TrekInk: Review Assignment: Earth #4 + Previews of Upcoming Trek Comics

This week in the Ink we review the latest ‘Assignment Earth’ adventure. We finally meet Gary Seven’s bosses as he saves the world from imminent destruction… again. As usual, Isis and Roberta Lincoln contribute their help, and things are set to the right… Or are they? Plus there are some new preview images of upcoming comics to take a look at.


Review: Star Trek Assignment Earth #4

As we move toward his upcoming Hollow Crown mini-series, John Byrne returns to regale us with the second to last tale in his Assignment: Earth mini-series, and I, for one, am not looking forward to the end of this one. If you’d told me that I would have enjoyed this series so much, especially after not liking the original television episode that it is based on, I wouldn’t have believed you. As it happens, this is now, easily my favorite Trek comic that IDW has done to date.

With this fourth book in the series, “We have met the enemy…”, Byrne seems to be bringing the series toward a climax, and seems to be tying the events of the prior issues together into a loose overarching storyline. He opens with some almost typical humor, showing Roberta Lincoln going through a variety of wardrobe changes, made possible by Betty… er… Beta 5. During a quick berating by Gary Seven, an unexpected alarm goes off, but there is no obvious reason what is setting it off. It turns out that it was set off by the people that Roberta used to work for. A quick teleport, car acquirement, and Gary Seven and Roberta are on the trail, pretending that they’re on a honeymoon… until a shop owner mistakes Roberta for Gary’s daughter. And she changes their cover story to that quickly.

Gary and his daughter… er… Roberta find themselves in the wrong room at their motel… (click to enlarge)

Byrne sets up a solid story, teases us for several pages, shows us some solid back story for both Roberta and Gary, and even introduces us to a new alien language. Something we’re not used to seeing in Star Trek — language that is undecipherable! The story does get a bit confusing along the way, but the impression I got as I read it was that it was intended that way, as our window into Gary Seven’s world is that of Roberta Lincoln. Byrne uses her in the same way that she was used in the original episode, as the “innocent view into the world”, the same stance we’re coming into it with. This story is a touch shorter than the previous issues, but that leaves a couple of pages for a quick “spotlight” story. The final two pages of the issue are dedicated to a brief story called “Isis”. Byrne presents this as a completely silent story, without any lettering whatsoever — no sound effects, no dialogue. A new step for IDW, but in this case, the brief adventure works. We’re still not learning much about Isis that we didn’t know already, but she’s quite the entertaining character.

Byrne’s artwork continues on the same levels as it has all series. He gets the look and feel of the era, 1971, and even when we have some flashback scenes, the look there feels “older” than the rest of the story bits. Some clever uses of technology, and some good visuals fill out the story nicely for us. As usual though, his caricatures of people are a bit loose and not always shaped like humans, but that is his style, and once you get used to it, you stop noticing it. Having said that, he really shines in the two page Isis story at the end of the episode. Having to present a full story in two pages without dialogue or sound effects shows the storytelling skill that he has in his artwork. Each image is a fully realized scene in a city, well detailed, and full of things happening. I hope that IDW allows Byrne to present an entire issue of similar such short stories somewhere along the way, as something like that could be quite entertaining and interesting to read.

Roberta’s latest dating encounter? (click to enlarge)

So, it’s all been positive thus far, in line with my general feelings about this series, where’s the “but”? Well, there aren’t too many qualms I have with the issue or story that I haven’t addressed, but there were a few oddly placed dialogue balloons. And this isn’t the first time it has happened. In the last issue, there were a couple of odd ones, but it seems to be happening a bit more often lately with the IDW books that I read (Trek stuff, Locke & Key, Galaxy Quest, Dead She Said, and Fallen Angel — if you must know). I’m not sure what the problem is, but it’s starting to get a bit distracting. After all, we’re trying to take part in a bit of escapism here!

Is the car talking? When did we end up in a Stephen King novel?
(click to enlarge)

Overall? I’m looking forward to the fifth issue, and this will be one trade paperback that I will not be missing when it comes out a few months down the road. For those out there who suggested that John Byrne might be past his prime, read this series. He’s back, and more than willing to prove that he’s still able to write and draw a solid enjoyable story.

Cover for Star Trek Year Assignment Earth #4

ST: Assignment Earth #4 is available now at your local comic store. The fifth (and final) issue is released next month. The trade paperback comes out December 29th and is available now for pre-order at Amazon for $13.59.

Pre-order the trade paperback of Byrne’s AE series at Amazon

Byrne Talks upcoming Trek titles
After John Byrne finishes up his Assignment Earth series he quickly goes into his ‘Hollow Crown’ Romulan series, but he is not stopping there. Byrne guest blogged at MTV and talked about his upcoming ‘Crew’ mini series that takes place on a shakedown cruise set in the Pike era and will feature the character ‘Number 1’ (from the "The Cage"). Byrne writes:

We came up with the working title “Crew” for this series, and I framed it as being about what goes on “below decks” on a starship (or smaller). We’ve seen the bridge crew almost exclusively, but what about the people who do the grunt work? Working her way up through the ranks, No.1 would show us the “behind the scenes” stuff that keeps those ships running, as well as how members of the “away teams” who are NOT the stars of the show deal with the various adventures. One part “Mister Roberts” mixed with two parts “Das Boot,” stirred in with a whole lot of “Trek” lore that Roddenberry et al hadn’t figured out yet when the first pilot was made. Plus, from a purely artistic standpoint, the fun of drawing a somewhat different Star Fleet. Somewhat…funkier, with the different uniforms, the different bits of technology.
Even the subtly different look of the Enterprise herself. And no red shirts! Try to guess who gets killed when there are only two colors, gold and blue, to play with!

Byrne divulges more about the series on his site:

This issue predates "The Cage" by as much as ten years, perhaps even more.  The series will cover somewhere between six and eight years of the character’s life, so even when we get to the last issue, she’ll still be younger than she was in the first pilot.

And that’s not all, Byrne has also confirmed he will ‘definitely’ be doing another Assignment Earth series in 2009, so even after next months issue, we will not have seen the last of Gary and Roberta.



Some new images from what we can expect over the next few months have shown up online.

Star Trek The Last Generation #1 & #2 covers

Later in the year IDW kick off a ‘what if’ tale set in a ‘myriad universe’ that tells the story of the TNG era, but where the Klingon’s have taken over the Federation. Here are the first two covers. For issue one we have the main cover from Andrew Steven Harris’s site and a dealer incentive cover (an homage to the Uncanny X-Men) from Chris Ryal’s blog. And we have one of the covers from the second issue from John Hunt’s deviantart blog.

Regular (L) and dealer incentive (R) covers for Issue 1

Cover for Issue 2 (unclear if regular or dealer incentive)

Mirror Images images
Artist David Messina has posted some new images from his Mirror Images series on his blog here and here.

Coming up soon
Reviews of final issue of Peter David’s New Frontier series, plus the latest issues from the Mirror Universe and DC Fontana’s Enterprise Experiment.



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Love, love, love Byrne’s artwork. Colorful and rockemsockem.

What is it with EVERYBODY taking a pass at “Days of Future Past?” And Locutus in the Wolverine jacket just ain’t doing it for me…

Originality, why hast thou forsaken us? :)

i have to say — never been a comic collector — I AM ADDICTED to IDW’s Mirror Universe series. It’s really, really, good!

@ 3

its good you say ? i might have to drag myself away from the star trek books and back to the comics and take a look at it .

…”One part ‘Mister Roberts'”, huh? I can see it now:

“Mister Spock! What’s this about the Cap’n sayin’ there’s no holodeck tonight on the fantail?”

“Spock! Spock! I’ve got it! I’ll put these Tribbles I’ve been saving in the overhead of the Cap’ns bunk, and the trilling will drive the old man crazy!”

“Antimatter? Doctor, are you aware of how dangerous it is to make a firecracker out of such a volatile material?”

“Ooch, lessee now…isopropyl alcohol, some Sprite, some beard suppressor…and a touch of iodine. There, Mr. Chekov! Artificial, non-Syntheholic Vodka. That wee Nurse’ll never know what hit the poor lass!

[BAM! BAM! BAM!] “KepTAIN! It ees Moi, Ensign Pavel Andreiivitch Chekov! I have chust beamed your Spore Plants from Omicron Ceti III overboard. Now, vat is all dees about no holodeck tonight!

Actually there were three uniform colors in the pilots, but two of the colors, a sort of avocado or tan shade for command and a salmon pink sort of hue for navigation and engineering, were hard to tell apart because they were both rather pale. Here’s a discussion of the subject from the TrekBBS:

You mention Seven’s bosses (Greg Cox called them the Aegis) and then don’t show them?

Alex, you’re a tease.

For those of you who are hesitant to try IDW’s Star Trek comics, I say hesitate no longer. The books are wonderful. Particularly “Mirror Images” and DC Fontana’s “The Enterprise Experiment”. Also, I would urge everyone to check out “Klingons: Blood Will Tell” now available in trade paperback.

As far as “The Last Generation” goes, I was going to bypass that series because I was wholly unimpressed by that X-Men-esque cover. However, after seeing the alternate covers for issues 1 and 2, I’ve gotta say I’ll be checking it out.

“And that’s not all, Byrne has also confirmed he will ‘definitely’ be doing another Assignment Earth series in 2009, so even after next months issue, we will not have seen the last of Gary and Roberta.”

Yay! Let’s go John. Looking forward to it. Maybe this’ll get it made into a series. I know someone who’s come up with that idea already.

#2 — That’s just the retailer incentive cover, which is just an homage to do something different and unusual for the limited edition. The main cover is here:

And while it’s inspired in theme by DoFP, it’s definitely *not* the DoFP story. (No, you won’t find Wesley Crusher getting time-switched with his future self in the holodeck…)

thanks Andrew I updated the article with that cover

I don’t know about the rest of IDW’s line, but Byrne does his own word balloon placements. He prints them out on the page before he starts drawing them, since that saves him the trouble of drawing in the areas that would eventually be covered by the dialogue. That’s why most of his word balloons tend to converge around the top of the panel like that.

Nice movie-era Mirror Universe uniforms there. They remind me of some versions I designed back in high school.

…Hey, who knows? Byrne might be trying to tell us that My Mother, The Car was nothing but a trick of Beta-5 snobbery :-)

You know, the teaser/caption picture on the front page looks awfully “suggestive.” I have to say though, I like that as an idea of pulling in readers!

I’ve only read one of the IDW comics thus far and I’m sorry to say that I’m not impressed. At times the art work is brilliant and at times it is very simplistic, thus far the storylines have been very weak, relying on cliche’s and not really giving forth with the heroism and character developement that TOS gave us. I actually prefer the old “Gold Key” comics to what I’ve seen so far. I’m willing to read another comic and in fact have a reserved copy of the MU series on the way, however, if things don’t pick up and get a bit more interesting I wont be buying any more.

#15 — not sure which one you’re talking about, but I’d recommend against judging various storylines/artwork/etc. based on a single issue. There’ve been lots of great creators who’ve been working on the Trek books lately–Peter David, John Byrne, DC Fontana, the veteran Gordon Purcell–and I think you’ve made a really good choice with the MU series, which has been really good. If you like it, you should pick up the Klingons: Blood Will Tell series that IDW produced last year, with the same creative team, and which has garnered all sorts of critical praise (deservedly so, I think).