Star Trek: The John Byrne Collection │ Review

(IDW Publishing)

Two things that I remember fondly from my youth are Star Trek and anything drawn by John Byrne. So, it should be no surprise that IDW’s Star Trek: The John Byrne Collection is an absolute must for anyone who shares a love of comics or classic Star Trek.

John Byrne is a legend – the artist behind arguably the greatest age of Marvel Comics’ Uncanny X-Men and the re-invention of DC Comics’ Superman in the 80s. Byrne is also known for his amazing work on virtually every major comic title including famous ones like The Fantastic Four, Alpha Flight, Iron Fist – and the list goes on. Byrne’s accomplishments are the stuff aspiring artists dream about.

Star Trek: The John Byrne Collection includes the following comic series: Alien Spotlight: Romulans, Assignment: Earth, Star Trek: Crew and Leonard McCoy: Frontier Doctor which were published between 2008 and 2010. The hardcover collection was published in June, 2013. All of these titles fit into the canon of the original series (TOS) universe perfectly and make excellent companion reading for any Trek enthusiast.

Byrne pencilled and scripted these stories single-handedly. What makes them stand out even more is that they are completely faithful to the canon of Gene Roddenberry’s 23rd century universe. Even though the majority of the original crew (with the exception of Dr. Leonard McCoy) play peripheral roles, Byrne reaches back into the scripts of the 1960’s and re-visits great episodes like “Assignment: Earth” or dynamic characters like “The Menagerie”‘s Number One or – my favourite – “Balance of Terror”‘s Romulan Commander. Leonard McCoy: Frontier Doctor details McCoy’s adventures in the time between Kirk’s admiralty and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

(IDW Publishing)

This isn’t a reboot, re-make or reinvention; this is a refreshing endeavour by Byrne that supplements, not supplants, the work of the creators who have gone before him. These are true-to-detail, exceptionally accurate spin-off stories that fit seamlessly into Star Trek. I was excited to read them, not simply because Byrne wrote and drew them, or that he did it so well, but because he respected their integrity and made them his own. He even leaves the real names of both the Romulan Commander and “Number One” conspicuously absent, almost in an homage to their creator.

It is a rare talent for an artist to take the work of another and embellish it so respectfully. Sure, the stories are Byrne’s own, but he takes previously existing characters and presents them with such thought and care that you could see them as logical and believable Star Trek extensions in their own right. I loved reading about the Romulan Commander’s back-story and could completely envision this as part of a pre-story background episode. Moreover, to see how successful “Number One” (Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, to those die-hards) was in her own career was a wonderful exploration of one of the many untapped resources that can still be exploited by artists who want to add to the tapestry of an extremely successful franchise. Byrne deserves all the accolades one can muster in appreciation of what he has accomplished with this wonderful treasury.

Kudos should also go to IDW for having the foresight and taste to allow the recreation of these wonderful tales. In a time when publishing houses or film companies seem intent on reinterpreting timeless classics through their own perceptions, IDW is clearly a company that stands behind their artists and allows them individual creative freedom. Byrne is behind this storytelling, but IDW’s support should also be mentioned.

Star Trek: The John Byrne Collection is a book that holds an honoured place in my library and I truly hope that IDW and Byrne have further plans for such collaboration in the future. It’s a fantastic title that both every Byrne and Star Trek fan should have and enjoy. [subscribe2]


About Captain John K. Kirk

Captain John K. Kirk
John Kirk is an English and History teacher and librarian in Toronto, Canada. In addition to the traditional curriculum, John tries to teach his students to make sense of geek culture. And with the name "J. Kirk," it's hard for him to not inject "Star Trek" into his lessons. Comics, RPGs and the usual fanboy gear make up his classroom resources.

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