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Star Trek: The Key Collection, Vol. 2
posted February 26, 2008

Creators: Len Wein, Alberto Gioletti
Publishing Information: Checker, softcover, 224 pages, 2004, $22.95
Ordering Numbers: 0971024987 (ISBN10)

imageLet's be honest: Star Trek: The Key Collection fails as an archival project in a lot of of basic ways. The scans are only OK -- most of the artwork is pretty clear, but some of the text drops out at points, which is kind of an unforgivable production error. The book costs $22.95 in a format one is better used to seeing priced at around $14.95. Of all the people involved with Star Trek or on the creative side of these very comics that could have been asked to provide a bit of supplementary material, the primary extra the reader gets is a short essay by Checker's Mark Thompson. Then there's the sticky, much more fundamental question of whether or not these eight stories from Gold Key's Star Trek comic book series are worth reprinting in the first place. Based on their virtues as comics, I'd say probably not. The stories here range from the humorously inept to a kind of solid "science fiction product" level. The characters go off model several times, and the page layouts read like artist Alberto Gioletti only ever bought paper with pre-ruled panels. Many of the stories lurch with an odd intensity that in most cases heightens the absurd, second-rate nature of that story's threat featuring the Enterprise crew. The whole thing is pretty much a mess.

That being said, I found this book to be kind of charming. If you've ever watched the original Star Trek episodes either for the first time or after years of not watching them, the two things you tend to notice right away are the lurid colors and the odd, ramshackle quality of the future they predicted for mankind in those years before the property became ossified into a multi-million dollar franchise in the '80s and '90s, complete with implied social significance. For all its faults, Star Trek: The Key Collection Vol. 2 has weird, headache-inducing colors to spare, and the plots careen back and forth into lunacy at a drop of a hat. My favorite is the one where they all dress like pirates. A long time removed from my own Sunday morning viewing of Captain Kirk and the gang, my memories are that those adventures were nearly as vivid and dumb as the ones presented here. And for the pop culture students out there, it can be interesting to read about a kind of road not taken by one of these big properties, a drive down an avenue of pulp fantasy exploration that seems a hundred miles away from a permed-up Captain Kirk screaming "Khan" loud enough to be heard through miles of planet surface rock, not to mention light years removed from the smug encounter group in space that came with the Next Generation. Trained as children to forgive the vigorous stupidities of the original series, I see no reason why readers of a certain age wouldn't automatically do that here.