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Star Trek – Leonard McCoy, Frontier Doctor by John Byrne (Review)

The August, to celebrate the upcoming release of Star Trek: Into Darkness on DVD and blu ray, we’re taking a look at the Star Trek movies featuring the original cast. Movie reviews are every Tuesday and Thursday.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the movies with tie-ins around (and related to) the films. We’ll be doing one of these every week day. This is one such article.

It’s fascinating how few stories take place around Star Trek: The Motion Picture. There’s a rake of tie-in material that exists to flesh-out the Enterprise’s five-year mission, and a large volume of material set during the period from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan straight through to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. However, the space around The Motion Picture has been somewhat overlooked by writers delving into the expanded world of Star Trek tie-in fiction.

To be fair, there are reasons for this. Although it was a box office success, looked stunning for the time, had a rake of big ideas and welcomed the crew to the screen, The Motion Picture isn’t generally considered to be one of the high points of the franchise. As such, it seems reasonable that it garners less attention, the affection shown by a few writers aside. There’s also the fact that The Motion Picture opens with the crew of the Enterprise broken up, scattered amongst the cosmos.

The Motion Picture sees Kirk putting the band back together after the universe seems to have forgotten about them, pulling them out of mothballs. Any story set in the lead-up to The Motion Picture would have to feature the ensemble all separated and going about their own thing. This limits the kind of stories that can be told in the setting, and makes it less appealing than other settings in Star Trek continuity.

John Byrne’s Leonard McCoy, Frontier Doctor gives us a glimpse of what a project set between the end of the Enterprise’s mission and the start of The Motion Picture might look like. It’s essentially a solo adventure series focusing on one member of the cast, and it’s absolutely fascinating.

These are the voyages of the Starship... Yorktown...

These are the voyages of the Starship… Yorktown…

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Look! First X-Men: Days of Future Past Posters!

The Wolverine isn’t out yet, but we’ve already got the first posters for next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. They’re a massive improvement over the wonderfully dodgy “face in the crotch!” posters that teased the superb X-Men: First Class. It’s a rather wonderful concept, combining the older and young versions of two of the franchise’s most iconic characters. Starring Sir Patrick McAvoy! Sir Ian Fassbender!

Although I’m wary of the incredibly vast cast that Bryan Singer has assembled, I am a giddy X-Men fan, so I’m quite looking forward to the adaptation of the wonderful Chris Claremont and John Byrne story. (I recent did a review of the animated adaptation of the story over at comicbuzz.com, for those wanting a sneak peek at what might be in store.) I really like these posters, and I suspect a trailer might not be too far away.

xmen-daysoffuturepast xmen-daysoffuturepast1

Star Trek – Romulans: Pawns of War by John Byrne (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

Where were the Klingons? That seems to be one of the most frequently asked questions when a modern writer re-visits the early part of the first season of Star Trek. It makes sense. The Klingons are the franchise’s flagship aliens, and their long-term relations with the Federation mark one of the show’s earliest examples of continuity. The Organian Peace Treaty from Errand of Mercy is mentioned once or twice, but it informs a lot of the appearances of the Klingons in the classic Star Trek, as the warriors are prevented from engaging in direct warfare with the Federation.

However, when first introduced in Errand of Mercy, towards the end of the first season, the Klingons have just declared war on the Federation. However, it seems like this has been expected for a long time. Kirk speaks of the Klingons like old enemies. Kor knows that captain of the Enterprise by name. There’s a sense of a pre-established history, which makes their appearance towards the tale-end of the season all the more perplexing. Apparently they have been there all along, even if we haven’t seen them before.

John Byrne’s Alien Spotlight issue might have been themed around the Romulans, and the collected edition might be Romulans: Pawns of War, but it seems more devoted to exploring what exactly the Klingons were up to behind the scenes between their appearances on Star Trek.

Cry havok, and let slip the dogs of war...!

Cry havok, and let slip the dogs of war…!

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Star Trek – Crew by John Byrne (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

Majel Barrett Roddenberry was the first lady of the Star Trek franchise, in more ways than one. She was married to Gene Roddenberry and remained a part of the franchise after his death. She guest starred on the shows occasionally, continued to lend her voice to the computers and offered the occasional interview to the press. Although her actual influence on the television shows was relatively minimal (and she was occasionally prone to protesting various plot developments including the Dominion War on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), she did remain involved in Star Trek until she passed away in 2008.

However, she was also involved from the start. She had the recurring role of Christine Chapel throughout the original television show, and appeared in the unaired pilot, The Cage, as Christopher Pike’s first officer. Identified only as “Number One”, this almost made her the literal “first lady” of Star Trek. I’m surprised that Number One hasn’t been used more often as a character, with her appearances in tie-ins generally restricted to her time on board Pike’s Enterprise.

John Byrne’s miniseries might have the title Crew, and feature supporting roles for Christopher Pike and Mister Spock, but it is very much the story of Number One. Published a year after her death, and dedicated to her memory, Crew feels like a fitting farewell to the actress responsible for one of the franchise’s earliest and most intriguing supporting characters.

Fate protects fools, little children... and ships named Enterprise.

Fate protects fools, little children… and ships named Enterprise.

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X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga – 30th Anniversary Edition (Review/Retrospective)

With our month looking at Avengers comics officially over, we thought it might be fun to dig into that other iconic Marvel property, the X-Men. Join us for a month of X-Men related reviews and discussion.

Chris Claremont enjoyed the company of some of the most respected and renowned artists in comics while working on Uncanny X-Men. He had the pleasure of helping to establish talent like John Romita Jr., Marc Silvestri and Jim Lee, all modern giants working in the field. However, it’s hard to argue that Claremont ever worked in tighter synergy than he did with John Byrne. Byrne succeeded artist Dave Cockrum on the book, and helped Claremont helm several iconic and defining X-Men stories, delivering pay-off on years of set-up and radically reshaping notions of what a superhero comic could and could not do. Though the pair produced several genuine classics, The Dark Phoenix Saga stands as the artistic triumph of their run. One could make a compelling case that it’s Claremont’s finest X-Men story, or the finest X-Men story, or – if one weren’t feeling especially modest – perhaps the finest mainstream superhero story ever told.

Bird of prey…

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Acts of Vengeance: Uncanny X-Men – Wolverine, Jubilee & Psylocke vs. The Mandarin (Review/Retrospective)

April (and a little bit of May) are “Avengers month” at the m0vie blog. In anticipation of Joss Whedon’s superhero epic, we’ll have a variety of articles and reviews published looking at various aspects of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”

In celebration of the release of The Avengers, this weekend we’re taking a look at the massive 1989-90 crossover “Acts of Vengeance”, which pitted various villains against some unlikely heroes. I’ll be looking at some of the most fun match-ups. This arc is collected in the companion omnibus.

I know that a lot of people would argue that Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men sort of lost the plot a bit after Inferno, when he first sent the team to live in the Outback and then sent them through the Siege Perilous, essentially disintegrating the iconic superhero team and scattering its members to the wind with little idea of who or what they are. I, for the record, actually quite liked that period of Uncanny X-Men history, if only because it was so breathtakingly ambitious and completely unlike anything I ever expected in a superhero team book.

Detractors would, not unreasonably, suggest that there was a very good reason that Claremont’s approach was completely distinct from anything ever tried in a superhero team book. However, most of those who decry that era of Uncanny X-Men will concede that there were some highlights to be found. The Acts of Vengeance tie-ins, featuring the wonderful artwork of Jim Lee, are among the more widely-praised of Claremont’s work in this era, and I find it quite tough to disagree.

Big Trouble in Big China…

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Acts of Vengeance: X-Factor – Apocalypse vs. Loki (Review/Retrospective)

April (and a little bit of May) are “Avengers month” at the m0vie blog. In anticipation of Joss Whedon’s superhero epic, we’ll have a variety of articles and reviews published looking at various aspects of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”

In celebration of the release of The Avengers, this weekend we’re taking a look at the massive 1989-90 crossover “Acts of Vengeance”, which pitted various villains against some unlikely heroes. I’ll be looking at some of the most fun match-ups. This arc is collected in the companion omnibus.

It is very clear, reading some of the issues connected to John Byrne’s Acts of Vengeance, that some writers weren’t entirely on board with the crossover. After all, it was a giant line-wide event that existed purely to pit heroes against villains who traditionally faced other heroes – there was no more rhyme or reason than that. In many cases, that meant derailing whatever was happening in the book at the time, or even reversing or setting back characterisation. Magneto, in particular, found himself reverted back to little more than a villain. While a lot of books were implicitly critical of the event, Louise Simonson’s X-Factor seems particularly bothered by the intrusion, to the point that the only real tie-in to Acts of Vengeance sees the big villain Apocalypse effectively booting Loki out of his book.

I’m not sure Loki’s enthusiasm will crossover quite well…

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