Wed
Nov 2 2011 3:00pm

Gary Mitchell Strikes Back: IDW’s Star Trek #2

Gary Mitchell Strikes Back: IDW’s Star Trek #2In the previous issue of IDW’s reimagined Star Trek comic series, the original Samuel A. Peeples episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before” was given some lens flare and Chris Pine action. Because this story takes place in the new continuity, several relationships have been subtly altered, and a few characters are gone. The most notable absence is the character Dr. Elizabeth Dehner who, along with Gary Mitchell, in the original story was also converted into a creepy glowing-eyed space demigod. But now, Mitchell’s going solo, and like in the original episode, Kirk is all set to strand him on Delta Vega.

Unlike the previous issue, this one deals more with plot stuff than any kind of exploration of Gary Mitchell’s personality. As in the source material, Mitchell is deemed too dangerous to stay on the ship, but they don’t want to kill him either, so stranding him on a random planet becomes the best option. This Gary Mitchell also seems to have developed the ability to shoot lightning out of his hands a little quicker than his previous incarnation, which is now resembling Star Wars style Force-lightning. He actually shoots it on the ship and knocks Kirk out at one point! At this point, it’s Delta Vega or bust for the crew.

As before, going to Delta Vega also serves a dual purpose of getting some materials to effect repairs on the Enterprises damaged engine system. Savvy fans will remember that Delta Vega was the name of the planet in the original episode, but also randomly the name of the planet where Spock strands Kirk in the new Star Trek film where he meets old Spock, Scotty, and the little green guy. One of our readers, “flapdragon,” pointed out the Delta Vega conundrum, which is addressed in a line of dialogue in this issue as Gary Mitchell says to Kirk, “Spock stranded you on another Delta Vega once, didn’t he?” So that’s that. There are a lot of Delta Vegas. (Excuse me for a second; I’m heading to Delta Vega for a sandwich.)

Gary Mitchell again kills Kelso, and again manages to escape into the wilderness of the planet. Kirk decides to follow him and takes Spock’s phaser rifle for added insurance. When the two meet in confrontation, the comic does something the classic episode probably couldn’t have done due to budget limitations; give Mitchell the power of illusion. Mitchell takes Kirk back to Kirk’s academy days briefly, and seems to assert that Kirk couldn’t have gotten through the academy without Mitchell’s guidance. (Even though Mitchell was ahead of him in school.) This makes their confrontation a little more personal, though it does leave out the bit from the original story about Mitchell taking hits from poison darts to save Kirk’s life. Eventually, Mitchell uses his powers of telekinesis to force Kirk to beg for his life. Because Dr. Dehner is absent, it seems there is no one to stop Mitchell’s reign of terror! How will Kirk survive? Enter Spock and the nerve pinch! Mitchell is knocked out, and Kirk, then very painfully and brutally, shoots Mitchell in the chest with the phaser rifle.

The comic ends with Kirk reflecting on the loss of his friends, Mitchell and Kelso. Spock enters what appears to be the conference room and tells Kirk that they can play chess any time Kirk wants. This is a nice touch since the first issue opened with Mitchell and Kirk playing chess. The reader gets the sense that Kirk and Spock’s friendship is forming slightly differently in this universe, while still relatively familiar.

Ryan’s Reaction: After a strong and innovative first issue, I feel bad saying this issue felt like a bit of a letdown. While I appreciate the idea of developing Kirk and Spock’s relationship in a new and unique way while still making it feel like Kirk and Spock, it seems the story of Gary Mitchell was lost in this version of “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” I think this is because Gary didn’t have a direct foil like he did in the original version with Elizabeth. To be fair, both the original comic versions of the story suffer from almost zero development of Gary prior to his transformation into a bad guy. This lessens the emotional impact of Kirk’s loss because we’ve always felt like Gary’s an asshole. This problem is not unique to the comic, but maybe comes across a little sharper since Elizabeth is missing from the narrative.

Another minor quibble about both versions of the story is that it sort of casts Spock in the light of a backup best friend. This is unfortunate because arguably, this current incarnation of Spock actually has more baggage and more development than the original Spock did, at least at this point in the overall story. Instead, Spock is once again relegated to a sort of subordinate emotional role to Mitchell, which doesn’t totally work because we don’t know Mitchell. The comic version actually tried to correct this by having a literal flashback to the academy days, but the problem here is we’ve now SEEN Kirk’s time at the academy, and in this continuity Mitchell was kind of not around. This point actually comes across muddled and as a result, misses an opportunity for emotional resonance ever so slightly.

Overall, I think it was a wise move to end the story after two issues. It set the tone for the rest of the reimagined classic episodes, and certainly sent a message that the ideas will be the same classic ideas you remembered, but that the plot components might get crazy. I suppose I sort of wished this story had made more changes to the plot than it did. I kept thinking about the Star Wars Infinities series in which alternate universes were imagined. Here, I think Star Trek has the opportunity to do the same thing. The risks they took with this were good, but I think they could get even more radical. We’re onboard with the concept, no need to play it safe.

The only thing that really bugged me was unlike the first issue, they can’t seem to decide what color Kirk’s eyes are. He’s got blue eyes! He’s got brown eyes! Which is it? I liked having the brown last time as a nice nod to Shatner. I don’t mind Pine’s blue either. They either need to give him one of each, or make up their mind.

Emily’s Reaction: It’s sort of unfair that they began with this story because part of what makes “Where No Man Has Gone Before” work is Kirk’s age and experience. Killing Mitchell is a tough command decision, but he’s had to make tough command decisions before. His history with Gary is the history of a crewmate, not some buddy who he promoted because they hung out at the Academy.

Frankly, the flashbacks don’t ring true, partly because we don’t see Gary hanging out with Kirk in the movie and partly because it’s hard to buy Kirk needing Gary’s help all that much: we’ve been told that Kirk’s a bit of a wunderboy, and even if Pine Kirk seems to have less regard for grades and studying than Shatner Kirk, he still needed to be damn good at the Academy to be taking the Kobayashi Maru in his third year. This idea that Kirk was a slacker and only made it through Starfleet Academy because he was copying test answers off his buddy undermines his character a bit. At that point, I was just telling myself that Gary was being mean and making it up to play on Kirk’s insecurities about being such a young captain. That’s the only way it works for me.

It made me wonder what would have happened if they had really taken a risk — what if McCoy had received the crazy powers instead? New Trek ’verse has cast him as Kirk’s (semi-reluctant) school buddy and their bond is definitely stronger as a result. What if younger Kirk had found a way out of it, and McCoy had lived (because he would have had to, of couse)? It’s almost a more interesting commentary on the original, and might have served as an intriguing start to Spock and McCoy’s bond as well.

For all that, it still ended strong: the idea that Kirk and Spock begin their chess matches because Spock is trying to help him recover from the death of a friend is exactly how you would expect (and hope) their relationship to mature. And having the ability to show how these traditions came about in the first place is the just the area where these comics might excel.


Ryan Britt is the Staff Writer for Tor.com. When he was a kid, he thought that the poem Mitchell recited was something you could find in a book somewhere.

Emily Asher-Perrin is the Tor.com Editorial Assistant. She does not own a three-dimensional chess board yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

2 comments
Pendard
1. Pendard
Chronologically, it doesn't make much sense that Kirk and Gary were at the Academy at the same time. In the original timeline, Kirk served on the Farragut during the years that he spent in the Academy in the movie timeline, and the Republic around the time the movie happened. After that, when he was a lieutenant, he taught at the Academy, and had Gary as a student. That means Gary is significantly younger than Kirk, and he should still be in the Academy in the timeframe of this comic book.
Emily Asher-Perrin
3. EmilyAP
@Pendard - Well spotted and a good point! In fact, if he's that much younger, there's a possibility that Gary isn't even at the Academy yet.

Granted, they futzed with the ages in the new film as well -- Chekov should be younger than 17, seeing as he's about 12 years younger than Kirk in official continuity, and the Kirk we're seeing in the film is about 25 or 26. So I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that they didn't care much about Gary's age either.

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