Thursday 17 December 2009

Time-travelling, violence and loads of profanity

Three publications with futuristic settings share the spotlight this week.

To begin, we look at Star Trek: Assignment Earth.

Written and illustrated by comic industry veteran John Byrne (Alpha Flight, Man of Steel, Spider-Man: Chapter One), Star Trek: Assignment Earth reprints the five part miniseries by the same name (May-September, 2008) which continued from where the 1968 Star Trek episode titled "Assignment: Earth" left off.

In the episode, Kirk and his crew time-travel to 1968 where they accidentally encounter what could be seen by modern viewers as a sort of "1960s American Dr. Who" named Gary Seven and his shape-shifting cat Isis. Before it ends, Mr. Seven's young secretary Roberta becomes his assistant and the Enterprise return to the future.

The episode had two functions: it was a normal episode and a pilot for a spin-off starring Steven, Roberta and Isis. The spin-off never materialized.

In the comic miniseries, Byrne continues the adventures of Seven, Roberta and Isis in a rather unique way. Instead of having the series focus on one story, each issue has its own stand-alone story. An interesting aspect of those stories is that there's a year's worth of continuity that takes place between each issue.

For example, the first issue takes place immediately after the events of the TV episode in 1968. The second issue occurs in 1969, etc...

The miniseries also shines some light on who exactly Seven's employers are and what really happened to the two agents that died in the car accident mentioned in the T.V. episode.

Although the Enterprise and its crew appear in the book, it's not about the Federation. That fact is what makes Star Trek: Assignment Earth very refreshing.

Thanks to cleaver writing, the protagonists cross paths with the Enterprise a second time. Although the encounter acts as the protagonists' second contact, the Enterprise crew did not yet meet them. These described actions take place during the events of the T.V. episode "Tomorrow Is Yesterday." (In that episode, the Enterprise time travels to the past but to a year later than 1968.)

In another story, Nixon died before the Watergate scandal. The public didn't know that because a look-a-like imposter who forgot that he wasn't really Nixon replaced him!

Star Trek: Assignment Earth is a very entertaining book and a paper-based breath of fresh Trekkie air.

The other two books this week do not, in the context of this column, explore unfamiliar territory. They are Tank Girl Two (Remastered) and Tank Girl: Skidmarks #1 (November 2009).

The two publications, both written by Tank Girl co-creator Alan Martin, deliver what readers should come to expect from the character: mostly violence and profanity in the near future.

As with other entries in Titan's "remastered" series, Tank Girl Two reprints older material from anthology magazines. The book covers stories printed in Deadline and Speak Easy between March 1990 and April 1993.

I was somewhat surprised to see how the stories in the book come across at times as more mature and reflective.

In its intro, Alan C. Martin wrote: "(the reader) will be able to see some subconscious parallels between our lives and stories..." That means that I really shouldn't be surprised if I see at least a little more maturity.

Tank Girl: Skidmarks #1 is the first issue of a new miniseries about Tank Girl participating in a race that's sort of like The Cannonball Run. A 2-D version of Dee Dee Ramone appears in a supporting role. The story was originally printed in the pages of 2000 AD Magazine. It's worth adding to a collection.

Star Trek: Assignment Earth: 8/10

Publisher: IDW Publishing

Tank Girl Two (Remastered): 6/10

Tank Girl: Skidmarks#1: 6.5/10

Publisher: Titan Books

Bernard C. Cormier is, among other things, a freelance writer and broadcaster. E-mail: © Bernard C. Cormier 2009