John Byrne has managed to send me through time, back to the days of my model Enterprise-playing adolescence. His time machine of choice: his new photo-comic with IDW – Star Trek New Visions: The Mirror, Cracked.
There was a time when the Internet wasn’t even a sci-fi concept and video tape recorders were the tools of trade of television engineers. Cancelled TV shows like Star Trek that managed to survive via syndication were only on television at the whims of networks’ seasonal schedules. If a show was on at 10pm, then that was when it was on and as a kid, sometimes staying up that late to watch it wasn’t an option.
Around the late 1970’s, Bantam Books (in collaboration with Mandala Productions) took photos from the classic Star Trek episodes and arranged them with comic speech-bubbles in paperback formats to re-tell the stories of those episodes. It was an innovative way to continue to keep the episodes alive in the minds of younger fans and managed to capture the essence of the actors’ performances. These were called “fotonovels” and they were among my favourite memories of Star Trek and my most prized literature when I was a young teen.
Now, with The Mirror, Cracked, John Byrne has taken it one step further. Using images from the episode “Mirror, Mirror” (written by Jerome Bixby), as well as others, Byrne has managed to create a completely new sequel to that episode. He has taken scenes and performer (Shatner, Nimoy, Kelly, Doohan, et. al.) images from the episode and those of other performers in familiar roles (like the Klingon commander Kor – played by John Colicos) and re-arranged them in a fantastic comic … and given us a new and exceptionally unique way of appreciating these actors’ past performances.
Picking up from the point of a few months after the fateful exchanges of the command crews of the ISS Enterprise and the USS Enterprise, Byrne re-introduces us to the parallel universe in a storyline where we see Kirk set against his evil counterpart. He also shows us that he has a gift for re-living those wonder days of the original series and creating completely new storylines from them.
If you were like me, you probably read those fotonovels so often that the pages tore from the glued binding of the spine. I had to find plastic page protectors to keep the pages safe and in order so that I could continue to look at the images over and over again. Sometimes I would simply stare at each photo, memorizing the actors’ facial expressions, dialogue or their positions on the set of each of the shows so that I could probably set their blocking as well as the episode’s director. When I read The Mirror, Cracked, I got that same sense and that John Byrne shared a similar ability to mentally imagine where each cast member would be if this was a real episode.
That’s part of what makes this such a successful experiment. In this comic, Byrne is directing an imaginary episode. It’s so realistic that this is as close to the original series coming to life again as you can get without animating them. You see an image of James Doohan taken in 1968 interacting with the crew of the Enterprise again. It’s one of those fantastic ideas that stuns you to realize that no one has thought of it to this point, but it’s so simple. Of course, modern digital photography makes it easier to accomplish than the publishing methods of the 1970’s which lends itself to this accomplishment.
This is a book that can only be described as nostalgically sublime. It combines both the memories of a unique Star Trek reading experience from the past with the envisioning of new creative material that taps into the vein of original Star Trek possible plotlines. Byrne has been doing a lot of great work in this area and to be frank, I think he’s the only person who could pull this off. His Star Trek publications with IDW have been nothing short of phenomenal and are now newly treasured parts of my collection.
At a price of $7.99, it’s pricy. This isn’t a kid’s comic book, though not to say that a young person couldn’t appreciate the realistic renditioning of a completely new Star Trek TOS episode. But a young person wouldn’t be able to afford this: it’s a book reserved for the older generation, who have those fond memories of picking up a Bantam Books fotonovel at a grocery store novel rack and begging your mum to put it in the cart. The high price is representative of the high quality of this book and is beyond reproach. It’s another high point of Byrne’s career.
Whoever picks this up will not be disappointed. It’s simply a book that demands to be read and one that will catapult you back to the days of your youth, or introduce the characters and stories of the original series to a younger audience and take its place alongside other great Star Trek stories for a new generation.