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Trek Ink: Review “Assignment: Earth” #1 May 19, 2008

by Alex Fletcher , Filed under: Comics,Review , trackback

A new IDW comic series begins and this is one we have really been waiting for. Revisiting the Original Series, and showing the first five episodes from the lost spinoff, “Assignment Earth”. John Byrne brings us his vision of where the show could’ve gone, and we’ve got the first issue this week. In addition to that, we’ve got cover previews for the next few issues and for John Byrne’s upcoming Romulan series.

REVIEW STAR TREK: ASSIGNMENT EARTH #1

Gary Seven returns to save the day

When the original Star Trek series was on the air, one of the stranger episodes was "Assignment: Earth". This episode was originally conceived of as a pilot for a spinoff featuring Gary Seven. (In fact, the original pilot script did not even feature a mention of Star Trek.) The series was never picked up, and the crew of the Enterprise were added to the plot, and we were left with a story that seemed a bit off kilter for the rest of the series.

With his first Star Trek comics mini-series, following on the success of his Alien Spotlight issue, John Byrne has decided to take matters into his own hands and produce episodes from the series. The first is set a few months after the events "Assignment: Earth." In fact, to tie things together, Byrne portrays the last scene of the original television episode as the first page of the issue, before jumping into the story proper. Immediately after, the story begins with a big splash.


I don’t remember… was this the anime Kirk? (click to enlarge)

This is not the first comics appearance for Gary Seven and Isis, as they previously appeared in issues 49 and 50 of the second volume of DC comics back in 1993. They also made an appearance in the 1995 annuals for both the original series and Next Generation series from DC in the two-issue mini-series "Convergence". Byrne’s portrayal of them is, to my mind, the most accurate of the bunch, and conveys the personalities of both the characters and their original actors the strongest.

Byrne’s story echoes the fears and paranoia of the late 1960s, with their worries about a possible nuclear war, the burgeoning cold war with the Soviet Union, and the rise of a communist China. All of these elements play into the story in this first issue, laced with the humor brought to the screen by Teri Garr and Robert Lansing. Seven and Lincoln find themselves investigating the "Hercules" project, a top-secret military nuclear test, near Albuquerque, New Mexico. The two agents, with the assistance of Isis, have to infiltrate the project and discover what the Russians are planning.

Byrne presents the story like a spy comic from the days when they were regularily printed, whether James Bond stories or otherwise. His artwork suits the writing style and the characters rather well, even if some of his facial characitures fail to look anything like real faces on occasion. Tom Smith, the colorist for the series, does an excellent job with the 1960s military styles and tones. Where needed, he brings his experience from his years of working on the "Avengers", various "Venom" mini-series, and DC’s "The Brave and the Bold" and adds extra colors to panels to give them some more life when Byrne hasn’t filled them in with any background details.


Roberta Lincoln can’t stop using the bad puns, even after Kirk previously informed her that they just weren’t funny (click to enlarge)

This is an excellent start to this series. I did not have high expectations for these five issues, at least partly due to the fact that the original episode was nowhere near being a favorite of mine. Due to these low expectations, it also took me a couple of days to actually pick up the issue and begin reading it. Having said that… Byrne has completely blown those low expectations out of the water and provided a story that has me looking forward to issue number two, and the story in 1969. You can bet that I’ll be reading that one the minute I get it, and I recommend that you don’t make the same mistake I did with this one.

"Star Trek Assignment: Earth #1" is available at comic shops this week.


Cover for Assignment Earth #1

 

COMIC NEWS

Future Comic releases
Like the first cover, the rest of the covers in this series are being done by John Byrne with Tom Smith’s colors. Here are the covers for the second and third issues of the series:

Chris Ryall has also posted one of the covers from John Byrne’s upcoming mini-series followup to his Alien Spotlight issue, Romulans – The Hollow Crown:

Next week: New IDW comics coming… more news… lots of info!

Comments

1. Aly Mathias - May 19, 2008

Wow!

I love ‘trek Comics!!!

2. Brian - May 19, 2008

I’m very pleased that Byrne has started doing Trek work. He’s always been one of my fave writer/artists. I’d like to see him do more with the Enterprise crew.

3. Lord Garth, Formerly of Izar - May 19, 2008

Wow looks good and I will support it but John Byrne’s art work has really slipped since the late 80’s. He used to do such masterful stuff that put any of these younger creators to shame. His short stint on the Hulk is to me still some of the greatest comic art ever. Now he’s like the Star Trek remastered team of comic book artists. One panel may look just gorgeous and the next sketchy rushed and sloppy.

4. Gerry Alanguilan - May 19, 2008

The perspective on that first panel above is awful. I can’t believe that John Byrne would allow something like this to happen to his art, and on Star Trek of all places. I loved John’s work. He’s always been very “sensitive” to the fact that fans keep telling him that his “older stuff was better”. Well, I won’t say it. I’d much rather say I liked his older stuff better. I don’t know why. Perhaps because back then, we’d walk over his dead body before he even drew awful perspective shots as this.

5. Spocko - May 19, 2008

I’m so glad a comic shop just opened in my town.

6. Andy Patterson - May 19, 2008

Like Galactus….I hunger. I really look forward to this one and this series. I like the fact that he’s being true to the look of the office and the era. Cool deal, Maynard! I hope they stay true to what it seemed to be in that Star Trek ep. I don’t particularly like the treatment I’ve read where Rodenberry kind of ret-conned things.

Assignment: Earth number 1. That’s such a cool thing to hear.

7. SPB - May 19, 2008

*sigh*

During my middle-school years (1982-86), I literally was the biggest John Byrne fan I knew. I’d even buy comics with covers that he’d drawn, even if he wasn’t featured on the inside.

From an old-school Byrne fan, his artwork has gone almost completely in the toilet. That one panel alone of Kirk and Spock (featured above) is unforgivable.

He was always a fantastic storyteller, however, so I’m sure the writing is great. Too bad he didn’t get someone else to draw these issues.

8. Andy Patterson - May 19, 2008

7

I just believe it’s a little more stylized version of his old self. I think as an artist ages his views are different. What he puts on the page can be just enough to tell the story. Maybe differently than he used to, but still there. Buscema’s stuff really morphed as he got older. I still have faith in him.

9. Scotty K - May 19, 2008

I can certainly understand a comic fan’s concern regarding the artwork, but I must admit that I’m more interested in the story being told. I have always been more than curious about this particular episode and where a series could have gone. I’m going to be checking this out for certain.

10. Irishtrekkie - May 20, 2008

the first Alien spotlight Romulans, was i think my fav trek comic ever , only problem it was too short , we need more ! , i will be getting The Hollow Crown for sure

11. Dom - May 20, 2008

Wouldn’t Assignment: Earth make a great movie or TV show in the present day? With all our’ secret government’ paranoia and so on Seven would be great fun!

12. diabolik - May 20, 2008

Sure am glad he’s not drawing a regular Trek series with the bridge crew… I could never get past his awful faces. But with these two, you can let it slide.

13. mntrekfan - May 20, 2008

I gotta agree with some of you the Byrne’s art has evolved. I loved his Superman stuff back in the late 80’s. Then recently he came back to Superman and it just wasn’t the same. It was much looser and cartoony looking.

14. bornInIowa - May 20, 2008

Greg Cox used Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln in his novels that fit Khan and the Eugenics Wars into our known history of the 1970s-90s.

I would highly recommend them, and I hope Byrne doesn’t mess with that continuity.

15. Bones Thugs & McCoy - May 20, 2008

Stopping off at Forbidden Planet before the subway home tonight…..

16. Brian - May 20, 2008

Ahhh I love Forbidden Planet….the Shangri-La of comic books in NYC. May have to hit it this weekend after I see Dr. Jones.

17. Andy Patterson - May 20, 2008

14
I thought those were interesting but I’d kind of like to see him do something different.

18. Christopher Valin - May 20, 2008

I stopped buying comics a year and a half ago when I went back to school, but I’ll be picking this up. Must…have…Gary…Seven…

As for Byrne, his art has evolved some, but I don’t think that’s the main reason it looks so different. In the old days, he was usually inked by excellent inkers such as Terry Austin. I think now he usually inks his own stuff, and personally I don’t like it as much.

19. Robert Bernardo - May 20, 2008

I always loved the episode, Assignment: Earth. The comic book is a must-have then.

20. Andrew Steven Harris - May 20, 2008

#14–

Let me second that recommendation for the Gary Seven/Khan fiction… really good stuff.

Byrne’s miniseries will skip forward one year with each issue, so it’ll cover 1968-1972 — not much opportunity to contradict the Eugenics Wars material that’s been published. Besides, he’s doing this as if they were actual episodes of the TV show, including the time period in which they would have been produced/aired, so you’re not likely to see much in the way of the Rise of Khan.

There’s all sorts of nifty/spiffy artwork that he’s posted over on his website, http://www.byrnerobotics.com, so you might want to check it out.

21. Xai, Also born in Iowa, (still here too!) - May 20, 2008

14. bornInIowa – May 20, 2008
Greg Cox used Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln in his novels that fit Khan and the Eugenics Wars into our known history of the 1970s-90s.

I would highly recommend them, and I hope Byrne doesn’t mess with that continuity.”

I’ll second that as well…loved that series

22. Andy Patterson - May 20, 2008

Since the Trek boards are kind of cross referencing themselves with Byrne’s boards….I’d really love to know if Byrne has seen our project (http://supervisor194.com/) and what his thoughts are on it. I also have to wonder if it’s been even an inkling of an influence on his direction or thoughts. Anyone?

23. FREAKAZOID - May 21, 2008

Is that Dr Strangelove on the cover of issue 3? *LOL*

and I agree with #11 Dom. An Assignment: Earth movie would be a cool idea!

May I suggest, Kate Hudson as Roberta Lincoln and Ray Liota as Gary Seven.

24. Andy Patterson - May 21, 2008

Liota’s too Jersey to me. Regardless of where he’s really from. Lansing had an almost John Wayne like swagger the character needs. Watch him just as he’s walking from the computer to his desk. Three maybe four steps….but still a swagger. That’s presence.

25. Captain Robert April - May 21, 2008

I need to send a link to this page to Byrne….

26. The Guy that NEVER Posts, Defender of the Weak and Downtrodden - May 21, 2008

Coo Er!

Did anyone else here, besides me, know that Dave Stevens just died of cancer?

His art was the best, then he got sick, now he’s dead.

What about Frazetta? He IS the King, but he developed a thyroid problem that affected his brain chemistry, he lost the ability to draw for 10 years until they figured it out, and now, he’s too old. Barely sketches anymore.

And Leonardo da Vinci? He had a stroke and lost the power to pick up a pencil. Lucky for him he was the honored guest of a king.

So what’s all this about an artist past his prime? Are you perfect? Are you immortal? How many of you can do the same thing you did 15 years ago at the same level of quality?

How many of you listen to Bruce’s “Glory Days” and actually like it? and relate to it?

Shame, shame.

A pox on you all.

27. Captain Robert April - May 21, 2008

Frazetta had a stroke. His thyroid problems had nothing to do with it. Not that it’s slowed him down all that much, he taught himself to work left handed and is cranking out work just as good as before the stroke.

28. Joe Zhang - May 22, 2008

Byrne’s old stuff was better..he is really rushing his art these days. I guess his heart just is not in it anymore.

No backgrounds, rubbery faces, scratchy rushed art..how the mighty have fallen!

29. Joe Zhang - May 22, 2008

I also dont like it when Byrne uses a sharpie to ink – it looks so muddy and rushed. He needs a good inker (and a good co-plotter/scripter but thats another story).

30. Alex Fletcher / Sulfur - May 22, 2008

#28/29: There are backgrounds. You can see them in the images above. There are a couple of panels in the story without, and those are the ones that Tom Smith colours and adds to. Also, Byrne doesn’t ink with a Sharpie.

#4/#7: The panel above with Kirk and Spock (“anime Kirk”) is done similar to the shot that was in the episode, not quite the same perspective, but close enough to the wide shot. You can tell that he’s done the art quickly and simply, because we remember the episode. We’ve seen it. The first page is simply a recap for us.

Also, do note that Lincoln is not drawn like Teri Garr due to likeness issues. I don’t know all the details, but I do know that she did not agree to have her likeness used.

31. Captain Robert April - May 22, 2008

Teri Garr is not a Star Trek fan. In fact, we’re something of an annoyance to her.

32. Joe Zhang - May 23, 2008

Alex Fletcher – I disagree with your “crusading” on behalf of Byrne – stop mind reading his intentions – its obvious he leaves a lot of the work for Tom Smith and is unprofessional in doing so. Byrne should not “rush” his art and leave out backgrounds its a shame.

33. Andy Patterson - May 24, 2008

30, 31

Yeah, she basically disavows any knowledge of this episode. Or at worst doesn’t want to discuss it.

34. Thomas - May 25, 2008

14. bornInIowa, I totally agree with you about the Khan books. Great series of novels. They’re the only Trek novels I’ve ever read. I think I’ll pick these up.

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