TrekInk: Review – Byrne’s Assignment Earth #5 & Hollow Crown #1

Nixon… er… Nixons, Gary Seven, the Praetor, Koloth, cloaks, and Roberta Lincoln… what’s the common thread? John Byrne brings us the final issue of "Assignment: Earth" and the first issue of his new Romulans series, "The Hollow Crown." Will Gary and Roberta save the day? How is the crown hollow? Will John Byrne entertain and amuse us yet again?

Assignment: Earth #5
Timeline: Five months ago. John Byrne has just started a series that I didn’t have high expectations for, at least partly due to my dislike of the original Assignment: Earth episode and spin-off concept. Now. Wow. I was eagerly awaiting (and dreading) this final issue in the series. Byrne has taken a concept I wasn’t fond of and made it the second best series IDW has published to date. To this point in time, the only IDW book that has topped this series is the "Klingons: Blood Will Tell" series by the Tipton brothers.

Like that series, Byrne has taken episodes from the original Star Trek series and expanded on immeasurably. Back stories for the characters are filled out and, even when the regular characters from the television show make an appearance, they are obviously not the focus. As the series has progressed, it’s moved further away from typical Star Trek and into territory that the spin-off television show might have strayed into, had they had a sizeable budget. Don’t take that as a knock against this series, as Byrne’s comics and artwork allow us to see a past that never had a chance to see reality. After all, what is the likelihood of Nixon making an appearance in a television show where he is duplicated!?

Nixon compares Roberta to a past president and then shows that Mad Men attitudes are still stock in trade… (click to enlarge)

Like in the other issues in this series, the characters all have a definite Byrne bent and don’t always look exactly like their real life counterparts, but this is the comics, not real life. He continues to fill in lots of detail in the panels, and as the series has progressed, there are fewer panels with no backgrounds in them and more time has been taken to make them more lifelike. In this issue, Byrne also presents a penchant for using very irregular panels (as shown above) to present the story. No straight lines across the page for this man – the overlapping panels give the story a much greater feeling of movement and momentum, something that the actual story carries nicely.

The plot seems a bit typical of a spy movie with a replaced identity, but Byrne does throw in a few nice twists and turns along the way, including the epilogue, showing a real segment of a famous speech of Nixon’s. Tom Smith rounds out the series providing the color for all five issues, and, like his other four outings, brings a nice feel from the 60s and 70s to the page. This coloring helps the artwork feel like it is presenting a real story from the era. Finally, like the last issue, this one features a short story showing an interaction between Isis the cat and Roberta Lincoln, and has a clever denouement. A good chuckle to finish off a fantastic series. I hope that if Byrne is able to do a second "Assignment: Earth" volume, that he is able to keep up the high standards.

Nixon tries to take out Gary Seven… guess he wanted a clear path to Roberta… (click to enlarge)

Romulans: The Hollow Crown #1
John Byrne’s other book this month revisits the story he began in his contribution to the Alien Spotlight series back in February. While Tom Smith did the colors for the "Assignment: Earth" series, Leonard O’Grady returns to help continue the Romulan story, dragging Neil Uyetake back to continue the letters. Tom Smith’s colors worked well for the Assignment: Earth series, and in the same way, O’Grady’s really suit the Romulan stories that Byrne is presenting.

The story in this issue picks up shortly after the events of the “Balance of Terror” episode that nicely fits in between this issue and the previous. Unlike the last issue, the time span of this issue is much longer and seems to span over most of a year, passing through the events of “The Deadly Years”, as one of the Romulan ships that surrounds the Enterprise has Gaius, the Romulan Commander’s son on board. Where the last issue avoided giving any of the periphery characters names, this one names a number of them, including the Commander’s son and wife (Lady Arenn if you must know), but still leaves the Commander’s name out of events.

Apparently if you’re a friend, it’s ok to kidnap heads of state… (click to enlarge)

This second part (of the apparent trilogy) picks up where the first issue left off in terms of political intrigue, plotting, alliances, and appearances of Klingons in unexpected places. Byrne visits some past favorite Klingons and introduces Koloth to the party, and the look is strikingly like William Campbell’s original look some 40+ years ago. For a man who claims that he cannot draw proper likenesses, he is obviously underestimating his talent. In an effort to not spoil anything in this issue, I won’t say any more about the events, only that the story sets things up nicely and leaves us on something of a cliffhanger. Fantastic.

Stop! These two people look very similar!… (click to enlarge)

Whether he is starting a new series or finishing another, Byrne hits the high points and doesn’t disappoint at all. The wrap up to the "Assignment: Earth" series was easily on par with the rest of the issues, and brings the series to a nice close. If this is all we get in terms of "Assignment: Earth" stories, it’ll be disappointing, especially seeing what the possibilities can be now. For the new Romulans series, my biggest disappointment there is that we’re likely not going to see a proper trade paperback collecting the entire Romulan series (including the Alien Spotlight issue) at any time soon, as three issues aren’t really enough to justify releasing one. So, buy the issues and put them with your Alien Spotlight one and make your own TPB for the interim!

Byrne’s Assignment Earth #5 and Hollow Crown #1 are in comic shops now

Covers for AE5(left) and HC 1(right)

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“Only Nixon can go to China.”

-Captain Spock, Star Trek VI

The correct Nixon pulled the plug on the break-in.

Mongo like picture above of two Nixon mans. Look like Nixon do crazy send-up of Blues Brothers.

Rubber Biscuit!

Picture of Koloth good but that Spock mans having Pon Farr accident? Maybe switch to decaf be good.

John’s not only a class act, but the real deal. This’ why one enters the game. This’ how it’s done. Too bad he’s not working on the new Trek film, or someone like Neal Gaiman. It would actually be worth seeing.

Gaius. Yes.

Great job, John.

hahahahaha,, looks like an interesting read



Neil, yes.

Spock looks like Gollum in that one shot.

Neil Gaiman does Star Trek. Does that mean Kirk hooks up with Death, the Cute Goth GIrl?

3 & 7:
That isn’t a picture of Spock. It’s the Romulan preator.

why isnt this a tv series like it should be?

this could have been a groovy late 60’s-70’s show, if nbc or someone had picked it up, i’m glad at least its in comic book form…

too bad i cant bear comic books.

does anyone think bill campbells character looks like liberace in klingon drag?

nah, probably just me…

Byrne just made Nixon’s enemies list. (Yep, he’s still keeping it up to date.)

Neil Gaiman actually appeared in a previous Star Trek novel, you know. Under the alias “Magian” he gives Uhura a tour of the city and does a song and dance routine in John M Ford’s How Much for Just the Planet?

Also worth buying for the scene of Scotty playing golf, with Chekov as his caddy, against a Klingon… with hand grenades for golf balls.

I’ve never read any of these comic books (I don’t have the time), but I’ve always loved that episode! If the comic book is as much fun as that ep, it’s sure to be a winner.

Byrne has already stated that there will be a second Assignment: Earth mini sometime next year or so.

Also, the Hollow Crown issues 1&2 are the second part of the “trilogy” with a third Romulan mini coming out next year as well. Assuming that that series has at least two issues as well, there’s enough for a trade.

And to top it off, the eagerly awaited “Crew” mini series that focuses on Number One before she joined the Enterprise is also due out next year. So Byrne’s gotta lot of Trek coming up.

4. – King Anthony

Have you seen the new Trek film? How was it? Apparently not as good as the “Assignment Earth” series.

I enjoyed Byrne’s Assignment Earth series. I love that he’s paying homage to the show. I love that he loves it.

Being nit picky, but I would have liked to have seen a little more bang. Seven at times almost seemed like a side character. He seems, at times, to be the cultural observer that John Gill was supposed to be. I wanted to see Seven using his uncanny martial arts skills and Karate chopping people violently in the side of the neck the way he did Scotty and Spock. The way one would have seen on 60’s TV. Even on shows like time Tunnel they’d pop up in a new time and seemingly immediately start to hit/punch somebody in the face. That was the mentality of the times. Wasn’t it fun?

Seven was kind of super human. Almost like he’d taken Captain America’s super soldier formula, or had been evolved to that level. Seven kind of looked tired at times.

Now given all that, and again I know I’m being picky….I enjoyed the series. Looking forward to the next set.

#9 Riddle mans

Oh. That make more sense. Maybe should have different haircut so not confuse Mongo. Still think decaf good idea whoever he is.

^Yeah, the Preator is an intense character. He does need to switch to decaf of whatever caffeinated beverage the Rommies drink.

Riddle mans

Maybe Praetor mans has hyper-tension. Cause bad headache. Maybe all Romulans have. That where they get ridges in TNG.

Why would comics authors work on film? Two entirely different mediums.

“Why would comics authors work on film? Two entirely different mediums.”

Then why do filmmakers come write comics?????

It’s an easier medium. No actors or sets to pay money for. Just a blank page.

@ 11:

Of course he is. It’s common knowledge that he’s going to be back in the year 3000 as a head in a jar attached to a powerful robot body, and he’s finally going to be able to do something about Woodward and Bernstein… :P

#14: Yup, I’ve discussed those in the past. I’m just hoping that IDW will ensure that they can fit those other stories (AE2 and Romulan mini #2) into their future plans. From rumours I’ve heard floating about, with the new hirings, pretty much everything other than ASH’s Last Generation and JB’s Crew has been thrown up into the air as there’s some movie coming out early next year that they want to focus on a bit… or something.

Thus my hopes that we can see more. I won’t trust things to be definite until I have it in my hot little hands. :)

Dayum. He nailed William Campbell good. I wish I was that ‘untalented’.

#23 – co-starring Bender as G. Gordon Liddy?

…You know, A:E #5 would have been a great issue except for one thing: Byrne obviously doesn’t know jack $#!+ about Richard Milhouse Nixon the person. He was brought up as a Quaker, and pinching girls on the butt as he was depicted was *not* something Nixon would have ever done. Say what you will about Vietnam and Watergate, he was a devoted family man, and unlike Slick Willie never fooled around on his wife (*).

Now, Henry Kissinger was a different story. Just ask Jill St. John…

(*) Much less a dumpy oompa-loompa!


Seeing some of the people involved in it is enough to put me against ever seeing it out of the question, a course most of the world will follow come May 8, 2008. That initial trailer, arc welders in the 23rd century. Nero. Indiana Jones. Timeships. Corporate suits with more money than brains. etc.

You want to see it, go ahead. Who or what’s stopping you? Me? No way, man. I never drink the poisoned Kool Aid.

Anything John does…brilliant.

Brothers of the Lance. World, stand still.

I didn’t read the book, but Nixon was actually on the “Laugh In” TV show in, I believe ’68.


Mongo just saying, but you not need talk down to people. Some want see movie. Not make us Jonestown type automaton. No need imply we bunch of sheep drink poison Kool-Aid.

Mongo and maybe everyone else get idea; you not like new movie. You think it bad idea. Maybe can stop beating us over head. Site called, not


Mongo just saying, but you not need talk down to people. Some want see movie. Not make us Jonestown type automaton. No need imply we bunch of sheep drink poison Kool-Aid.

Pidginly speaking, me no like. Bad space medicine. It not quantum physics. No need make speech. You like, go see. Leave rest of civilized world in peace, and quit drinking crazy water that make folk look silly like finding out shirt on inside out and.

Rom Ale, no Klingon Kool Aid….

#26 – How do we know that wasn’t the “other” Nixon?


mmmm Jill St. John. Robert Wagner has shared with Kissinger? Wow.


And to reference my own post. Byrne always shown how great he was at deftly illustrating hand to hand combat and action way back in his “Iron Fist” days. Give me some of that and an explosion or two.

Also maybe having Mr. Seven in a dinner jacket inflltrating a crooked casino. You know they would have done something like that. Think of the gowns they would have put Terry Garr in. I can hear the music for the suave, sophisticated side they would have shown. It’s ready if they ever do it.

Byrne is still probably the greatest draftsman in comics. His mastery of perspective is incredible, and even though some of his figurework has become more cartoony than I prefer, and I wish he would stop inking over his own pencils, he’s still got the chops. There was a time, back in the 80’s, that if Byrne drew a super-hero, THAT’S the way it was supposed to look, period. He just had a ‘definitive’ approach to everything he drew, I can’t explain it better than that.

His online persona is pretty baffling to me, however. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt, so I try to not pass judgement unless I know all the facts. A lot of people hate him, I guess, purely because of his views expressed online. I haven’t bought anything from Byrne in a long time, I may actually pick these up.


Well then, old boy, what if I were to adopt a more formal way of speaking?

The point you were trying to make just now is precisely the point that I was getting at. Pardon me for paraphrasing:

“You like, go see. Leave rest of civilized world in peace,”

From my vantage, if you don’t like it, don’t go see it and leave the rest of us in peace. When you imply that the rest of us are crazy for anticipating the new movie you are casting your negative judgement upon all of us. That is insultive and I am taking issue with it. If I could ask you to please abstain from denegrating us for looking forward to Star Trek XI it would be most appreciated.

You may dislike the new movie all you want. That is your perogative. But since you don’t know the rest of us, how about letting us enjoy ourselves in peace, eh, old salt?

Mongo back to Mongo.

As I said before, You like, go see it. Who’s stopping you? You want to talk about it glowingly, as in an epiphany, despite all attempts of reality dictating otherwise, go ahead.

I’m expressing an opinion, not liturgy from sacred ritual. Point blank. You no like, meesa no care. savvy? Conversely, that goes for you. You like, what you care what meesa think?

IDIC. Yousa understand?

Lot of unpleasant -ness on the boards lately. Must be the weather. Or school starting.


Well then, how about because you are posting your opinion on a “” website? Only someone who is looking to fan flames of conflict, or is monumenatally obtuse, would call into question other people’s capacity for logic and good taste by adopting your tack. Nobody has said you can’t have an opinion, but don’t expect yours to go unchallenged. I don’t actually suspect that you do. Rather I think you fall into the camp of the former.

So let’s see what you have to say. You say that all attempts at reality have been made and are dictating that the new movie is going to be less than steller (excuse the pun). Please cite. Then we can get down to the meat of the discussion as opposed to veiled declarations of one’s superiority.

Mongo back to Mongo

Robin Williams as Seymour Heller, Liberace’s manager?
Gary Sinise as George, Liberace’s brother?
Kathy Bates as Frances, Liberace’s mother?
Kirk Douglas as Salvatore, Liberace’s father?
Kurt Russell as Elvis Presley?
Matt Damon already is Scott Thorson;
Michael Douglas already is Liberace.