Cloaks, Trickery, and Romulans
In this TrekInk column we review IDW’s final issue in the "Alien Spotlight" series. Comic legend John Byrne doesn’t disappoint with this Romulan point of view from the classic TOS episode "Balance of Terror." We also take a look forward and preview Byrne’s upcoming projects with IDW (for both Trek and other comics).
This coming Wednesday (or if you’re reading this after that, sometime in the recent past on a galactic scale), IDW will be releasing their first piece of work with the legendary comic book author and artist John Byrne. This issue is also the sixth and final issue of their fourth Star Trek miniseries, the "Alien Spotlight". After stories about Borg, Andorians, and Vulcans, we finally meet the Romulans.
John Byrne has been a Trek since The Original Series, even writing a still-unsold screenplay at the tender age of 18. But this Trek comic almost didn’t happen due to Byrne’s own self-consciousness. According to an interview with Newsarama, Byrne declined IDW’s offer of a comic because he felt his likenesses were "so bad," but he then suggested that maybe he could do "one of their alien races books" and it is a good thing he did.
This is not Byrne’s first encounter with the Star Trek universe. Back in 1979, the final issue of the Gold Key comics series (more information) was to feature a security guard with his name, and another with Dave Cockrum’s name. In 1987, DC Comics published a pair of "Who’s Who" books, and tapped all of their artists for contributions to the book. Byrne was called on to draw five characters for those, including Sarek and Khan Noonian Singh.
"Alien Spotlight: Romulans" tells the story of the events leading up to the first encounter with the Romulans on the original series in “Balance of Terror”. Byrne brings in all of the characters from the Romulan ship and fills in their backgrounds, giving us more of a reason to understand them and the reason for their actions. He doesn’t give them names, which is an unusual choice, but at the same time, when friends and workmates address each other, they tend not to use the names all the time, so it’s something I’m willing to accept.
The artwork feels like classic comic book artwork, which is not a surprise, due to Byrne’s pedigree. After years of work on the X-Men with Chris Claremont, the Fantastic Four, and his revamping of the Superman mythos in the mid-1980s, Byrne has history and a style all of his own. This issue continues in that style with characters that don’t quite look real and generally simple backgrounds (with occasional panels with very detailed backgrounds). The colors and shading add a lot of life to the panels, setting up the intrigue in the story. And it’s the story that’s the real reason that we’re here.
And what a story it is. According to Byrne, Paramount had him remove some elements from his story, but the story fits in really well with what we’ve seen. Byrne, in 20 pages, makes us have sympathy for the Romulan Commander and realize that he’s been put into a situation that just isn’t to his liking. As noted, pretty much all of the Romulan characters from the episode make appearances, and there are a couple of extra characters including the Romulan Praetor, and a couple of surprises beyond that.
More coming from Byrne
Fortunately for us, this is only the first of several Trek comics from John Byrne for IDW. Since this issue was announced, IDW signed him to draw the Wayne Osborne scripted "FX". (More information) In addition, Byrne suggested a miniseries based on the "Assignment Earth" episode from the original series featuring Gary Seven, Roberta Lincoln, and Isis. According to Byrne’s interview with Newsarama, “Issue #1 would start in 1968 and then each issue after that would jump one year ahead.” Byrne also noted that “toward the end I want to touch on Nixon’s visit to China, which was in 1972.”
Coming up next week
A special guest column from IDW Editor Andrew Steven Harris.