Starting with the 2013 Star Trek Annual Strange New Worlds, IDW assigned John Byrne to turn some classic episodes of the original 1960s Star Trek into “photonovels.” A photonovel uses film stills from the episode itself and imposes dialogue boxes over the picture in a comic book style; no actual artwork is used to create the story.

In the first volume, Strange New Worlds, the crew of the Enterprise receives an unusual signal coming from the planet Delta Vega. Three years ago, Kirk and the original crew of the Enterprise were hit by an electrical beam that affected two crew members: Elizabeth Dehner and Kirk’s good friend, Gary Mitchell. Elizabeth and Mitchell began to display unusual levels of ESP-like abilities and Mitchell grew to become a super-being. For the safety of his ship and crew, Kirk decided to maroon Mitchell on Delta Vega, but a fight ensued on the planet’s surface in which Elizabeth was fatally injured and Mitchell was crushed under a boulder. Approaching the planet in real time, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beam down, only to become separated. Kirk then encounters the life energy of Mitchell, who forces him to relive past experiences they shared. A vengeful Mitchell demands to know why Kirk let him die on Delta Vega. Can Kirk convince Mitchell’s essence that it was all for the good of the Enterprise, or will Mitchell take his revenge?

In the second volume, The Mirror, Cracked, we learn of a previous mission aboard the Enterprise in which a teleporter beam mishap resulted in Kirk’s crew being switched with evil versions of themselves from a parallel world. In the evil world, Good Kirk convinces Bad Spock (otherwise known as Bearded Spock) to see the illogical nature of Bad Kirk’s master plan, hoping that Bad Spock might turn to the side of good. When the crews return to their proper universes, Bad Spock incites a mutiny aboard the Enterprise and arrests Bad Kirk. Unfortunately, Bad Kirk escapes and Bad Spock stows away aboard Good Kirk’s Enterprise. When Bad Spock is discovered, he tells Good Kirk the whole story and they work together to figure out Bad Kirk’s plan.

Strange New Worlds also includes an interesting essay by Cliff Diggers entitled “Video Killed the Fotonovel Star.” Diggers outlines the history of the original photonovels based on Star Trek—in the days before VCRs and widely available copies of movies and television shows, some companies made a mint selling photonovels that incorporated stills from films and added the scripts over the pictures. Some collectors and die-hard fans of certain shows and movies loved these mass market, full-colored books because it was the closest thing to reliving the entertainment experience. However, the Star Trek photonovels franchise only lasted for 12 books, as they appeared just when affordable home VCR devices were becoming available. Based on this history, John Byrne decided to bring back the photonovel for old and new fans alike.

As a reviewer, I actually received two copies of IDW’s one-shot comics. Essentially, these are 48-page comics printed with a hard cover and priced at $7.99. Obviously it is not financially feasible for most libraries to include single issue comics in their circulating collections because they would fall apart quickly. Luckily, what started as a special Annual issue of the Star Trek comic led to a bi-monthly photonovel series called “New Visions,” in which The Mirror, Cracked is the first installment. Libraries can acquire two volumes in this series. Volume one collects the two stories reviewed here along with “Time Echo” and a few shorter back-up stories. Volume two collects “City Vengeance,” “Made Out of Mudd,” “A Scent of Ghosts,” “Memorium,” and a six-page back-up story. The collected volumes each average about 150 pages.

As the artwork in these comic books is film still-ography with word bubbles, there isn’t much to comment on. Some of the scenes are a bit blurry, making it hard to see what is going on, especially in action sequences where Kirk’s famous fisticuffs take place. While these photonovels are not a necessary purchase, they may be well-suited for communities with a large Star Trek fan base. They are cheap and entertaining books that provide nostalgia for older fans who have seen the original episodes and serve as an introduction for new readers who can then move on to the other new stories being released by IDW.

Star Trek: New Visions, vol. 1-2
by John Byrne
Vol 1 ISBN: 9781631400391
Vol 2 ISBN: 9781631403675
IDW, 2014 & 2015
Publisher Age Rating: 12+

  • Lindsey Tomsu

    Past Reviewer

    Lindsey Tomsu is the Teen Librarian for the La Vista Public Library in La Vista, Nebraska, where she took a failing teen program in 2009 and turned it into a successful teen program that has been nationally recognized for its innovations in serving teens. Her Teen Advisory Board recently nominated her as a 2013 Library Journal Mover & Shaker. Before becoming a librarian, she was an English tutor and editor. She obtained bachelor’s degrees in sociology and philosophy from Bellevue University and English (with a youth and Gothic concentration) from the University of Illinois at Springfield. She is currently finishing her MLIS at San Jose State University as all she has left to finish is her thesis entitled “A Social and Cultural History of America as Seen Through the Pages of Youth Series Fiction, 1899 to the Present Day.” Since there currently aren’t any online Ph.D. programs that meet her needs right now, she began a MA in History at Southern New Hampshire University to continue her series book research. While she is currently teaching a CE workshop at Simmons College (Nancy Drew & Friends: A Historical Survey of Youth Series), she would eventually love to branch out into teaching future librarians and hopes someday to share her love and knowledge in a materials class focused solely on series books throughout history.

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