Trek Comics Review: ‘City on the Edge of Forever’ #1

Our Trek Comics editor Patrick Hayes has his first review of IDW Publishing's City on the Edge of Forever comic adaptation, based on writer Harlan Ellison's original teleplay.

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The regular cover is a stunner by Juan Ortiz, who's become very well known for his incredible artwork that showcases each episode of the Original Series. It resembles an aged paperback with a giant clock face above a cityscape. The Enterprise is at the midnight position, its nacelles showing the dread hour, an eye is on the saucer section projecting an orange beam down upon a lone crewman running away from the urban setting. This is spectacular and I have got to get this!  Grade: A+.

The subscription cover is by Paul Shipper. It's a flawless portrait of Rand, Kirk, and Spock in a starfield before the titled city. This is just amazing, and I can't imagine this image looking any more perfect.  Grade: A+.

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If you've never read Harlan Ellison's original version of "The City on the Edge of Forever," you're going to be floored by Scott and David Tipton's adaptation of the original teleplay. The essential story is the same as the television episode, but it is so much deeper and epic in scope.

The story opens with a drug deal going down on the Enterprise -- a drug deal. The dealer, Beckwith, is withholding a narcotic jewel from Lieutenant Lebeque. Beckwith is blackmailing the man to find out what's on the planet they're orbiting, to learn what valuable commodities were mentioned in the log, and to be given a landfall pass -- and for Lebeque to cover for him. The addict readily agrees and swallows the crystal, instantly feeling the high.

At his post on the bridge, Lebeque is dismissed by Spock, which causes the young crewman make a life changing decision. What follows on Pages 5 and 6 is something I've never seen happen between Starfleet officers, and it made me gasp.

An away team has to beam down to the planet and it is nothing like was shown in the television episode--It's truly epic. There they encounter the Guardians of Forever. That's right, guardians, plural. There's a great conversation among Kirk, Spock, and the Guardians before someone enters the portal -- and it's not McCoy.

This is an incredible read, not because of the deviations from the holiest of holy Star Trek tales, but for the relationship between Beckwith and Lebeque, which is as real as any story can get. Outstanding!  Grade: A.

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This is an unbelievable looking book because J.K. Woodward has painted every page.

The first page's opening panel is beautiful with the Enterprise in orbit. The two new crewmembers, Lebeque and Beckwith, look fantastic. Beckwith looks as though he could have taken out Vic Tayback's Krako. Lebeque's reaction to taking the crystal is deliciously demented; I especially liked the streaks of red coming off of the console. The look of realization and self-loathing he has for himself on Page 4 is perfect.

Speaking of perfection, Woodward is aces on the familiar characters: Spock shines on Pages 7, 10, 11, 13, 14, and 17; Kirk is awesome on 7, 8, 10, 13, 14, 18, and 20; and even Rand looks terrific on 10 and 19. Also aces on this book are the settings. The interiors of the Enterprise are spot on for 1 - 8 and the planet's surface resembles H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness on Page 11.

The biggest visual treats are the Guardians; they are not circles for individuals to leap through, but are very, very different -- without spoiling it, they are so cool! This book looks tremendous and Woodward was the perfect choice to visualize this.  Grade: A.

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The narration, dialogue, sound effects, and Guardian-speak are all provided by Neil Utetake. There were a lot more sounds in this story than I expected. The drawn out sound at the top of Page 3 had me "hearing" it sound like the sequence in Star Trek: The Motion Picture where the Enterprise was caught in a wormhole. Great stuff!  Grade: A.

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Bottom line:
This is mandatory reading. If you've ever wondered what the original story of this classic story was, this is the book you've been waiting for.

One bonus included in this issue is a two-page behind-the-scenes piece entitled "Only Time Will Tell," documenting how this project came together. These pages were an extremely interesting read, detailing how both CBS and Harlan Ellison originally declined this project.  Grade: A.

- Reviewed by Comics Editor Patrick Hayes

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city1-cover-thumb Order Harlan Ellison's
City on the Edge of Forever #1

  • Mrplatitude

    The episode is my favorite of the original series, not sure I would want to see anything different about it.

  • Soundtrekker

    Well, this is the original story as intended by the author Harlan Ellison, which never became reality. If Ellison would have written, produced and directed this episode, this comic would be a rather accurate representation of it. Yes, the original story is radically different from what was broadcast, but both incarnations are entitled to get told. Both can exist on their own, just see this story as a different take in a parallel universe – something a true trekker should be accustomed to, I think! :)

  • Boris

    I must take issue with the bottom line. “If you’ve ever wondered what the original story of this classic story was,” definitely start with Ellison’s actual script (“The City on the Edge of Forever”, Kindle edition or paperback), which also includes a great deal of background information. Afterwards, if you’re curious about a possible visual interpretation, go ahead and read this comic.