Monday, 30 January 2017

Key Changes Noted: The Graphic Novel Collection Issue Two

Issue two of the Eaglemoss Star Trek Graphic Novel Collection hit the shelves in the UK last week with the brilliant The City on the Edge of Forever.

But this isn't the TV version we've come to know, love and laud since 1967. No sirree, this is the version that writer Harlan Ellison wrote that was then mashed around to create the final edition we know. It was such a hatchet job from Ellison's original work that he never wrote for Star Trek again.

It can't be that different? You might ask - believe me it is.

Released as a graphic novel a couple of years back by IDW, it is an excellent addition to the collection and certainly one that will draw readers in early on. Heck, I got it because at the bargain price of £6.99 it's exactly that - a bargain. As it goes this is therefore nothing new but I've never actually been one to get into the graphic novel regions of Star Trek fandom so it was totally new to me in every respect. Certainly I've heard of the infamous original version of The City on the Edge of Forever but never did I really consider getting it until now. 

Having the five separate issues combined and bound together in this well-presented hardback edition is a win to begin with and the artwork is superb throughout, even recreating moments from the televised story to help ground the reader in the Star Trek universe. However, as good as the J K Woodward art is, the Ellison story is incredibly different from the finished version. Exploring the dangers of drug addiction on long space missions, Ellison takes us to a literal city on the edge of forever where the Guardians watch over the timestream. McCoy stays put in this version with a one-episode character instead being the one to go back and change time. The bulk of the 1930's acts are very similar in style and you can recognise the TV episode through the material. In fact the graphic novel adds so much more to the story with some little references to Vulcan and the like which do (now) contradict established Star Trek lore plus we get to see Yeoman Rand back for a much more heroic role.

Having the section analysing some of the panels from the story plus the introduction from Ellison himself make this a real deep dive into some important material from the Star Trek archives and you would be silly to miss out (unless you've already got it on the original print run of course). I loved every pane, every page and every line of dialogue here because you can really feel these characters come alive through the script and the meticulous detail in the images. Visually stunning and eloquently written throughout. Hilariously though the back cover synopsis is actually for the TV episode - might be worth someone proof reading this stuff before production?

Not something that can ever be said for the Gold Key archive "comic" which you get as a bonus here. It's the second issue and still it's fairly evident that anyone who worked on this knew Star Trek existed but thought it must be something akin to Flash Gordon and 1940's sci-fi serials. We have ray guns, teleportation chambers and more mumbo-jumbo than ever in what is simply Kirk versus the green-skinned Alien-of-the-Week in something that is purely Star Trek in name. 

OK it's late '60's comic trash in some ways but it continues to tell the story of the franchise' perception a that time and is as entertaining to read as it was in the back half of the issue one volume. The Devil's Isle in Space (Part I) and The Secret of Execution Asteroid (Part II) are classic sci-fi titles if nothing else and work as a funny old contrast to the spit and polished majesty of The City on the Edge of Forever. I actually look forward to seeing what comes next for pure entertainment value at the least. It's going to be hard with this collection to actually say if something is a good or bad choice to have in because each and every story will tell it's own tale about the nature of the franchise at the time that it was produced from the characters used through to the way in which it is narrated and drawn. This is going to be a wonderful journey through a piece of the Star Trek universe that I just don't know enough about.

As we have noted, issue three will be Hive, issue four is set as Spock: Reflections but now we know that five will be IDW's first Star Trek release, TNG: The Space Between and six will be Nero, focusing on the villainous character from the 2009 reboot.

All in all a damn fine run over the next couple of months and I'll certainly be along for the ride!

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