In Star Trek: Boldly Go #11, Megan Levens and Mike Johnson really connect in delivering this tale that looks at a minor, yet recently popular character among Trek fans.
That’s right … I’m talking about Captain Garth of Izar, otherwise known as the Hero of Axanar – and yes, instantly, I think people will immediately connect this character to the controversial fan-film of recent history.
While I hate to dwell on this, I’ve got to mention the controversy associated with this character, simply from a contextual point of view. If I don’t, then someone will and it’s important to nip any misunderstanding in the bud as soon as possible.
First, this story is not associated with the fan-film Prelude to Axanar. Captain Garth is an awesome character who fans of TOS will remember from the episode “Whom Gods Destroy.” Starring Steve Ihnat as Garth, this episode gave us a captain who was considered Starfleet’s greatest before his mind was shredded and he was remanded to the Elba II Colony.
Before Kirk, there was Garth and he was considered to be a mentor to all aspiring captains, including young Cadet James T. Kirk. While on Antos IV, he learned to shapeshift his form and this was a major part of the story in the TOS episode — and in this comic.
Second, a Star Trek combat board game from FASA describes a scenario called “The Four Years War,” where Garth fought the Battle of Axanar and got his acclaim. In this scenario, he commanded the USS Xenophon (aptly named) and this encounter began “The Four Years War.” However, in the novel Garth of Izar written by Pamela Sargent and George Zebrowski, Garth commands the USS Heisenberg.
In this comic, Mike Johnson has Garth commanding the USS Heisenberg and we see some of tactical brilliance that was never seen in the TOS episode.
While these elements in themselves are harmless, Garth of Izar and “The Four Years War” became a focal point for the fan-fiction film, Prelude to Axanar. In this project, the character of Garth is fleshed out and explored in greater personal detail, prior to his time on Antos IV. In late 2015 this film became the subject of a lawsuit contesting that the fan-project crossed lines and generated revenue, threatening infringement on CBS’s intellectual property, effectively ending the project.
I’ve written extensively about the Axanar issue the past for other outlets, so this is a subject of which I am fairly well-informed. I know of its controversy, which still exists in the minds of many fans — which is why I found it extremely interesting that Johnson would pick this aspect of Trek to write about.
Still, there’s no getting away from the fact that this is a very cool character backstory to explore in the Kelvin Timeline, and that’s what Johnson does best. He takes those elements from the Original Series that weren’t explored or needed to be explored further and places them within the new timeline. Johnson knows Trek and knows how to deftly insert material from the prime timeline into the ongoing Kelvin story.
In Boldly Go #11, he takes the basic idea of Garth’s visit on Antos IV, where he learned to shapeshift, and turns it into this story. While we are led to believe that Garth died on Antos in his first visit after a freak transporter accident, we then learn that he survived. Clearly more information is bound to follow about the specifics of his time on Antos IV, but that’s meant for the rest of the story to be told.
A very interesting feature in this issue is Levens’ representation of the Klingon battleship that Garth faces over Axanar. It isn’t the Klingon ship from the Kelvin Timeline we saw in Star Trek Into Darkness, but the typical D7 Battlecruiser of TOS times. If intentional, then I love the nod of the hat to the classic timeline.
Johnson also brings back two relatively new characters into this story: the traders Thalia and her mother Eurydice, last seen in 2015. The “cute ‘n’ streetwise prodigy” may be a bit of an overworked device to get Kirk and the crew of the USS Endeavour out to Antos IV, it works well with Levens’ art style in that the characters tend to be usually presented with a happy demeanor.
While this may not work all the time, it certainly does work with children.
- Cover A by George Caltsoudas is a very stylistically prepared cover with a flared Endeavour at warp set against the Starfleet delta. While somewhat generic, it’s quite good in that it fits the spirit of the Kelvin universe.
- Cover B is Tony Shasteen’s excellent rendering of Pine’s James T. Kirk being dragged through the streets of Antos IV by the young child, Thalia, who looks older than the one in the story. In my mind, this is a better version of Thalia, when you consider that in the story, she adroitly navigates a starship with precision and by herself. I’d see her as at least a 15 or 16-year-old, and Shasteen confirmed that for me.
I’d say this is my favourite cover, but that’s probably because I’m a big fan of Shasteen’s work.
- Retailer Cover A is a photo-cover of Zachary Quinto’s Spock. Given that Spock isn’t really associated with the story, it’s not relevant. I’m also not a photograph guy for a comic cover. Move on.
- Retailer Cover B is a startlingly good likeness of John Cho’s Sulu. I have to say that I’ve been watching Cryssy Cheung’s art develop and it seems to get better every time I encounter it. Likenesses are the way to my heart and Cheung’s talent just seems to be getting better and better.
Regardless of any controversy Star Trek: Boldly Go #11 may elicit, I’m very much nostalgically intrigued and gratified to see such an entertaining character return to a Trek story. Levens and Johnson are at the start of their collaboration and it’s clear that they work well. It’s my understanding that Levens has a reputation for reliability and that’s a characteristic that I admire.
Looking forward to more high-quality teamwork as we follow the rest of this story!