics universe.
Crews (Publication date: March-June 2009)
Our adventures begin with a 5-part mini-series called ‘Crews’, which recounts the adventures of Number One (from “The Cage”), first as a new recruit on the soon-to-be christened USS Enterprise and then with other starships.
Each part is a stand-alone story, but they all serve to explore Number One’s career path and develop her character. I was a bit skeptical at first because she’s a character I never cared about, but this mini-series made her intriguing.
For one, I love that she’s studied Vulcan philosophy, which explains her logical, detached side. And it’s great that she has had more commendations than anyone, but prefers to limit her rise in the ranks so as to continue doing the work she enjoys.
The set also develops her relationship with future-Captain Christopher Pike, who comes aboard the Enterprise at the same as she does. It also portrays an interesting professional dynamic between Captain April and his spouse, the Chief Medical Officer.
Sadly, the first two issues were too action-orientated for my taste, with a pace that didn’t allow for any kind of breather. Thankfully, the next three were much more in line with the original series, with the crews unraveling various sorts of alien mysteries.
What didn’t help what that the art looked amateurish to me: It was at best serviceable, looking like an art student’s sketchy rip-offs of the legendary John Byrne’s work. It looked like it’d been rendered to the page directly in ink, somewhat like doodles.
Well, ahem, it turns out that all five issues were Byrne’s brainchild: He not only drew the art, but also wrote the books, too. Look, I don’t know what happened to John Byrne in the last few decades, but when I first discovered him, he was the $#!t.
This is not the same John Byrne.
Still, ultimately, I enjoyed the adventures of Number One. While the set began with a gross miscalculation, going balls out with action, it settled in nicely afterwards. And it really fleshed out the character as nicely as five issues could.
Alien Spotlight: Vulcans (Publication date: November 5, 2007)
This story tells of the chasm between Spock and the human crew of the Enterprise when he first comes aboard, as the first Vulcan in Starfleet. He comes off as cold and cruel because his logical mind doesn’t give the same importance to human life as the others do.
Naturally, this causes tensions with some of the more emotional crew members, and Pike struggles to support him: Spock is clearly very valuable, but he’s terrible for morale. However, Spock proves himself a valuable member during an ambush on an alien planet.
This one’s told from Pike’s perspective and it delves deeply into the them of prejudice. I thought it was smartly done and it balanced the action and emotional tension well – not too talky but not just actiony either. Plus the art was relatively slick for a one-off.
Early Voyages (Publication date: February-July 2007)
This six-issue set finds Christopher Pike as the Captain of the Enterprise, starting with a double issue in which the Captain is taken by the Ngultor, an alien race that seeks to understand humans (or wetware) so that they can be used for harvesting.
This issue develops the characters further, with Number One taking the con for the first time and various memories running through Pike’s mind as he’s being probed by the aliens; this permits us to get a better understanding of the characters.
It’s a pretty good start to this series because it’s relatively cerebral, with mild action to punctuate the proceedings; it mostly revolves around trying to find Pike and rescue him while he tries to fight off the Ngultor’s painful interrogations.
Then we’re thrown into a conflict with the Klingons, who are vying to gain control of a dilithium mine that Starfleet has stumbled upon. It’s much more action-oriented, but it’s paced quite well and balanced with thought-provoking ethical dilemmas.
I especially like the way these Klingons are portrayed here, not so much as warriors, then as scheming profiteers, manipulating local brigands to meet their ends. And their Captain is impaired by a withered right arm, overcompensating by being crafty.
Then we end up on Rigel, who have submitted application to join the Federation. But, as the Enterprise is about to find out, their warriors are not pleased with this subversion of their culture – a celebration for the occasion sadly turns pretty deadly.
This episode was far less interesting to me because it seemed far more primitive (much like its antagonists), but it makes up for it slightly by showing the risks that the crew face on these expeditions – and the loss of life that can result from them.
For some reason, issue four retells “The Cage”, but thankfully it does so from the perspective of Yeoman Mia Colt, who replaces a crew member killed in the previous issue. I’ve never been a big fan of “The Cage”, but a different perspective is nice.
In particular, it shows how Colt is undesired by the Enterprise crew, who are still grieving the death of a prized member and close friend. So she has to deal with the acrimony directed at her but also prove herself steady and reliable despite her feelings.
Finally, we end up on Darrien 224, where the Enterprise is looking for traces of a survey ship, the USS Cortez. They soon find out that the reason of Cortez’s disappearance: a 2000-year-old tribe of Vulcans, predating the race’s enlightenment.
Faced with a deadly warrior race even more lethal than the Klingons, the Enterprise has to ward off their attacks and figure out what the Vulcans want with them. It’s an idea that’s marred by too much combat and a cheap rip-off of ‘The Wrath of Khan’.
One of the great things about this mini-series is that we’re introduced to a bunch of new characters, including Nano, a Lirin, and a Chief Engineer of Masai descent. Personally, I felt that they fit in really well with the rest of the crew.
The art for “Early Voyages” is rather good. I felt that it represented the Star Trek universe relatively well, although some of the alien encounters felt like something out of a Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster more so than out of Star Trek, per se.
An interesting touch to the collection is that each issue ends with a few observations and factoids about it. This is terrific for Trekkies even though, let’s face it, the most ardent amongst them had likely already noticed. But I enjoyed the nerdery.
One thing, though, is that these series were (naturally) not all designed with each other in mind, so there are discrepancies in the Enterprise’s complement, with characters appearing in one set but not in the other, or their behaviour being different.
There’s also some changes to the timeline. For instance, “Crews” shows that Number One had prior experience on the NC-1701 before Pike chose her as his second-in-command. Not so in “Early Voyages”, which brings her aboard quite fresh.
The whole book is completed by an interview with John Byrne, discussing the genesis of his work on IDW’s Star Trek series. IN particular, they discuss his inspiration for the “Crews” mini-series, and what his vision of Star Trek is, as a long-time fan.
All told, ‘Star Trek: Stardate Collection, vol.1: The Early Voyages’ is an superb collection of Star Trek stories that any dedicated fan of the series should get their hands on. It’s not just entertaining, but it fleshes out its universe further.